This Belgian photographer started to work with Instant film after learning Polaroid would cease film production. Inspired by the works of Anton Corbijn, he focused on travels, artistic nudes and portraiture. His work has been widely featured in international photography press and in the POLADARIUM calendar. www.polagraphy.be
Interview by Laura Beatrice Herman
- Let’s start at the beginning – please introduce us to Sven Van Driessche. Who are you, what is your background, where are you from and where are you now?
I’m Sven from Belgium, born and still living there. I finished school as a photographer but worked the whole time for Total, the oil company.
- How did your art career start and was it always photography-centered? Did it more or less snuck up on you or was it a deliberate, serious decision from the very start?
I wouldn’t call myself an artist, just a photographer. People who draw, paint… are artists to me. I just push the button. I’m not good at drawing or creating things so photography was/is a way to create a photo that somebody might call beautiful or inspiring.
- What drew you to Polaroid photography? Was there an ‘a-ha’ moment?
No idea why I waited ‘till Polaroid announced to stop production for working with Polaroids… There was a Polaroid camera in the house, but I never used it. Although I was always interested in the work of Anton Corbijn, who works a lot with the square format and also in the work of Polaroid photographers Stefanie Schneider and Carmen De Vos.
- From your standpoint, what are your thoughts on the role of the photographer in today’s fast-paced world?
You can do so much these days with photos. Maybe too much?! It’s hard nowadays to see if photos are real. Sometimes even the tough news’ pictures can be made more “likeable” for the newspapers.
- What does photography mean to you? Is it a document, an escape rope, a magical instrument, a means of seeing things in a different way, a mirror or is it fragmented in tiny bits of all of the above?
It’s a passion. I see pictures the whole time. At a concert I look at it as a concert photographer ( which I was in my younger days ), when I go out I look for girls to see if they could be interesting for my work. And maybe it’s also a kind of escape rope. Trying to get away, for a moment, from the lonely road my life is for the moment. Let’s meet somebody around the world, go to a place and create something beautiful or intriguing.
- Your images have a particular atmosphere which haunts the viewer (especially the nudes and portraits), drawing us to ask more questions about the scene and its subjects—like they are concealing a secret behind them. How do you create this atmosphere, is it conscious?
Thank you for these lovely words, they mean a lot to me. I always start with an idea that came into my mind. From that I want it to look beautiful, perfect (details count!). I make a lot of bad drawings when I’m bored at work from that idea and after a while it might work. Until now I was lucky enough that the right persons came into my life as I wanted to take these Polaroids. I always work on my idea first and then see what happens when we are together: the look of a model, the surrounding, a detail that can work and bring the atmosphere to a higher level.
I convey to my model(s) the feeling or moment that I am trying to capture and see how they work with that. And I’m very happy with the way my models nail that feeling or moment! Thank you all!
- Outside of photography, who or what are some of your strongest influences, be it in the realms of music, visual art, cinema, writers, travels and so on. How do these play a role in shaping your work and artistic style?
I’m open-minded with all kind of arts. And get inspired by all. One of the Polaroids in this exhibition was inspired by an image from the trailer of Mad Men. The first Polaroid is based on a painting. I like traveling around the globe and knew from the moment that I started to work with Polaroids that I had to go to California. It’s a perfect combination. And I’m always surrounded by music.
- What have been some of the biggest surprises you faced in confronting yourself through the older pictures you took when you started off?
I’m proud of a lot of Polaroids that I took over the last years. I opened my mind to more interesting ideas than vintage cars at meetings. I went to Cuba to see vintage cars in daily life. And having positive feedback from women on the Polaroids with erotic themes was surprising to me, in a good way.
- I know you’ve been asked this before, but as life rapidly unfolds in front of us day by day, I’m curious to see if anything changed in light of recent memories. A memory you wish you had imprinted on instant film?
Well, there were some moments in bed that look good enough to catch on instant film, haha. Making love is also something you do with your eyes as a photographer…
- To finish off, tell us a few words about your relation with the Romanian Polaroid Photographers’ community and your participation in the ‘Emotion in Motion’ exhibition.
First of all, my first visit to Romania was in 1991 and I have friends here since then. And thanks to Dragos, Claudiu, Cosmin and Andrei, I could do my first shoot with Oana and Denisa. Later on I met Ioana, in Berlin – and Cristiana. So it’s cool to see my collaborations with these lovely Romanian models come together in this exhibition!
Laura B. Herman is a communication strategist based in London, working as a creative in the big bad corporate arena. With a background in multi-hat marketing, she gives content consultancy on various projects and fuels her artistic urges through the outlets of creative writing and painting. More on Laura’s personal take on the world here.