Translating conversations into photographs: Hadrien Duré’s search for great stories behind local people

Brussels local Hadrien Duré (1990) has been making waves in the photography scene since his studies at L’ESA. Largely inspired by portraitist Stephan Vanfleteren, we posed Duré a couple of questions about keeping the camera rolling outside of the boxing ring, travelling all over the Mediterranean and keeping everyone on their toes.

At its core, what is your work about? What is its starting point and statement?

My work is based on social commentary and documentation of humanity, sometimes mixing topical and artistic points of view. I am generally very sociable and I enjoy listening to people, so I can hold a conversation with pretty much anyone. I like to follow a person for a few months as they live their everyday life, and represent that in pictures –  individuals that have lived and breathed a full life. My work on local boxer Jimmy Gourad came from a chance encounter during my boxing class, while my project on Molenbeek was a reaction to the Bataclan attacks – I wanted to provide a fairer image of the commune.

How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?

I try to not overthink things too much: little by little, while photographing I’ll start to feel more comfortable and find a new framing practice, more thoughtful and mature. I generally never feel like my work is actually finished – I prefer to “close” a subject to get some space from it, and come back to it later.

What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?

For me, Belgium hadn’t really been showing a lot of interest or appreciation towards its artists – only now are things beginning to change. For many in this country, photography is a simple and easy task of clicking a button, and the same names often get booked for work. That’s why I sometimes have to look elsewhere for opportunities, like France.

Talk to us about the people around you, your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?

Cinema in general is the biggest influence for me: I like to look at all kinds of images, whether it’s advertisements or artistic. Streetlife is also highly inspiring – I find people’s lives intriguing, even the smallest banalities. Anyone you meet by chance can be a source of inspiration.

What does success look like to you?

By the time I’m able to live off of my photography, I’ll know I’ve made it.

To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?

It should help people to think differently about one’s environment, one’s way of being, to understand things differently. Unfortunately, not everyone is given the capacity to understand contemporary art. Sometimes artists don’t really leave behind a message, even though some of their work speaks for itself.

Which Belgian artists do you follow, look at for inspiration? Either from the past or the present.

As a photographer I really admire Stephan Vanfleteren’s work – his black and white photography is rather similar to my own style.

On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work?

I like to strike up a conversation with people, and whenever I’ve had a nice chat with someone, I come back with more motivation and creativity for my future work. Also the time spent with my girlfriend and friends is always a great motivation. So is feedback on my work, whether negative or positive. Getting feedback on your work is important, because it gives you the chance to improve.

And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?

They like my work, even if sometimes they consider my work to be just clicking a button and not a very stable profession for the future. That just motivates me to prove them wrong, though. My father would be proud of me, I think? My mother obviously too, but the generational gap between us and the technological changes don’t always make it easy to talk about what I do.