It’s the second installment of our photography series on the theme of new beginnings, featuring the work of young upstart photographer, the very Belgian Jef Claes. Having grown up in Testelt, a little village not far from Leuven, he’s now in his final year at Brussels’ Narafi school. His weapons of choice? The Leica M6, the Mamiya 7 and Superia color film. 

How would you describe your work?

Mainly graphic, geometrical and colorful, though recently I’ve been drawn to making pictures in a less structural and defined way. I don’t really know why, it just feels right. I like simplicity and geometry, but I am equally drawn to rather darkish stuff.

What forms the basis of your work?

My basis is formed by landscapes and fashion. I like to find lines, colors and shapes everywhere and juggle with context, so you could say landscapes are the basis. When photographing people, I usually do the same; l’m a sucker for structure and graphic elements. It’s only recently I’ve discovered there is an other, less structured way. But in general I like to photograph people if I can set everything up;  fiction’s real in my mind.

Why do you prefer to work with film rather than digital? 

This is only true for my personal work, I have nothing against digital, I use it all the time. Film is in my heart. One thing is that film helps me keep my focus up, even after I’ve been busy for several hours. There’s no peeking at the screen or taking thousands of pictures, just turning knobs, winding, looking, composing and pressing the button. The idea that sometimes I only have 10 pictures on a roll makes me think twice before I go ballistic on the shutter button. It’s just too tempting with digital cameras to snap away. I sometimes need to take it slow and do it on film, is all. Another thing is just the concept of film in general, the handling of the canister, processing and those touchable pictures. Plus, it’s great to be away from a computer screen once in a while.

Which photographer would you say most influences your work? 

Alex Prager and Philip-Lorca diCorcia because of their incredible staging skills and use of light and color. Josef Schulz for his minimalism. And though he’s not a photographer, Edward Hopper, for the strong and visual tension in some of my favourite paintings of his.

Do you remember the first time you picked up a camera? what was it that you photographed? 

I think it was during a fieldtrip, when I was about 10 years old. I made some pictures of butterflies (in a botanical garden, so that wasn’t too hard), stingrays in an aquarium and some friends.

What were you aiming to do with this series?

Spring is a classic new beginning. It comes every year, and every year it’s somewhat different. Things change over the years, for better or for worse, but spring always brings the blissful promise of summer. It’s a beautiful feature for a season to bring promise. It’s that sense of anticipation and excitement I always get after those pale months of hibernation that I wanted to put in this series. It’s spring now, but it will be summer soon. Just you wait.

How did the theme new beginnings inspire you?

Spring is one of those new beginnings you can look forward to, and it’s here now. It’s universal and something everyone can relate to in their own way.

www.jefclaes.com