26 year-old Belgian photographer Maëlle Collin speaks with us about Shelter, her latest body of work which imagines taking a stroll around nature after a catastrophic event.
Ciao Maëlle, thank you for this interview. What are your main interests as a photographer?
Hi, thank you for having me! Photography to me is a way to explore and look at the world with fresh eyes, as if I had never seen it before. I consider my camera like a passport that gives me access to places and people I would have never met or approached otherwise.
The aspect of time in photography really intrigues me as it’s strongly linked to the medium itself – we think we can freeze time in a photogrpah, yet we really cannot. I’m also very interested in men’s relationship to the Other as well as to nature. Finally, I’m fascinated with childhood and the transition from childhood to adolescence, in particular.
What is Shelter about, in particular?
Shelter is a series I started after I found myself caught in a devastating storm in Belgium a few years ago. I consider it a journey through nature, the story of someone seeking refuge from nature exerting her power.
What are you trying to communicate with the images of Shelter?
My photography is strongly linked to my personal life: my own experiences are featured extensively in my work. Whether ordinary or extraordinary, the events that I come across day after day affect me with a certain degree of intensity. Each one awakens the desire and need to get closer to them, to better understand and accept them through photography. In a way, it’s a confrontation between my inner self and the world that surrounds me. My body is an impressionable, sensitive surface that is affected by the events I experience – I use the film in my camera in an attempt to transfer that state; therein lies the essence of my photographic work.
I’m not trying to say anything in particular with Shelter. How the viewer will receive my work is beyond me but I hope it triggers the viewer’s imagination and calls upon their personal experiences.
Can you talk a bit about your approach to the work?
Shelter is a project that was based around wandering. Such a work method is key to my creative process and is a source of inspiration. These special moments mark a pause in my daily life and allow me to reconnect with a real experience of time: strolling around awakens a presence of mind in me and a deeper perception of the world than when I am not wandering. I love to get lost driving or walking for hours, not knowing where I’m going or what I’m going to to come across. If it wasn’t for that left or right turn, most of these images would’ve never existed…
I usually stop when a place produces a feeling of anxiety or fear inside me. My experience of disaster reappears when I come across landscapes that look calm and familiar at first, until anxiety hits me and the image of the catastrophe superimposes itself on the reality I see.
Did you have any specific references or sources of inspiration in mind while working on Shelter?
Many things inspire me everyday, but I have to say music has always fueled my imagination and is definitely my main source of inspiration. It’s a very important part of my creative process.
For Shelter, I was also inspired by Bouli Lanners’ movie The Giants – its imagery really spoke to me. I also made a lot of researches about Freud’s idea of the Uncanny.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary photographers?
There are so many amazing photographers out there… but if I had to pick a few I would say Alec Soth, Bryan Schutmaat, Rineke Dijkstra, Hellen Van Meen & Sally Mann.
Choose your #threewordsforphotography.
Time. Experience. Healing.