Christopher de Bethune talks to Joe Aguirre

Who are You?

My name is Christopher de Bethune, and I'm waving to you from cold Brussels.

What was the trigger, or inspiration, that led to your taking up photography?

In my teenage years, I guess, taking tons of pictures at hardcore and punk shows, friends playing in bands, the skate scene...all of that was the trigger, when I felt the need to document everything about that golden period. I did lose everything while moving a few years later; one crate disappeared, probably stolen, and it was the one with all the negatives and my Canon AE-1. I didn’t immediately realize the impact of the loss; I was like, “Yeah, it’s like that...I remember everything there anyway (taps head).” Now, of course, I would pay gold ingots to get them back.

After that I kind of stopped taking pictures, because I was entering the fourth stage of manhood as a young adult, a.k.a finding work. I found a job, and it took all my time, patience and concentration. It was only around nine or ten years ago that I got back into it. I was still rampant during all those years, of course, but then I threw myself into it, and now it’s like 110%.

What do you hope to communicate or describe with your work?

A difficult question!
I really don’t know if I hope to “communicate” anything in particular with my images; maybe the slow process of time passing, archiving all the small adventures, those tiny moments we can find on every corner of any street; any car or train ride can result in an image that I like. It’s a very avaricious thing for me, because I’m making images firstly for myself; it's so satisfying when I scan a negative and the picture is exactly like I pictured it in my head when I clicked the release button. But of course I’m utterly thrilled when someone gives me positive feedback or a nice word about an image that I really like.

Has your relationship with photography changed over time, and if so how?

Yes it has...not changed so much as evolved over the years. While I’m still in love with a more classic approach, like landscaping or sharp images, the revelations of the Provoke manifesto and the “are-bure-boke” (rough-blurry-out of focus) movement completely changed my vision and approach.

What I was looking for became a bit more artistic, like working in low-light conditions a lot, playing with the slow speeds of my camera, the high-ISO films, trying to produce ghostly shadow images, and I tend to run as far as possible from the obvious subject. I like it when these images raise questions like “What the hell is that?” or “How did you do it?”

Please select a few of your photos and talk about how they came to be and how they reflect your working methods.

Pic 1:
I used two full 36-exposure rolls of film to finally catch that damn lightning.
This one is on Bulb mode, which I use a lot now, for exposures of about three seconds, with no tripod.
It was a bit of a challenge to “feel” when to take it, as the only hint you got is when the sky got a bit lighter about half a second before the lightning struck. I got a sharper one on the second roll, but then again, I far prefer this one.

Pic 2:
Portrait of Rozafa at night, from last week. I made this with the tiny Olympus XA2, one of my favorite cameras ever, always in my pocket. The little camera is quite slow, with a maximum aperture of f3.5, but with a steady hand it can produce material I really enjoy, a bit like the imagery you find in your dreams.

Pic 3:
This landscape was taken from the window of a train in motion. I know, people are gonna yell, “C’mon, it’s full of dirt!”
Yes, it is. I do love not cleaning the negatives before scanning them and sometime even not cleaning the glass of the scanner, to add small imperfections to the picture. It’s also one of the main reasons I’m working only with film and not digital...those imperfections.

Where do you see you and your work in 10 years?
Hmm, either in a guestroom in Kathmandu planning the rest of the week on a small notepad or working in a photobook shop in my hometown, finishing my 50th zine. But either way it will be with a chai masala.

What keeps you making images?
It’s an everyday need, a catharsis in a way, as it makes me stop thinking about everyday small problems; it’s also a great remedy for my anxiety.

What photobook(s) changed your life?
Deformer by Ed Templeton, and of course the Provoke magazines; those changed everything.


Tell us a bit about who you are.

My profession is architecture; initially photography was just a hobby, but after a while it partially replaced my profession. Today I devote myself to both: I work as an architect as well as a photographer.

What was the trigger, or inspiration, that led to your taking up photography?

My ex-husband.Thanks to him I discovered the world of photography.

What do you hope to communicate or describe with your work?

