Axel De Marteau lives and works in Belgium where he graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Luca School of Arts in Brussels. Axel has recently exhibited at the CENTRALE for Contemporary Arts in Brussels and has been selected under the BredaPhoto Academy Project to exhibit his work at the BredaPhoto International Photography Festival in the Netherlands.
"A lot of my works are about understanding and the distance there still is after making an image, in a way the failing of a medium that suggests that you can get closer, that you can communicate. The rough and grainy surface of the negative helps me underline this question, it brings a certain abstraction." - Axel De Marteau
How did you get into photography? Are you self-trained or did you study?
I started studying photography in high school when I was thirteen, afterwards I continued this study in visual arts and photography at the university (Luca School of Arts, Brussels) where I completed both my bachelor and masters degrees.
What are you looking for when you step out into the day or night with your camera?
I think I am not really looking for, or seeking anything. My works are a way of corresponding and researching my relation with the world and the photographic medium itself. I focus on how things present themselves to me. This is how my works start, from whereon I can start looking for something specific, depending on the work and series.
Do you impose any technical limits when you’re taking photographs? For example, do you shoot in a special format, or limit yourself to black and white, or colour? Why?
Working in analog format is very important to me. As I said before, it gives me a great opportunity to research and understand the photographic medium. A lot of my works are about understanding and the distance there still is after making an image, in a way the failing of a medium that suggests that you can get closer, that you can communicate. The rough and grainy surface of the negative helps me underline this question, it brings a certain abstraction. I work in small format (35 mm), medium format (120 mm) and large format (4 x 5 inch) as well. This choice always depends on the subject.
What is distinctive about your approach? What is the link/theme between your photographs?
Everything starts behind a window. It is the border between one's room and the world outside. A viewpoint. From here I observe. I see people walking down the street and stare at the skies with its associative cloudscapes. A car passes by, a bird, an insect. I stand inside and see all these things. I observe, but also reflect. The window is a safe border; there is no need to be watchful or attentive, you can look and dream. It is from this space that I see the world outside and think about it. I search for a way to relate to it and in doing so I translate the world outside back into the space inside. Throughout photography, text, performance, video and installation I observe the world and try to relate to it. My works are a quest for communication and understanding. I look for ‘a source’, that I find in small inexplicable moments and scientific explanations of the unexplainable.
Please describe where you live. What inspires you visually about the place?
I live in Schaarbeek in the city of Brussels. This is mostly very convenient. Inspiration doesn’t come specifically from this environment, much more from being away. Living somewhere for one month would be much more suitable for me. Maybe this is what I like about Brussels, it constantly changes. There is much going on, and shops are open on Sunday.
Have you received any awards for your work?
In 2015 I was selected as a young Brussels talent for an exhibition in CENTRALE for contemporary art.
Are there any websites/magazines that you look at for inspiration? Do you visit galleries – if so, which ones and why?
I try to read a lot, visit a lot of museums and galleries. Most of the time I do a small gallery tour in a city and see as much as possible.
Do you ever work together with a writer on special projects?
If this is necessary and possible, yes. But, writing is becoming more and more an important part of my own research and work.