The role of death and depression in photographer Anne De Gelas’ work

Fresh from her show at Brussels’ Contretype and following her portfolio presentation last week, we sat down with  Anne De Gelas to talk about inspirations, death and the legacy she wishes to leave behind.

Talk to us about your latest work…

At the moment I am working on the relationship with my eight years old son, more specifically on finding a new balance after quite a difficult event. My work is always related to my personal life and he already understands that.

Can you tell me more about the subjects you deal with in your art?
My work is always very personal and directly related to my life. It deals with encounters, people I meet and daily life. A bit like a journal, actually. But of course I don’t reveal everything, only the parts I am willing to share with the public. And the approach always stays artistic. Recurrent themes are femininity, life as a couple, the birth of a child, depression or death – basically daily life. Lately my work is a lot about death because it’s still something people don’t talk about much. I also use my ageing as a subject and how it transforms my body.

How has your work developed over the years?

I started painting and drawing when I was 13. When I was 20 I took up photography and at one point I began mixing everything together, also adding some writing to it. When I started with photography I did a lot of portraits and auto-portraits. But very quickly I realised that I wanted to work on my direct environment. About 15 years ago I started making little notebooks or journals, with photos, text and drawings which became the basis of my work.

What influences and inspires you?

Books and films inspire me, particularly people who work auto-biographical. Marguerite Duras has been a great inspiration, especially when I was young. Films are very inspiring, not only because of their stories but also regarding their aesthetics and framing. Some examples are Fellini’s ‘Otto e mezzo’, Bresson’s ‘Pickpocket’, ‘Jeanne d’Arc from Dreyer and ‘Le silence’ from Bergman.

How do you get from idea to final product?

I work every day on my notebooks and journals, accumulating pages and pages of drawings, texts and photos. My exhibitions usually consist of photos and pages taken from these journals. More and more I am also starting to use walls as journal pages and link the exhibition to its venue.

What is the message behind your work?

I am not sure. I think it’s about sharing experiences and inspiring others to talk about certain topics, as for example death. Many people suffer from not being able to talk about it. I think all my work is glued together by the underlying thought that we all live common, universal experiences.

What other Belgian artists do you like?

I really like Chantal Akerman, whose work has been very important for me, and also Michael Borremans.

How important is your environment in shaping your work? 

It is essential and has a very big significance as it is the subject of my work. Everything that surrounds me influences my work as I don’t work on abstract things, only concrete ones as my son, my family or else.

What is the legacy you wish to leave behind as an artists?

An experience of life.