Humanity. I take photos of what I see, what touches me, what I like, and what disturbs me, but this is not landscape or architecture.

You did a very emotional project in the mental hospital; would you tell us about that experience?

I was always interested in the psychology of mentally ill people; I read a lot about this, and when I was already into photography, I realized that I could get closer to them. In the beginning, I was not allowed to enter the hospital without guards, and this complicated the shooting. After several visits, I was already a desirable guest for the patients, just because of these trivial reasons: (1) I was listening to them, and (2) I supplied them with cigarettes; after that I was not accompanied by the guards anymore. My camera was almost not visible to them. They just wanted to talk, and they needed someone who would listen to them. There were also persons who didn't connectwith me at all, and shooting them was more difficult. But the one thing, that was clear, was that their world is more gentle and forgiving. It seems they can love someone with all their heart more than "normal" people. They need care and warmth just as much as children do. I can't say that this changed something deep inside myself, but I did realize that their real world is not as scary as it seems at first glance.

Finnally, please select 3-5 of your photos and talk about how they came to be and how they reflect your working methods. You can talk about them individually or as a group,whatever feels right for the work.

I shoot with film, black and white film. This makes me more attentive towards the subjects of my photos; I try to depict in my pictures not only what is specific to the moment, but also something that is a common human problem. Whether I succeed in this or not is another story. A long time ago, when I had just begun to study painting, my professors repeatedly asked me to express my emotions after seeing various masterpieces. Such requests seemed strange to me; the same question was popping up in my mind repeatedly: Why I should write about things that have their own language – an expressive language, which is much deeper than words?I have the exact same feelingwhen people ask me about my photos- all I want to say is in front of you; it is my words and my soul; it’s what I feel and what I want to share with you, and I have nothing to add.


You can see more of Tina’s work here and here


Gia sou Socrates, nice to have you here! Before we begin, please introduce yourself.

Hello everybody. My name is Socrates Baltagiannis and I am a documentary photographer born and based in a city to love and hate; Athens, Greece.

What was the trigger, or inspiration, that led to your taking up photography?

Photography was always in the back of my head.However, when I was younger, it never crossed my mind that I could be a photographer. I was a lot into drawing and that led me to graphic design, but my interest in people and the world around us couldn’t be fulfilledby simply sit in an office in front of a computer. I grew up in an era that internet wasn’t a major part of our lives and magazines were the way to see what is happening in the rest of the world. Of course TV was already a powerful medium, but still image was what fascinated me. Being able to grab a moment in a fraction of time; holding something in my handsthat looked real but at the same time it wasn’t. For me, that was mesmerizing. Adding the factor that I could use this medium to tell stories and be out there, was enough for me taking up photography.

What do you hope to communicate or describe with your work?

What I do hope to communicate… Well, I work as a photojournalist/ documentary photographer. With that said; I am dealing with stories about other people’s lives, our society and the world we live in. First of all I try to be honest to the people I photograph and then to the viewer as well. I want my stories to be an open window. I don’t care if you like the view from that window, I just want to make you take a look and see what is out there. Now if I make you look for a bit longer and question yourself “why” then I guess it would be a double success.

Has your relationship with photography changed over time, and if so, how?

Of course; it is a relationship like any other. There are ups and downs but you always have to keep it fresh and evolving. Living out of photography isn’t easy these days though and this distracts your creativity. It would be great if I didn’t have to care about paying my rent, wouldn’t it be??

Select some of your photos and talk about how they came to be, as well as how they reflect your working methods.

For this, I decided to present pictures that I won’t usually make during an assignment and you could say that it is more of a personal work. These photos are part of a bigger body of work, realized in Sweden. Life made it this way that I’ve built a close relationship with the country, so it has given me the chance to visit the area once or twice a year. They are daily encounters photographed in an attempt to understand or to get familiarized with the northern culture and way of life, or to simply put it, pictures trying to make the uncommon, common in my eyes and help me construct a deeper relationship with this place.

You can follow Socrates on Facebook and on Instagram