Wouter Van de Voorde, who started off as a painter in Belgium, switched to the medium of photography when he discovered the opportunities it would open up for the introspective and creative communication he had always sought. Now living in Australia, Wouter uses this medium, along with his position as an “outsider”, to discern and describe the idiosyncrasies of the new culture and landscape he has become part of.
In July of this year (2018), I travelled back to Belgium with my wife Celia and my son Felix to visit my family and friends. Europe was battling a heat wave, and we enjoyed the longest summer days – days where the sun slowly sinks under the horizon – surrounded by family and friends.
As my parents still live in the house I grew up in, I feel a deep connection to the spaces near the house: the little chapel alongside the road, an abandoned farm house, dense pine forests with no undergrowth due to the absence of light, and seemingly endless corn fields. I wandered through those fields when I was first allowed to go exploring by myself, running between rows of corn, the floppy hairy leaves brushing against my face.
During this year’s visit, I walked through those same fields with Celia. It felt symbolic to walk the same paths with her alongside me. Where, before, the feeling of solitude was palpable, there was now togetherness; we were literally walking the path together. On our last night in Sint-Pauwels, I walked the same route with my youngest sister and her child, as well as my mum and Celia. It was very special.
On many of those evening walks, I carted around my cameras, speed-lights and tripods, trying to capture some of the thoughts going through my head: my mum walking in the dusk next to a field of sugar beets; Celia trying to pet a horse in the darkness; drought-tortured corn against a dusky sky.
Most of the photos I made on this visit were shot on black and white negative film. Now back in Canberra, I am slowly working my way through the negatives, spending time with each image in the darkroom. Being in a dark space lit only by red safety lights, the images start leading their own life as they appear in the developing tray. The prints are material manifestations of my thoughts and feelings on being back home in rural Flanders.
© Wouter Van de Voorde, 2018