Carmen De Vos' dreamy sensual wonderland
"Carmen De Vos loves pushing the boundaries of her viewers almost as much as she loves pushing the limits of expired Polaroid film. Almost. The Belgian art photographer has made a career of working with instant film, and recently published a retrospective collection of the last decade of her work as a large-scale coffee table book called The Eyes of the Fox published by [ander]-zijds."
See more of Carmen's work on instagram at @carmendevoss
Her book is available at carmen-de-vosss.myshopify.com
ALTER/ANALOG: How did you get your start in photography?
CD: My mother was always photographing. I remember I looked forward to getting the printed photo's back from the lab. It always felt like a moment of adventure. As soon as I could, from my 12th birthday on or so, an old Kodak camera became my companion on travels and school trips. Later on, I shot friends and family.
When I was 40, I took a year of Sabbath from my office job and in that year I founded my own magazine, TicKL, and English art porn Polaroid magazine, in which I explored the limits of female sexual fantasies. I never really got cured of this naughtiness. I didn't know it then, and it was not my intention, but from then on, I became a professional photographer. I didn't always know what I was doing, as I had never worked in magazines before, but I knew what I wanted, and I worked until I achieved it. The Belgian press embraced me, and soon after that, I started working for them.
ALTER/ANALOG: What made you gravitate toward instant film?
CD: I was an ardent Lomographer at first, captivated by the beauty of random picture taking and bewitched by the bold colours cross-processing evoked. The idea that a photo could be mad and wild instead of sharp and technically perfect was an idea that had an irresistible appeal to me. When Florian Kaps and Andy Hoeller started up Polanoid.net and the Impossible Project, celebrating instant photography, I got curious about the artistic possibilities a Polaroid could add to my work. The Polaroid platform offered a little, warm nest in which we could freely experiment with the medium of Polaroids. We were a society of like-minded Polaroid freaks who did nothing but push the boundaries of the Polaroid canvas. Deformations, discolouration, self-made filters, strange subjects, weird compositions, burning the Polaroids, dissecting them, I loved it all. I was smitten with this little frame in which a magical world developed under my very eyes.
ALTER/ANALOG: Much of your work is sensual. What attracts you to that?
CD: Sensuality is as beauty is, a motor on which my soul thrives. I think that the attempt to soothe and calm the craziness of life by surrounding myself with grace and plunging into sensuality is my biggest trigger to create. In all my work, I propagate the idea that women can experience their sensuality unrestrained. The double standard, in which boys are encouraged to live out sexually, and girls are socially judged by it, has never taken hold of me. Only when I discovered the polaroid, with its sensory and unpredictability, that it felt like I finally knew who I was. I was suddenly able to put a language to my sense of sensuality, my fantasy, my sense of aesthetics.
I like to skirt the borders of good decency, but it is not the (half) naked bodies in themselves make my photos sexy. Nude in an unusual situation: that puts my imagination to work. I like to create dreamy worlds in which the eroticism lurks around every corner. My women are not incentive dolls for the benefit of other people's pleasure. They are incredibly sensual and sexual beings because it is their nature, and they enjoy it to the full.
ALTER/ANALOG: How do you feel about your photos being censored on platforms like instagram?
CD: It is not the nudity that is offending, it is the eye of the beholder and what he makes of it. I am a child of the seventies, nudity was no issue in my young days. There were naked bodies in the public life, on tv, on the beach. Young bodies next to old bodies.
Censorship on Facebook and Instagram is setting the clock back with at least sixty years. Especially the female body is being criminalised by this censorship. Soon younger generation will start to think that penalising nudity, even in art, is a normal thing to do. This is a dangerous evolution.