"WHEN I WAS 13 I BOUGHT A DIGITAL PENTAX, IT WAS THE TIME WHEN THE FIRST COMPACT DIGITAL CAMERAS CAME ON THE MARKET." DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THIS SPECIAL PHOTOGRAPHER.
Who is Sine?
Sine Van Menxel (°1988) is a photographer living in Antwerp, Belgium.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a photographer?
There wasn’t one decisive moment. I intuitively rolled into the photography department of LUCA School of Arts in Brussels when i was seventeen. A great part of my childhood I had felt a restlessness, like my life was being postponed to the moment I could leave the house and finally go my own way. There was a lot going on inside me that I couldn’t give expression to. I intuitively knew I needed art to open up that space. I didn’t know anything about art and I had the feeling I would never be granted access to this world, but I felt attracted to it. When I was a child I didn’t think of myself as a photographer. But actually I have a lot of significant childhood memories that relate to the photographic. They contain mirrors, eyes, strong sunlight, being looked at and observing others. A lot of key aspects of photography, so maybe that’s why the step towards photography came so natural.
Do you remember your first camera?
When I was 13 I bought a digital Pentax, it was the time when the first compact digital cameras came on the market. It was the first ‘big’ thing I bought from my own savings, it cost around 400 euro. I remember the feeling when I came back from the shop, holding something precious and promising. Like every teenager I took a lot of self-portraits.
How would you explain your work to a child?
I would swaddle the baby tightly in cloth to calm it down but then I wouldn’t know the right way to do it so the cloth may be too tight or too loose. In the meantime I would hum a secret song.
Were you good at school?
I remember as a teenager I was disappointed in the school system. How can I describe my state of mind…a superstitious nihilist? I gradually stopped making efforts. I wanted to look further and i had the feeling that school was restraining me. After I entered art academy these problems dissolved.
How would you define your photography?
I work with analog photography, mostly black and white though I’m working on my first color images these days. I have a dark room where I develop and print all my photographs. These conditions are important to mention because they allow me to further construct the images during the analog postproduction. I look image per image what they can use, sometimes they are good as they are on the negative, sometimes there’s something missing and I edit them by dodging & burning or drawing on the negative. Very standard photographic actions, nothing spectacular. The machine is a spectacle in itself. In the dark room I re-encounter my subject once again, as a first time that carries its own unique second time. I don’t have big projects about certain topics and I almost never work in series. My photographs don’t tell a story, I don’t want them to function as an illustration for a theoretical discours. They communicate in a visual intuitive way, creating a tension between looking and seeing. In photography I found a medium that can connect the intuitive with the mechanical. To visualize what is not visible. I photograph what I see around me. An object, a texture, a body, a reflection upon a surface, components embedded inside a photographic instant. Other images are constructed primarily as mental objects, only then are they able to find their photographic form. Both of these techniques are a photographic thinking.
Do you like fashion?
I like how people use fashion to externalize their character. Clothes allow you to create an image of yourself, by curating your own body you can steer the gaze of the other. It’s a masquerade that fascinates me. Fashion photography fetishizes objects so they become a desirable substitute for something you feel is missing. I can get inspired by such images. At the moment I’m intrigued by the reflector monogram pumps of Vetements. Especially the photographs of them taken with flash so the shoes light up in the dark while everything else in the picture becomes black. I worked a lot with reflectors last year, it could just as well be a photo I took myself.
What makes you safe of yourself and what makes you weak?
Available time determines very much how I feel. I easily get the feeling I don’t have enough time to spend on my photography. I can get frustrated and anxious because of that. But I have myself to blame, I’m a slow loris. That’s why I try to find an artist residency at least once a year, so I can block a couple of weeks or months to focus exclusively on my work. These are usually exceptionally instructive and productive periods with a lot of love for what I do.
What are you afraid of?
Administration, fashion, climate change, mother figures, spotlights, losing the ones I love.
What made you suffer more?
What makes you happy?
Making work. Also, I was planting fruit trees in a friend’s garden this weekend in the autumn sun.
The most beautiful advice you have received.
When I was 19 years old my grandfather advised me to read ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke.
Official website www.sinevanmenxel.be