Vincent Delbrouk

You are from Belgium but many of your photos are taken outside Europe in Nepal or Cuba, just to name a few. What does traveling mean to you?

I like this question. I guess you go directly to the point, that’s good, you know. Essential. What is traveling for me… movement with the others to the “inside”. The others, they are those people met in the neighborhood in Centro Havana, the family there, but also people in the street in Kathmandu (where I lived during one year with my small family), other elements from this place, trees, windy trees.

Somewhere there is a place of my own. I write it like that.

I don’t care if it’s not the perfect word. Sounds good for me like that,…
so when there is “the place of my own”, first there is a rediscovery, a new life just after anxious days, and a new possibility, a potential. Then great attachment and love comes with this new life, that’s the human attraction (even with photography). “Samsara” is the buddhist word. Difficult to find peace there. But living there,
and traveling, I can find my fiction, it is not intellectual bullshit, just something concrete, people, animals, objects, bodies, fire, wind, blue sky, diaries and stones, tons of stones and I can really believe with my eyes that life is simply wonderful.
As movement.

I have also that now with shiatsu practice. Touching the energy-body, just being there, far from the ordinary mind. Maybe this is something spiritual from inside. Like in Nepal, Ladakh. Less nervous than in Havana, but… it was already there. This is normal.

With no borders and no project. NO PROJECT.
Traveling is no project… I don’t work with (documentary) projects. Traveling is my “arborescence” and its lost movements to find a better light, a better tree, a better skin from where the images are floating, completely alive and crazy. And words are sometimes killed for that also. This is very strange. REALLY crazy. Too much for me. Traveling is the space for poetry. And first of all, this is not about exotic stereotypes that we have from the first word of poetical and historical destruction to the last western adventure of the “Other”.

I am not searching for the “Other”. The Document. The idea illustrated. In one line. For the never traveling mind, so secure, so already dead. The market…. I try to understand, for me. There is an intercultural explanation from universities pretending to save the soul of “Other” people, those exotic specimen from the Tropics. Our fake dreams for the babies to compare. Always compare. Conventions. So used, you know, so old and pathetic.

But when there is light and colors, and just a simple life there, YOUR life, even as a stranger you can feel at home. Maybe this is naïve. Or it can be rude sometimes. But I love that. More and more. Now it’s just there, inside nature. Changing with time. More confident and quiet. A flow. Is it easier to find that from other parts of the world? Maybe. I don’t know. I also shot vegetables in my garden last year… 🙂

So your photos are reflecting your inside, symbolizing your inner experiences and feelings during traveling?

Not exactly just during the traveling and just reflecting my feelings. At the end it does not belong to me but to the person who will see and maybe share something with the images, the story behind it, the colors, the elements.
This is always in-between, somewhere in the light as a wave, not stuck in my personal experience but mixed with the space and the time of the realization of the project. I cannot control that. I don’t know what happens next, when it will start and end. I don’t decide to share my inner feelings but I am taking part of something I need, in my life, and during that period of creation of a new piece of work it will be more intense and my life will sweat and give birth to that. This is a concentrated energy. Not a compressed awareness, but a strong concentration or absorption. The feeling to be part of something, maybe too much sometimes or not enough, as in daily life where it’s not so easy to cut from ordinary things, the concrete basics.

That’s why traveling can help maybe. And maybe it will reflect the energy of that period, that place with me, that time, that interrogation. For me, it can be a good observation of my subconscious activity a posteriori. I can observe the inner activity after the work is complete.

For the Cuban project I even added some layers after, comments, new stories, etc. Now, I try to do it more and more in the present (contemplation). Not to think too much about photography and shadows of the past. Find more balance. Not to fight so much against myself to produce something new. Because it can be exhausting, this kind of non-project-activity. And I have to keep the distance with fiction.
Put a limit.

But I will always find beauty in this world, that’s sure! Beauty is all. There is a magic of an inner child there. A nature reflected in the picture. Art is an entrance to your own perfection, I guess. An inner beauty. There, complete. As life. You just have to watch. This is amazing. Connecting everything. Even suffering. And you have to deal with it, as your home. So, when art just develops a provocation about that, playing with suffering as a way of catharsis, it can be dangerous. But this is another question… And I don’t have an answer to that. There is an art contradiction there maybe. Nothing to try to understand.

Do you have a special relationship to the nature, especially to trees?

I love nature, not as a stupid landscape, outside of me but as a profound joy I can feel there. This is something I rediscovered during my stay in Nepal, I guess.
Nature is my inner child, Sebastian. A kind of deep contemplative answer to all the mental troubled questions I have always had, about mind, life, (in)justice, love, passion, absolute matters, family, etc. When I was a child I loved to play in the nature, and I wanted to be a specialist of the birds of prey. It took me a lot of time to come back to my own nature, maybe. With less obsessive desire and chaos.

