Born in Brussels and currently residing in the rolling Belgian countryside, Delbrouck has reflected that he’s more at home in the tropics, which is clear from the subjects that have cropped up in his past work. Delbrouck’s photography is filtered through an intimate search for identity, capturing chaotic and human moments that he conceives of as fully conscious moments.
Tell us about this new series at PhotoforumPasquArt in Bienne , “Autofiction”, a selection of the photos of your travels around Cuba and Nepal.
Autofiction can refer to many different things, but for me it ‘s the search for identity, expressed not so much within the photographs themselves but as the steps between each piece. It is not strictly meant as nostalgic or retrospective. This is what is far more interesting. My first mood – during the Havana series – was quite nervous. The Cuba material was more mixed, as opposed to the work from Nepal that I consider to be much more filtered, refined, distilled. Autofiction is also related, for me, to self-healing. The contemplative feeling from Nepal is one of complete freedom, a ‘being there’ mixed with this present moment. I link this dream-like state to happiness. It is comparable to the deadly risks one takes to do or achieve something worthwhile. In that moment, you are able to forget who you are. Like with my new project, Wilderness, it’s about losing oneself to something larger.
How would you describe your creative process when embarking on a project?
I prefer the idea and attitude of what I call the ‘non-project’. It involves empathy and curiosity, in that I begin my work with no agenda or preconceptions, on an entirely blank page. I do not box off projects after completing them, but continue working with material in an organic way. Because of this, the pictures cannot be separated. My connection with Cuba, in particular, is still evolving.
Are you happy with how ‘Autofiction’ has turned out?
Yes, at first I had six pieces that progressed perfectly. I then chose four very quickly – they were ones that dealt with the earthiness and promiscuity of Cuba. The pictures from Nepal were slightly more difficult to choose between. Because that journey was more about interiority and spirituality, I didn’t use any photos of my son or girlfriend. This series wasn’t really about family, but more focused on my own spirituality and an organic type of empathy, with the subject matter often being trees or stones. I am influenced more by what’s outside rather than working from within. Instead of working in terms of ‘projects’ I see my creative pattern as being based more on ‘energy’ – an intuitive approach I cannot entirely understand or explain. It’s related to my understanding of the connection between mind and body. It is similarly mysterious and organic in nature.
You mention on your website your interest in “collecting the illusions” you see as “forms and rhythms”.
In putting together exhibitions I am very attentive to form and colour. I want to create a narrative in the same way that we model life on stories. I really dislike the attempt often made to separate humans from animals. It’s part of that inane and mechanical Cartesian division between mind and body. I see human bodies as being one unified piece with many connections. I approach photography a little like meditation, particularly the installation stages. The Cuban photos that are all small and colourful, on the other hand, require an intuitive focus.
You’re also working on a book with graphic designer Nicholas Gottlund called “Some Windy Trees”. Is the creative process very different from putting together an exhibition?
Not really. It’s not easy asking someone to look at your work, even if you share the same aesthetic. It’s as personal as getting someone to read a chapter of your novel. I’m still waiting for the book to be published in the States. Because it’s a brief collection of a few trees, it has to be completely perfect.