Wouter's View

Above: Dead Tree in Araluen Valley, 2014

This tree is located in a small valley a couple hours’ drive outside Canberra. The valley has a micro-climate making it a perfect place for growing stone fruit. I was drawn to the tree in the center of the frame and how it was framed by the surrounding growth. I was imagining myself in a universe where I could run into druids or elves. I tried to capture some of the tragic magic I was experiencing in that moment.

Despite our habitual scrolling through infinite pixels, Wouter Van de Voorde takes pictures that give you pause. His images, hauntingly beautiful, have a transcendental quality to them. The Belgian artist with a background in painting, who now calls Canberra home, describes his process as “painting with a camera.” INPRINT asked Wouter to curate a selection of previously unseen images about his adopted Australian home.

Wouter's View
Two Car Wrecks Near Catherine, 2011

Period cars are dream vessels; they have the power to transpose the observer to a forgotten era. I encountered these two near a roadside stop in the heat of the Northern Territory. The roll on which this negative was a part of, was damaged by salty water hence the palette.
Wouter's View
Stone Quarry, Canberra, 2011

A lot of my pictures deal with emptiness. There is actually quite a beautiful view further into this frame, looking into the valley. Somehow, it made more sense to me to choose this point of view and celebrate the little electric cable that cuts the top half of the frame. In my mind this is a colour poem.

Where are you from originally? Why Canberra?

Most of my life I lived in Belgium. I met an Australian girl who was studying in Antwerp in 2006 and a few years later we were living together in Australia. Initially, we were living around Wollongong but we moved to Canberra in 2010. The first couple of years were a bit of a shock to the system, coming from lush nature in the escarpment around Wollongong, Canberra was like a desert. It took me a few years to build up some location knowledge to appreciate this surreal bush capital place.

Wouter's View
Regenerating Trees After a Tornado, South Coast, 2013

In 2013, a rare tornado ripped through an area I frequent along the South Coast. All the trees were stripped of their leaves and most branches. In time, new growth started appearing. The primal appearance of these surviving trees kept drawing me back to this spot.

How do you describe yourself as an artist and your photographic practice?

My background is in painting so that is still how I often consider myself in the artistic landscape. I am a painter with a camera. Photography just seems like a really fast form of painting. In the last couple of years, I’ve been working almost exclusively in black and white, shooting, developing and printing my own work. This gives me a lot of control over the final product, it feels much more like I am making things when I’m doing something with my hands without looking at a monitor.

Wouter's View
Steering Wheel on Sandbank, Jerrabomberra Creek, 2013

This picture was taken along a local creek. Scattered around this area are car wrecks dating back to the 1920s. Some kid must have placed an old steering wheel which was lying around, onto the little sandbank.

Is there anything in particular you feel describes the Australian landscape / condition?

Layered vastness. Indigenous culture is the most accurate window into this enormous island. The thin veneer of western culture mere icing. The landscape, fauna and flora are the culture of this place in my eyes. It is an incredible luxury to be surrounded by so much fucking space. Coming from a place like Belgium which is super densely populated I really appreciate this level of space; it provides me with space inside my head. There is magic everywhere, everything here is forever exotic to my eyes, every bird, insect and plant; even though I’ve been here over a decade I take nothing for granted. I am always looking, eyes wide open.

Wouter's View
Sand Quarry Fossil, Canberra, 2011

For a few years I was drawn to exploring and photographing abandoned quarries in my proximity. A friend described these places as inverted ziggurats. In this image a tire of a truck appears like a fossil wedged into the rocks. Like a vision of a faraway future where all that is left of our current civilisation is e-waste and used tires

One gets a beautiful melancholy when looking at your images - is this deliberate?

I am a deeply romantic and melancholic person; I can’t hide this in my work. Melancholy is probably the most persistent state of mind I operate in. I project my mindset onto my surroundings. I often get too much into my own head and photographing chips away at that feeling. I can get easily overwhelmed by what happens in front of my lens. In particular, a certain area along the coast where I’ve been photographing black rocks in near darkness always shakes me up. Waves dramatically grating and pounding onto the rocks; standing there with a little tripod and a camera I can rejoice in the smallness and insignificance of my being.

Wouter's View
Controlled Burn, Canberra, 2013

Ever since a little boy I’ve been fascinated by fire. When I moved to Australia this subject only became more interesting. A plume of smoke in the sky would have the effect on me like bees being drawn to flowers. There is something so fundamental about the power of fire, all the clichés ring true. Destruction, regeneration, cleansing, inferno.