A day at sea

The past few months, and August in particular, have been massively eye-opening for me.

What is this whole photography thing? Why have I been fairly obsessed with it for over eleven years now? What do I want it to be? But most of all, what do i need it to be?

Photography has been many things for me. It has been a search for beauty and knowledge, going over finding love and unexpected connection, to ending up what it has actually always been: a way to express myself in a way that I fail to do so in real life, as I assume is the case since people keep insisting on calling me ‘mysterious’… There is just something comforting about pouring myself into a picture, fragile and imperfect, and finding that people are interested in seeing that. And that I am not afraid.

I am generally so afraid.

I want my photography to be emotional, personal, physical. I am less interested in capturing perfect looking models in their most attractive ways. It is nice, I admit. There are some unbelievably beautiful people out there and yes – if you pair them with an interesting location and some good hair and makeup, some proper styling, then boom – you’ve got yourself a picture. But does that picture make you feel anything?

What is it that makes a photo truly unforgettable?

What is the world you want to create?

I want a world where this crazy, introverted (one doesn’t exclude the other) 34-year old female can express herself. A world filled with color, emotion, intimacy, simplicity and flaws. Or as Shannon L. Alder said: “There is no perfection, only beautiful versions of brokenness.”


Now that it’s done

2012. What a year. To say it has had its ups and downs would be quite the understatement.

Started off the year by getting my dream job. Or better: it was supposed to be my dream job. Turned out it wasn’t, for many different reasons I will not bother you with. In the summer, my boyfriend Christophe and I had the opportunity to start renovations on our future apartment. But we weren’t able to finish because Christophe got sick. He was feeling tired a lot, had a bit of a cough… Then started to loose weight and after lots and lots of encouragement, he finally went to see the doctor who prescribed pills for his heart – which was beating way too fast – and ordered blood tests. These blood tests lead to much more blood tests, x-rays, scans, etc. all the way to him being sent to the hospital for more tests and after these all being inconclusive, a small surgery. In November they finally gave us a diagnosis: cancer. It hit like a cannonball. December came with more visits to the hospital, and Christophe getting his first series of chemo therapy. And with him asking me to marry him – which I of course said yes to.

Photography wise I feel like 2012 hasn’t been as satisfying as I had hoped. While 2011 was the year of discovering the beauty of film photography, and learning to understand it, 2012 was the year of … I cannot even put a word on it. It was like I was stuck, like that dream where you’re trying to run and you can’t  get any further if your life depended on it. This does not mean that I have not loved my shoots. It just seems like I wasn’t always getting what I wanted out of them. I made photos that people seemed to like, but the photos didn’t feel like me and because of that I could not fully take credit for them. Perhaps the fact that some of these photos seemed to be loved more than my work that does feel like me, actually hurt a little. This is also one of the reasons why I am taking up a ‘photo a day’ project (aka a ‘365’) in 2013, starting tomorrow.

Goodbye 2012. You won’t be forgotten.

now that its done

© Els Vanopstal

While you’re in the world

Sometimes I think about how other people see photography. For a lot of them, a photo is just a photo. It’s something you can look at, and like or dislike. It’s something you (I) do. And there’s plenty of people doing it. Nothing special about it.

This thought – it scares me. For me photography is not just something I do. It’s part of me. I breathe it. I don’t go a day without thinking about it. My whole life is wrapped around taking pictures. Because I am on a mission.

What do you want to do with your life? For me it is important to create things. To try and bring pieces of beauty in a world where things and people can get ugly. To give hope. Even if perhaps I am only giving hope to myself (although I hope it does extend beyond me – or will do so at some point).

Without photography, I wouldn’t know who I am. I’d be lost. Miserable.

And not everybody gets that.

But Laura does. She is one of the most passionate models I know. We understand each other.

And there’s comfort in knowing: you are not alone.

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Model: Laura Theys
© Els Vanopstal

Dancing in the room

Here’s to trying new things. Yesterday I had my first lingerie shoot with the lovely Caroline, who made my job so incredibly easy. She moves like a dancer, everything she does looks natural yet exceptional at the same time. I’m very much looking forward to getting my film back from the lab next week, for now all I have is this polaroid. Things were a little tricky as we were shooting natural light, indoors, and the weather was really gray and dark. I hope this didn’t boycott us too much. We’ll see!

This certainly feels different from my usual work, but at the same time it still feels like me. Also it feels good to try different things, to keep growing. To know I can only keep getting closer to the artist I want to be.


Model: Caroline Albertelli
© Els Vanopstal

A wonder I can think at all

Not so very long ago I did something I had never done before in my life. I created an account and… bought something off ebay. More in particular, I bought an old Polaroid Land Camera 210. I had been yearning for one of these land cameras for a long time and I just ran out of patience. Then I saw this one. Patiently I waited until the last minute to bid on it and yay! I got it! It’s actually pretty exciting waiting there, hoping no one else will snap it away in the very last second. I mean, I really wanted it! I would have been heartbroken had someone come along and taken it away from me. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done. It probably would have involved me tracking down the buyer, sitting outside his house in my car spying on him with my night goggles…But I digress.

After I had ‘won’ it, there was more excitement to come! Will it arrive? Whén will it arrive? Will it arrive in one piece? Luckily for my blood pressure, the polaroid was sent quickly and it arrived at my home within a couple of days. Hours and ten layers of gaffer tape later (boy that seller really made me work for it), I inhaled the sweet smell of a 45 year old camera. Which smells a bit like attic. Okay, a lot.

Anyhow, the adventure just kept on coming in, as I put in a pack of fujifilm and asked (well, ordered) my boyfriend to pose for me.  Taking the picture itself (getting my boyfriend’s head to fit between two lines, whilst keeping an eye on the little squares that mark what will actually be on the picture), was peanuts! In comparison with getting the film in and out. But that wasn’t the worst part – the worst part is I’m an idiot. In all my enthusiasm I had forgotten to check the battery compartment, which turned out to be empty and above all completely corroded. Luckily the people at my photo store knew how to fix it and now, weeks after I purchased the thing: voila! A picture!

I guess the moral of this story is: even instant film can take a while when you’re an idiot. True, things didn’t exactly go smoothly for me, but now I’m damn happy I got it, and it’s working. More polaroids to follow.

PS: In my defense, the Mamiya I use to shoot most of my analog photos with, doesn’t even need a battery. You can see where I went wrong.