INTERVIEW

May 25, 2020

FINE ART STREET

IN CONVERSATION WITH BENNY VAN DEN BULKE

Photography by Benny Van Den Bulke
Interview by Melanie Meggs

Benny Van Den Bulke is a passionate photographer who has a strong preference for black and white. The stunning contrasts and graphic compositions have become Benny's well known signature style in his photography. When he is out shooting he always imagines what it will look like in black and white, concentrating on the geometry, lighting and that decisive moment when that right person/s enters his scene, making it all fall into place for that one good shot.

“One doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and on. It’s on all the time.”
-
ANNIE LEIBOVITZ

TPL: Benny, when did you start getting interested in photography?

BB: Six years ago I bought a DSLR because I thought these machines could take better photos of my kids! So when that wasn't the case I started searching what I needed to know or improve on myself to get better images, and instantly I was drawn into photography as a creative outlet!

TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?

BB: Just about anywhere, on social media, but also by buildings or shapes, even on well known locations, I always try to capture my view on things. A big inspiration can be the light, it sounds really corny I know but that's how it is!

TPL: Who are your favourite artists/photographers?

BB: Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Fan Ho, Stephan van Fleteren...if you love street photography and black and white, these are the big names and I love every one of them!

Alan Schaller, Vulture Labs, Thomas Leuthard (he sadly retired from photography)...these guys have inspired me the most in my current style of photography

TPL: Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?

BB: For sure, I started with some flowers and my kids, some basic portraiture…(like the most of us). Then started to photograph landscapes, long exposure, even a little bit of urbex…but street photography just always stood out as the favourite, the one genre that I came back to every time I tried something else.

Black and white has been my main preference since a few years also, it's a bit encrypted into my style nowadays. And since two years I have been primarily been shooting street, with a strong taste for graphical images, where the shapes and light are the most important features.

But I feel I'm still evolving, would like to do some more candid and reportage style, maybe some more minimalistic work...

Where will everything lead to eventually?... I don't know and that's just fantastic!

TPL: Where is your favourite place to photograph?

BB: Gare de Guillemins (Guillemins Railway Station) at Liege, Belgium. That is where I discovered what kind of street photography I wanted to start doing and this place just keeps inspiring me, the architecture is fantastic! I try to go once every year to this place, totally love it!

TPL: Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?

BB: That's a hard one...

As almost every street photographer says that equipment is the least important thing (and I can relate to that). For me, even equipment can be somehow inspirational...new techniques brings new opportunities right? Tilting screens are great, and also being able to shoot completely silent is a big help, etc. etc.

So, I think gear matters to me as it helps me, but it is not defining for my photography, it is there to help me get what I want more easily.

People starting out in this type of photography can actually start with their smartphone or basic DSLR kit with the kit lens or a mirrorless camera, when you progress you will find where your needs will be to purchase a somewhat more specialised system, so start cheap and enjoy the learning process!

TPL: What characteristics do you think you need to become a street photographer? What’s your tips?

BB: Go out and shoot, no good pictures come out of just thinking about it! When I have a period that I'm not able to go out and shoot a lot, I immediately notice I'm getting rusty at it.

So practice does make the art!

In the beginning the most important is learning shooting techniques, compositions, see what the light does to your photographs…you know...the basics. And then start to edit your images to your own taste, and thus creating your own style.

TPL: Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?

BB: Nope...photography has totally opened up a whole new world for me.

TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?

BB: With the current Corona crisis, I think a lot of my 2020 plans will be hard to do. Would love to travel, shoot and explore some more cities but, we will have to see of course.

I am also working on and planning an exhibition, so I am preparing that to the fullest, but haven't picked out a date yet. I'm thinking it will be in the beginning of 2021.

TPL: "If I wasn't photographing what would I be doing?...

BB: Haha...LOL...getting bored as hell! I can't even imagine what life without photography would be like. It opened my mind to see the world in another way...so I'm here to stay!"