This photo has been made three days ago by Guillaume Van Laethem and 11 other students in Photography at the Art Academy of Antwerp during workshop with me. The main discussions turned around the process of the photographic portrait. If you are a Flemish artist, how can you deal with portrait without knowing perfectly the specificities of the Flemish painting, the primitive one by Van Eyck, Van de Weyden, Petrus Christus? How can you find you find your own way without knowing about the hesitations of Mondrian? It’s been the question coming back systematically on the workshop. It’s almost impossible to start a creative process in photography without knowing about our cultural background, our artistic and historic environment… And the Flemish and Dutch photography, including the work of Celine Van Balen, Helen van Meene, Desiree Dolron, Rineke Dijkstra of course could not exist and being understood out of the context of the occidental painting. Could photography, then, exist without this picturesque background? My personal conviction is that my work is fundamentally based on painting and deal with the same representation questions. Some may say that a certain American photography is dealing with some other references, which are only photographic, like if photography would be the base of photography itself, with its own concepts and mythology. But I doubt that we could appreciate the photograph of a gas station by Stephen Shore without knowing of the ready-made “Fontaine” of Marcel Duchamp.
Guillaume Van Laethem
22 March 2007