Demonstrating a knack for storytelling, photographer Athos Burez thoroughly enjoys seeking out the right sets and backgrounds for his shoots, choosing the perfect props to complement scenes and finding costumes for his models. As a ten-year old, Athos drove his father mad taking photographs of the dogs and plants in the woodlands surrounding his house, wasting precious prints on them. While taking painting and drawing classes at art school in Ghent, he dusted off his camera again for study purposes. His experimentation led to a renewed discovery of photography, an ideal outlet for the things he couldn’t convey on canvas. Athos’ work is imbued with a surreal yet tangible atmosphere, defined by his deft use of colour, lighting and composition.
DD: Between painting, drawing and photography, is there one medium you prefer?
Athos Burez: I really admire craftmanship. Perhaps I shouldn’t consider painting as a higher form of art in this day and age, but I believe it takes a lot of time and talent to create a great painting – it’s something unique. In a way, everybody is a photographer nowadays. I’ve learned a lot from painting and looking at paintings that I use in my photographs. I really love to paint and draw, but suddenly it kind of reached a plateau. So, I figured I’d focus on photography a bit more and explore that until I could take my painting to the next level. I’m still waiting for that moment to come!
DD: What do you try to express in your photographs?
Athos Burez: I try to show different things. It all ties in with each other, I guess, as I like to start from a story, or a feeling, or something I’ve seen or heard. I like to get carried away, often by an inspiration of the past or the future. Or at least of how I think the past would have been, because of course you create a whole different idea about that in your imagination.
DD: Is there a medium in which your message comes across more easily?
Athos Burez: For now, that would be photography, because in pictures you can really tell a story more clearly, by using lights and building sets and props. I love to live towards the moment when I actually take the pictures; searching for all the right elements until it all comes together. I’m a masochist in that sense, I enjoy the pain of stress and despair until I reach the point where I’m happy with the result.
DD: Looking at your trajectory as a student until now, did you find it difficult to find a personal signature?
Athos Burez: At first you tend copy of course, even though at that moment you don’t think you are. But looking back, you admire certain artists and in a way you make similar work. That’s alright, because you need to learn. I look up to Lucian Freud a lot, Gustav Klimt, Michaël Borremans, Toulouse Lautrec, Rembrandt… I combine all of those influences. Art school was a good thing for me, because I had enough time to explore all kinds of techniques and look around and learn, because I didn’t know a whole a lot of artists and certainly no contemporary ones. After a while, after working and training a lot, you develop your own style. I’ve always been busy, trying and playing and failing, having fun with it until it paid off. I believe in hard work.
DD: Your images often feel very real, yet there is often also a surreal element to them. How important is realism to you?
Athos Burez: It’s more abstract than that. I look for humor in everything, but it doesn’t have to be obvious. Life is very goofy anyway, and I like to look at it that way – that’s realism for me. I often see something and then I make an association with something else until it all comes together in a slighty weird end result.