An interview with Belgian rising star photographer Lara Gasparotto

Following her portfolio presentation earlier this week, we sat down with rising Belgian photography talent Lara Gasparotto to talk about her spontaneous approach to photography, Renaissance paintings and formulating her own visual vocabulary. At only 22 years, the youngster from Liège/ Luik already counts a number of solo shows to her name – not least in China – and is represented by Antwerp’s Stieglitz 19 Gallery.

Can you tell us about your latest work?

I basically do what I’ve always done: I photograph what’s around me, my surroundings, my life, my travels. It’s a celebration of life, freedom, and liberty, in a way. But in a little while I’ll start something totally new because I want to take my photography a step further. I’m flying to New Orleans, L.A., Panama and wherever my travels will take me. I’ve mostly been photographing in Europe and I need some new inspirations and want to create some new structures in my images. It will be good to see something new for four months.

Do you have a plan, a specific project you want to shoot there?

No, basically I never have that. My photography is very spontaneous. I see a place that I like, a person that I like, and I photograph them.

So you never stage your pictures?

Hardly ever. Of course I tell people sometimes to move a bit in order to have the best light. Sometimes I get ideas in my dreams though and then I ask friends to come with me to the places I’ve seen in my dreams and photograph them there.

Who are the people in your images? Mostly friends then?

Yes, the majority are my friends. But it happens from time to time that I see someone in the street that intrigues me.

How has your art developed over the years?

I started photographing when I was 16. Then I studied photography and I’m still trying to find my very own aesthetic, although I’m getting closer to it now. And I think now my images are much calmer than before, they used to be trashier.

What influences and inspires you?

Mainly paintings, oil paintings. They are very inspiring when it comes to composition, especially pictures from the Renaissance and Flemish painting. I don’t think it’s a good idea to look at other photographers’ images too much – the influence it can have on you, even if only unconsciously, is too strong. Landscapes inspire me and travelling.

How do you get from idea to final product?

Everything is super spontaneous. I just feel when it’s right, when the photo is going to be good. I’m in a room with someone and I see something and I shoot. I never build a set with lights and flashes and all that. Everything is very quick. I just ask people to move a bit sometimes.

What is the message behind your work?

There’s not really a message. I guess I want people to remind of the beauty around them that you sometimes even find in the most simple of things, even in Belgium. I want to inspire people to enjoy the moment and look a but closer at things and keep a certain innocence.

What do you hope people will take away from your art?

I want them to feel emotions, sensations. Emotions that remind them of certain things. Once an old woman cried in one of my exhibitions because she was so touched. That was the biggest compliment ever.

What would you have been if you hadn’t been an artist?

When I was a child I wanted to be an explorer, just like Indiana Jones. I love to travel an explore new places.

How important is your environment in shaping your work?

Very important – it is my work! I photograph my immediate surroundings and my work is part of my life.

How would you describe the art scene in Belgium today?

I think it is very alive. Very quickly I was surrounded by the right people who support me. There are so many young great talents out there, I just have to look at what my friends do for example. And people are very interested in art in Belgium, that’s at least my impression.

You are only 22 but already represented by a gallery. What’s your secret?

I think I was very lucky. I was at the right time at the right place. But I also work a lot. I’m a very hard worker and I was sending out my portfolio all the time. Plus, there is this domino effect. When I had my first exhibition people approached me because of it and then it just continues like a rolling stone.

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

That’s hard to answer, I hope I won’t have to think about this for a long time! But it’s a difficult thing to say for an artist, because we are not very useful in a way…I didn’t choose to be a photographer, it just happened. People tell me though that my images have a purpose, because they inspire peoples’ emotions. Maybe that’s true. So I hope that when I’m dead people can see real emotions and truth in my pictures and maybe get an impression of what it was like to be young in 2012.