Last weekend 19-year old Belgian upcoming photographer Stine Sampers‘ solo show flung open its doors at Antwerp’s In Aanmaak. We spoke with the youngster about her approach to photography – a highly personal affair that drags love, loss and regret to the surface, to fascinating effect.
Talk to us about your exhibition.
It’s a selection of seven photos from the academic year 2011-2012. It’s a very personal selection, a sort of visual diary consisting of portraits and landscapes.
How would you define your approach to photography?
I try to keep everything as spontaneous as possible. That’s also the reason why I didn’t want to study it. I’m studying arts instead, something that enables me to learn a lot about all visual arts. It gives me a richer background. It’s easier to get inspired by paintings, for example, than drown in looking at modern photography. I’m inspired by personal anecdotes, books, movies, … I often reference paintings whilst the content is a very personal affair. That’s why I prefer to speak of diaries, not series. In my photography I’m showing events of my life.
So your work is largely autobiographical…
Yes. I think it’s the only thing young photographers can do in a powerful way, because everything else has already been done before. And the more personal it is, the more intimate and touching the images are. And it brings out themes like love and loss and regret – things that everyone can relate to.
Much has been made about your young age. Do you feel it has helped in any way? Or do you feel it’s somehow made it more difficult for you to assert yourself as an artist?
It depends. I don’t think about it a lot. Some people find it remarkable that I’m that young and it’s something sensational for the press to write about. But others are very supportive. I don’t think it helps. I just really work a lot. And I’m not only talking about working on my pictures, I also mean my blog, being present on the internet or networking. I’m quite lucky that I was confronted with that other part of the job very early. It’s not enough to just have an eye. My parents always said that you need to work very hard if you want to succeed at something, no matter what it is.
How would you describe the scene in Belgium today?
What are you currently working on?
I picked up an older series of couples portraits. I photograph couples in their homes. Last year I wasn’t ready for that, I could only concentrate on one thing at a time. But then I opened up more to the idea of relationships again and it made sense to revisit this project. It makes me happy to photograph these couples, they make me believe in relationships again.