Creative inspiration often appears instantly in the human interaction around a subject matter. This has also been, and still is, the case for designer, Marina Bautier and photographer, Stephanie De Smet.
About four years ago, Marina was looking for a photographer to help her take photos of her furniture collection and store. By chance, Stephanie passed by the store during this period and both of them saw a potential match.
Through shooting and testing together, Marina and Stephanie found a common expression which was manifested in the first Bautier catalogue. Since then they meet up regularly to shoot at Bautier, capturing the new furniture designs, accessories, books, interiors or food making, when Marina tries out recipes in the kitchen.
Together, Marina and Stephanie have built up the visual image of the Bautier brand: ‘Stephanie works in a very spontaneous way, she understands what I'm looking for and things come naturally. I like that this collaboration is enriching on both sides. Her framing and styling is truly adding value to the perception and communication of the brand’, says Marina.
For this week’s journal post, we would like to share some of the work that Stephanie has done for Bautier and additionally some examples of her personal work. In the interview below, Stephanie describes her approach to photography, as an artist, a craftsman, a good listener and an intuitive.
Your projects span over fashion, design, architecture, art and personal work - what does it add to your output to be working across these different fields?
Everything that is creative takes my attention. I’m open to working in several fields. Fashion and architecture, for example, can look very different but can at the same time be interesting to combine or be used as an inspiration for one another. I work mainly with people who have a creative eye, and I always find it interesting to understand their vision and reflect together on how to represent their product.
For Bautier you only take photos on film, do you generally work only with analogue photography and if yes, why do you prefer this? What are your experiences with this technique, both in the process and in the result?
I generally work with an analogue camera, but I always propose digital to clients as well. In my personal work I always choose for film. My passion for shooting with film started during my studies where the first thing I learned was how to use a camera. I loved every step between buying a film and framing a print. The purity and realness of analogue film is what appeals to me the most. It’s a physical material that you handle carefully and with precision. At the moment I combine digital scan techniques with analogue film, as it’s impossible to develop and print every image in the darkroom. It gives me the freedom to work faster with the same result in grain, colour and feel. Although I also often work with a digital camera, it’s still nice to notice the way people are interested in understanding how analogue photography works and then want to give it a try.
I sense a great amount of spontaneity in your images, a capacity to let go rather than creating 'the perfect image'. Especially your way of using light, either by using only natural light or a strong flash. What are your thoughts on this?
Coincidence is what my pictures depend on. I don’t plan often and if I do, I never plan the final details. I easily work with what I can find around me, this is what makes my pictures spontaneous. I don’t like artificial light, so depending on the subject, I choose to work with natural daylight or an intense built-in flash. All I need is a film, a camera and a ladder to stand on.
You seem to have a natural talent for setting a frame, of creating a casual and an unforced ambience. Do you put much thought into this or is it as instinctive as it looks?
This is quite instinctive, yes. When I look through the lens, the frame must feel right. I stand on chairs, ladders or even lie flat on the floor. As a photographer you need to move at least twice as much as the subject. A corner, drape or a piece of wood in the background doesn’t have to be annoying. It can be integrated as a nice detail which adds an extra touch to the picture or subject. Colours are so important as well. My eye automatically searches for complementary colours in the background. Besides following my intuition, I put trust into my camera. When I work analogue, I can only see the result 24 hours after the shoot so it’s important to choose a camera that can be trusted and exactly captures what you want.
When I close my eyes and visualise your images in my head, I see a lot of big crisp green leaves... what is it about, the fascination with green plants?
I always liked plants but didn’t really have a passion for them. It’s only when I started to photograph entrance halls that I noticed the amount of plants that were stacked up in these small spaces. They were often growing wild and too large for the entrance. When looking at these photographs, I really liked the bright green leaves combined with the architecture. Plants somehow became a trademark in my pictures and now, when I see a plant, I have to stop and take a picture.
What excites you in your work as a creative and as a photographer?
My interests lie in design, architecture, craftsmanship, fashion…. I can get really thrilled when I visit a wood workshop or a marble trade company, and it gives me the urge to want to do and learn other crafts. Photography is a nice way, and a good excuse, to explore other types of craftsmanship, to see places and to meet people.