But this is the process, the never finished road, without end and without real project… I explored the city of Havana as a shadow, not something bad, or opposite to the bright light of positive and real things, not something dark, but as a strong and sad, and passionated side of myself, connected to the Pedro Juan Gutiérrez books, the people there, the layers of time and memories, the “naïve lucidity”.

A natural vibration (or attraction) without concrete limits. Today, with nature, I accept another side of history, another fiction, more conscious and maybe balanced, opened with the practice of meditation. No more question, no more answer, just an observation of what it is. Difficult. Discipline.

Another quest… My flow, an “arborescence”, a generous self-esteem, a silence. And I love this silence. Energy is silence. Photography is a piece of silence. Being there, not thinking too much, being in the flow, forgetting a little bit about ourself,
being completely in the relation life is “occurring” right now (this doe not sound english but maybe it has is own meaning, no ?). And it does not work always.

Art is complicated. A fight with the present can appear which I cannot live anymore. Not this fight anymore. Please. But I assume it will always be “uneasy”. Yes, unpredictable. Nature is “being under the sea”, with fears and joy, not on a boat, but deep into the water, like a fish. Everything there is the same, it can be a portrait of a person or an animal, a tree, an object. There is no wind, excepted sometimes in the pictures. Because what you see is not what you get from the image. Even from a tree. You cannot control that. Nature is out of control. As a tree or a self-portrait is. Forget control. Choose beauty… There will be you, and everything possible. Art is a reason for that. No? Interconnection.

One of your Photos from the series “Some Windy Trees” shot in Nepal was used for promoting nofound photo fair. How did it come to this collaboration with Emeric Glayse?

I met Emeric through the web. He has this blog nofound ( and he invited me to show some stuff there. We started our collaboration, became friends and he curated my first solo show in Paris in Mycroft gallery, with the Beyond History project.
I also participated to the collective exhibition “Nofound to New Document” he created at the beginning of 2011, in London. A few months ago, Emeric asked me to use this image of the “Dino” tree for the nofound photo fair in Paris, in November 2011. I was of course very happy and proud of this. This is the story… This guy is doing a lot of super interesting projects. I love that. He has a good energy and a fresh eye.

What does brightness mean to you?

Something inside and outside at the same time. Not a border, but a circle. This is the perfect rhythm for me, when there is this “child mind” everywhere, walking around, in all I can touch, breathe, feel as silence even in the best conversation. Brightness is energy, and it is more than just an image. It has the sun I love.
And my pictures are in fact all I can get from the experiences I live, in terms of image-objects. It could be a painting, a drawing, but it is a photo, and at the end of the day something new is always and always created from those experiences through art and the process never ends, you see.

As it is life. Reading is creating, listening to music is also creating and sharing, walking alone in the nature and touching the leaves of the trees is again pure creation,…. This is fantastic.

So, brightness is maybe the continuous light of those experiences, here and now, moment after moment, in life considered as an art, a potentiality, sometimes also turned off by too much doubts and tears. This is difficult to really trust when there is just a bright new day and no preconceived idea. No plan, no structure, no brake.

People often talk about a god to pray and live as something outside, as a father or as a safe place for now or “better”: later,… but this is a forest in the sea. No way.
I prefer to swim in the blue water and breathe and fight, and lose and win… Sharing this bright love as one, and as a god for ever. There is a god in every good picture. But it has not to be too bright…

What does darkness mean to you?

… And the darkness appears as a ghost in the forest, the wrong place, the salvation, forbidden entry, “no pasaran”, the anxious need of sacrifice and the obsession for duality, even in art… But darkness is just the fear of yourself. Weakness. “Waiting for Godot”. Nothing else than that.
You are blind to your own nature and you think it is cool to play with a false idea of freedom. When you know that, or when you just feel you can believe that
(about yourself), without control, when you can touch the light inside and mix its energy with the dark side of yourself, life seems to become easier, and better, no ? And what does it mean in photography ? I don’t know…. There is no need to explain. No symbol for “advertising in plastic”. This is just a process (difficult to materialize, anyway).

Darkness is part of brightness, and brightness is part of darkness, this is always the moment of calm before the storm, you cannot change that… or Yes ? You believe you got something, you believe you are lost now, you don’t know what to do to create something good, you just have those thoughts of controlling everything, and suddenly there is this acceleration and maybe you are dead, you don’t know, you don’t want to accept. But it moves, yes, something happened and this is every time the same, you die and live again. Waouw ! Plok-plok-plok.

In every new picture or project. Why is there a darkness existing as an old shadow of you as past, for nothing? Maybe for security. When you don’t realize it, it is in fact your own fear of brightness. The fear of being yourself (in a conscious life) and related with anything at the same time. What is good is that you don’t have to choose, because you are free, and this fear is natural. So, art can help to accept that and you can have more dreams before you breathe. This is good, and you don’t have to hate yourself anymore to exist as a human being…. ahaha…

Vincent, thank you for the interview.