22 year-old Belgian photographer Youqine Lefèvre presents Far from Home, a touching series of photographs for which Youqine has portrayed the young children temporarily hosted in a foster home, away from their families.
Hello Youqine, thank you for this interview. What are your main interests as a photographer?
Hey, thank you for giving me this opportunity! Photography gives me the opportunity to discover worlds that would otherwise remain unknown to me. It also gives me the possibility to have access to places that theoretically are closed to the public, and get in touch with the people inside. The relational, human aspect, the fact of establishing a relationship with my subjects based on trust is very important to me.
Please introduce us to Far from Home.
My series focus on children staying at a foster home isolated in nature. They find themselves in this particular situation because their parents temporarily can’t take care of them, due to serious problems such as alcoholism, violence (domestic and/or on the child), drugs, etc. In some cases, these children, aged from 3 to 12, stay in these institutions for years.
Where exactly is the foster home you’ve worked in, and did you choose it for any particular reason?
I can’t disclose the exact location of the foster home or any details about the children. But I can say that, in a sense, it was chance and/or luck that led me there.
Why did you decide to make this project?
I have been working for several years on themes like family and its flaws, intimacy and ‘communities’. It is also linked to my personal story, my adoption. In some way, the stories of these children overlap mine.
How did you interact with the children as you stayed with them in the foster home?
I have been working with them for nearly two years. I spent a lot of time there. I tried to integrate myself best by participating in activities and meals, helping them with their homework, etc. I have observed them a lot. This finally gave me the opportunity to establish a trusting relationship with some of them.
What were you trying to capture in your photographs of the children?
In my portraits, I try to capture moments when the children let go of their guards, forget about the physical existence of the camera and the photographer to be their real selves. Getting over self-representation, the role that we think we have to play in front of the camera, in order to achieve the beauty of “being”. I also noticed that they rarely had a quiet moment – I tried to photograph them in those moments, when they are not occupied with anything but only concerned with themselves.
The Far from Home series includes several pictures of stones. What do they represent?
The stones hold a special meaning for two of boys in the foster home. Having no knowledge whatsoever about lithotherapy, they invested the stones with powers that enable them to comfort or soothe their anger, for instance. And when a child leaves the home permanently, a stone is offered by an educator, which represents the best of his or her personality.
Did you have any specific references or sources of inspiration in mind while working on Far from Home?
I admire the way Bryan Schutmaat takes portraits. Obviously, I also had in mind the work of photographers like Hellen Van Meene, Sarah Mei Herman, Laura Henno and Cynthia Henebry, who primarily worked with children and adolescents.
What have been the main influences on your photography?
Hard to say… In any case there wasn’t any one particular thing but more influences that worked together simultaneously.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary photographers?
Bryan Schutmaat, Alec Soth, Sarah Mei Herman, Carly Steinbrunn, Tom Callemin, Cynthia Henebry, Alexandra Catiere, Stine Sampers, Anne de Gelas, Geert Goiris, Andrea Modica, Laura Henno and so many others!
Choose your #threewordsforphotography.
Relation. Waiting. Surprise.