Woman Crush Wednesday: An Debie
Interview by Mariajosé Fernández-Plenge
As a nomadic explorer of life,
I dive deep into the microcosm,
and look high into the sky to unravel the mysteries of being.
I find different dimensions, layers, clusters of cells and constellations.
I walk physical and spatial boundaries, one foot in the ephemeral, the other finding ground.
Through observing the world around me,
I dissect my own transformations and connections;
the footprints I leave behind and the paths I haven't yet walked.
My search is for the poetic thread in stories that can be seen.
Artist statement by An Debie
You use three different formats in your Instar series: 35mm film, medium format (6x6), and even an iPhone. How did you make this decision?
I like to experiment with different cameras, formats and materials. The type of camera I use is not always a conscious choice for a particular project. Sometimes I use what I have at hand when I see something interesting. When this initial moment eventually grows into a project I sometimes stay with the camera and format I first used but sometimes I change depending on what I am looking for as an end result. My project Instar exists of three different sub-projects that eventually blended into one. "(I wish I was) the moon" started with a single iPhone picture and I stuck with that one image and format and through manipulating the digital file this one capture grew into a whole project. "(Where) does the butterfly sleep?” started with a 6x7 medium format film camera but after the first round of shooting I realized I was not getting the result I wanted and decided to switch to a 35mm film camera and a macro lens. For "(If only) I could see” the choice to use a 6x6 medium format camera was a spontaneous decision and grew out of the desire to explore the possibilities of that particular camera and format.
Why did you choose black and white for the project?
Underlying threads in this project are transformation and metamorphosis.. Transformation from light to dark, from immaterial into material, and the trajectory from an inner world to an outer world. Black and white seemed the most suitable because it inherently has those opposite forces of light and dark and all the stages and gradients in between true black and white. I don’t think I could have gotten the same metaphorical strength with color.
Even though the photographs were taken with different cameras and formats, it is clear that they all belong to the same series. How did you make this happen? What was the process?
I think a lot has to do with the personal tendency we all have towards a certain aesthetic, a particular universe and a personal style despite the equipment we use. But I have to admit that a lot of work has gone into finding the same tonality and quality of black and white in the post processing. Especially in the printed version of the project I spent a lot of time testing papers that gave the exact feeling and tonality I was looking for. So in the end it is a combination of a personal aesthetic and a search for materials that could support the desired outcome..
In your project’s statement you talk about transformations and I know that is one of the reasons why you chose to work with butterflies. How was the creative process to choose the elements to photograph in this project?
Since Instar is a blending together of three different projects the subject matter presented itself quite differently. The butterfly shots were inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. In the book she uses the caterpillar as a metaphor for the transformations we all go through in life. This inspired me to go shoot the butterflies in the butterfly garden in the Museum of Natural History in New York. What I found there was a fascinating world that stimulated me to create images that could translate my feelings and personal metamorphosis I was experiencing at the time. I just moved from Belgium to New York, and it completely changed my life. The whole experience of leaving my country and the everyday struggle to ground myself here was challenging but also gave me the opportunity to be able to grow into a truer version of myself, much like the caterpillar’s transformation. It was intense, but in the end, through all the different stages of growth and shedding old skin, one will find oneself more free and light, much like the butterfly.
For “(I wish was) the moon" on the other hand, the subject matter presented itself spontaneously, when I was laying on my bed and contemplating the light bulb on my ceiling, I took one image and that was it, everything that was created after that resulted out of that one image.
The material for "(If only) I could see” was created during an exercise given in a workshop at school and was shot blindfolded at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
It was a very interesting process to see the 3 different projects and subject matters eventually blend into one project. For a while, they existed separately but by living and working with them, it became apparent they are all part of one and the same world. My personal universe where transformations in many different forms and dimensions became very apparent and showed up in my work over and over.
Instar is a series that comes from a personal exploration. I believe it is harder to look at my own issues than to talk about those of others, but I also think that it is therapeutical. Is your work a way of working through your personal issues? How did this project change you?
I do not intend to specifically work on or work through personal issues, but I always start, as a lot of artists I guess, from an inner place based on life experiences, memories, impressions and inspirations that translate in some way or another into a work of art. I don’t know if I can say that the project changed me, but it was very interesting to see how it came to life and lived with me during the past year and how much of my experiences and feelings were translated into it, often subconsciously.
The WCW Questionnaire
How would you describe your creative process in one word?
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
It would be a class about trust, translation and communication. Trusting your inner voice as an artist, translating whatever that voice tells you into a work of art and learning to communicate about this process and the end result. I am learning still everyday about this so it might take me a while before I am actually ready to teach.
What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Obviously as mentioned before, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit.
What is the most played song in your iTunes Library?
Ben Harper Waiting on an Angel and/or Rachmaninoff piano concerto #3
How do you take your coffee?
Black, but I am more a tea person.