She’s one of those photographers whose works capture your attention and transpose you in a surreal world, where people face their fears, where beauty standards are reversed and where your universe is turned upside down.
Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens started dabbling with the idea of photography when she was about 15 years old, but she knew immediately that photography was going to play an important part in her future. The surrealist touch from her works came as a natural response to the Belgian art tradition:
René Magritte and Paul Delvaux were great surrealists, but Delvaux said that this name was too narrow for his work, he called his work poetic-realism.
Through her works, she intends to give people some food for thought and push the limits of their imagination to places they never knew existed. “A kind of beautiful cynicism that makes us smile”, as she tries to define it.
But to construct and actually implement such an image, it takes some time and imagination for the artist herself. Here’s how Frieke describes her creative process:
I construct the image in my mind, in my imagination. This stage can take a lot of time, because the pictures are already in an advanced stage in my head before I start creating them for real. It’s important that I always have a clear idea of what the pictures will look like before every shoot. You could call this the ‘imaginary recreation method’. Pleasant surprises are still very welcome, but the longer I have practiced the profession of photography, the fewer surprises I come across, unfortunately.
When asked about what factors contributed to her development as a professional photographer, Frieke considers herself more of an autodidact. Besides evening classes and studying photography at Saint-Lukas institution in Brussels, everything she has accomplished is through her own experience.
I have my own, some illogical rules, I think constantly about my images, but when I’m on holiday I can make a total switch.
She can be inspired by everything that surrounds her, be it paintings, comics or websites. And she’s a fan of artists like August Sander, Gregory Crewdson, Otto Dix, Tod Solondz, Sofia Coppola, Tom Wesselman, Michael Borremans and Léopold Rabus.
Frieke’s creations have a very strong “personality”, they are humorous, ironic, a bit eccentric here and there, but definitely original. However, she confesses that her intention is not to shock people.
It all has to do with habits and what we are used to see. To see a murder in a movie is normal, because we know it’s played by actors.
But she does enjoy working with contradictory ideas, defying the standards of the public and stirring some controversy among her audience. Personally, I believe that having the courage to do so makes her works seem more authentic and transmit an even more powerful message.
I like to make something ‘ugly’ in the beginning (‘ugly’ in the public’s point of view ), just so afterwards to make something as beautiful as possible out of it. For example I just photographed women with beards, sideburns or chest hair. Most of the people will agree that women with typical male hair are very unattractive. But I tried to make those women beautiful, even with a beard. I like to work with this contradiction.
When looking at Frieke’s images, one might say that manipulation plays at important part, but the artist confesses that all parts in the process have an equal importance. The atmosphere of the photo is something that is done in the early stages of the image and shooting a good base in the beginning is crucial:
All parts in the process are very important. I always want to shoot a base as good as possible, because I want to construct the image I have in my head, make the atmosphere stronger, but I will never create the atmosphere in photo manipulation. Very rarely, it happens that photo manipulation can save an image with a bad base, but it will never become one of my favorite images.
Having the talents and the ideas isn’t everything in this profession. The environment and how you arrange it in your advantage is also one of the key factors. Setting, art direction or styling are also important factors of Frieke’s work, because, as she confesses: “an image with only beautiful light and good photo manipulation isn’t a good one”.
Even thought in the beginning she did it all by herself, from location hunting to styling, now she works with specialists. However, this doesn’t make the job easier necessarily and directing the project proves to be a demanding job, especially when you are have to take into consideration every little detail:
Sometimes it can be a little difficult, because I go further then most people, I am very demanding. Which of course is normal, because I’m the director of the project.
Having worked on lots of commercial photography projects, Frieke has the experience with both bigger clients, like popular brands, but also smaller clients. She admits that conveying the personal view of the creative team behind the project can be surprising sometimes:
Sometimes a big client can be very easy and gives me the freedom to shoot how I want to shoot and sometimes a small client can be very difficult, and demands a lot for a smaller budget.
As for her models, it takes lots of time to actually get to the point where they understand exactly what Frieke’s mesage is, but when they get there, it proves to be very rewarding for Frieke.
I ask them to do 100 times the same thing, until I get into a zone where they know exactly what I want and where the light is as provided. At that moment I looove my job/hobby.
In terms of the future, Frieke wants to continue in the same direction with her work but she’s also seeking for ways to improve herself as an artist, looking for new challenges.
A new challenge would be to make a campaign for a massive client as Nespresso for example. Another challenge is to be more represented on photo festivals.
Already an accomplished artist, Frieke gives a piece of advice for aspiring freelance photographers on their path to success:
If you choose to be a photographer you have to go 200% for it, because it’s a difficult profession. Sometimes I think I have to look for a 9 to 5 job, because I can go on for days, I’m a perfectionist up to the smallest detail.
Enjoy some selections of Frieke’s work below and for her latest projects check out her Facebook page
All photos are courtesy of Frieke Janssens