January 09th 2013 by Andrew S Gibson
This article is part of a series of interviews with long exposure photographers to celebrate the release of my ebook Slow. You can keep track of the interviews by clicking on the Long Exposure Photography Interviews link under Categories in the right-hand sidebar.
Didier Demaret is a Belgian photographer who discovered photography in 2006. He was immediately attracted to black and white landscape photography in the square format. Many of his photos, as you will see, are taken in rain or fog, giving his photos a mysterious atmosphere.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look are you trying to create in your photos?
I do not have a particular vision. I like sleek landscapes, to play with lines and shapes. I have great difficulty expressing myself verbally. Photos are a good way for me to express myself. I think my emotions are felt in my work. I just hope to share these emotions, to rediscover the landscape around us that we are so accustomed to seeing.
Name three photographers you like and why.
Difficult … there are so many!
I must admit that I had an epiphany the first time I read an article in a magazine about Michael Kenna. Those contrasts and soft light were a revelation. I knew what I wanted to (try) to do the same. Then I discovered the work of Michael Levin and Håkan Strand. I like their minimalist landscapes and how they play with the blacks and whites.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
First of all I think it is a graphic appeal, it allows me to see the world differently. Landscapes that we used to see every day become surreal scenes. Long exposure photography is easier to create minimalist effects. I can remove elements which could distract the viewer.
Why black and white – what is the appeal for you?
I’ve always preferred black and white whether in painting or photos. Black and white creates dramatic environments and focuses attention on the subject. Basically, even if the Raw format can convert images in both directions, all my pictures are taken in colour and then I convert to black and white in post processing. I think with time I learned to see in black and white.
There is a sense of space in your images. And time, solitude, loneliness. Are these conscious themes you are trying to express in your work?
I think I’ve never made the remark. I live in a small village in Belgium, which is increasingly industrialised and demographically dense. I must admit that I am more comfortable in quiet places without people. I also very much appreciate the solitude and I try as much as possible to stay away from the crowds and noise.
There are lots of seascapes in your portfolio. What is the allure of the sea for you as a subject?
I’ve always been attracted by the sea, maybe because of childhood memories. I love the feeling of peace and solitude.
Belgium is a small country. There are no mountains and the coast is not very large. It’s hard to find places to shoot.
Prior to a photo session, I research with Google Maps, and I look at some other pictures of the surroundings.
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
I think every light has its importance in photography except maybe at midday when the light and contrasts are too strong. As I can not change the weather, I try to adapt to the light of the moment. I like working in the dark or in the rain, as it creates softer contrasts and a mysterious atmosphere. For long exposure pictures rain or overcast skies are ideal for me to create minimalism effects.
Your photos show a mastery of composition. What are the principles behind the way you compose your photos?
I like clean and simple compositions. I try to place each element leaving plenty of room for the space that surrounds it. I started photography by following the rule of thirds, but I think sometimes it’s good to break the rules by promoting aesthetics.
You crop some of your photos to the square format. Why do you do this and how does it affect the composition? How important is aspect ratio for you?
For me, the square format is a gold mine in the field of composition. The symmetry of the square format is a really special way to see things differently.
As I work with a 24x36mm reflex camera that is not square, I made cardboard templates so I can see what I want to have my picture or not.
Here are some more of Didier’s photos:
If you’d like to learn more about long exposure photography, my ebook Slow takes you through the creative possibilities of using slow shutter speeds, from blurring motion with a shutter speed of 1/30 second all the way to long exposure techniques using shutter speeds of five minutes or longer.
All photos in this interview are protected by copyright. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.