An Interview with Photographer Athos Burez in Ghent, Belgium.
I have just been drinking tea in an apple orchard with Athos Burez, talking about his career as a coveted photographer within the worlds of fashion and art. Likened to fellow photographers Tim Walker and Juergen Teller, he has no problem finding inspiration for his imaginative photographs with their strong sense of narrative. Shooting campaigns for Levis, Essentiel, Cafe Costume and Linda Farrow his work has also been celebrated in publications like Dazed and Confused, Love is the Law, DS Magazine and Focus. We met on an ethereal shoot this summer in the botanical gardens of Ghent and this led to a spontaneous trip to Scotland to shoot fantasy scenes in the Highlands. His work is all about playing with our imagination and altering reality to bring a little indulgence, a little opulence to everyday life. There's no doubt that going from a childhood passion for art to a Fine Arts degree and becoming one of Belgium's most successful artists is a hard road to travel, so let's hear more about his journey.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?
I guess it was when I was 16 or 17, while I was still in high school. I studied mathematics and science, and after a while it was clear to me that it wasn’t the road for me. I had been attending art classes every weekend and as a child after school all I’d do was draw and sketch and all of sudden I realized it was what I was good at. I knew I had to abandon my academic plans and chase the ‘bohemian way of life’ that I’d always read about in books.
What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?
I don’t want to be particularly remembered for one piece, but rather the total feeling of my work together. I always aim for a sense of fantasy, playfulness and fun, whilst still trying to make a pictures that are well put together in terms of color, composition and lightning
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
It’s more about being in the right place at the right time. Paris around 1898, LA in the nineties, NY in the seventies, London in the 1960s, I’d go back to the periods where glamour and creativity was booming, but still in a modern comfortable kind of way. I would love to experience the Renaissance too, but for a couple of months rather than a lifetime, given the hygiene problems. Although, you don’t miss what you never had so it probably wouldn’t have mattered to me.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Anything that captures your attention for more than five seconds
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
I just love period dramas. I like to get carried away in the atmosphere of it and dream my way into their stories - that way you gather inspiration through association, pretending as if you’re part of it and inventing your own role in it all.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Having spontaneous, fun adventures with my friends and seeing what they lead to.
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
I would say Dracula I guess, because he’s been around for so long that he must have led an exciting life.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Yes, but it’s harder for the truly great things to shine through when we’re overexposed to so much worthless imagery.
What do you wish every child were taught?
History and as many languages as possible – I regret that mine are already slipping away.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
All of the time, photography is a contemporary thing I guess
What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?
I like to wander around in vast museums with all kinds of paintings, furniture and sculpture from all kinds of ages. It inspires me to see how humans looked at things differently throughout history and I never fail to see something, which alters my perspective. For example, I’m always amazed to see how innovative some of those craftsmen were like 300 years ago when they built little toy robots that danced to music. I like to have a large variety of things to look at, so you can walk through it all wistfully and stop when something enchants you.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
People who are as passionate about photography or ever more so that myself. It’s a recipe for success when you’re motivating each other, pushing each other further and further until you create better results than you could ever have imagined. I don’t collaborate often enough.
What is your daily routine when working?
If I don’t have an early shoot, I like to stay in bed working on my computer until noon, whilst I drink my coffee and arranging things. In the afternoons I’m usually on the sets of my shoots preparing and taking photographs. I prefer working in the afternoon or evening, because I guess I’ve learnt that I can see things brighter later in the day.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
I should really travel more and stay longer at places to really capture the atmosphere. I like to escape my day to day settings and explore villages that look like film sets, especially when driving around LA where the smaller villages are full of motels and strange vegetation. It’s always so much fun to be somewhere that makes you feel like you’re in a movie. At the moment, I’m especially looking forward to going to Marrakech in the next few weeks and experiencing the desert.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
It’s a hard knock life, but a fun one if you’re willing to keep working away at it.
Why do you love what you do?
I’m constantly meeting people that inspire me and travelling to new places - it’s kind of a dream to do something I’m really passionate about and get paid for it.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com