Tell us about the "Garbage Collector". In which circumstances were you in China, and what was the inspiration for the picture?
I was commissioned by FOAM magazine to make a series about Shanghai. I got lost one day with my intern Guus on the bicycles we bought and we ended up by a river that runs through the city. Suddenly, we saw this man in a boat passing by with a fishing net. We followed him for a bit and saw he was collecting the trash from the river with this net. It was beautiful to me: imagine someone searching the Seine on his small boat trying to make this world a better place. In my city, people do this with big boats and mechanical grabbing arms.In the picture you took at Prospect Park, you turn yourself into a caveman, covered in mud, surrounded by lush green vegetation - and outside the frame, by skyscrapers. The log cabin motif, life in the woods, a “back to nature” state are recurrent in your work.
Of course it is. For me, this is something I struggle with all the time. I want peace and quiet to think, rethink and work. But I need the city, television and too many people to get annoyed and be able to respond to all this madness. I try to balance my path through life with my work, and it shows in my work. In Prospect Park, I am in this river washing myself. There was a time not so long ago when this was common practice, and it still is in a lot of places. What I wanted to achieve in this, and the series I made in New York, is to show where nature is in the city and how we have changed our connection to it. It was part of us, now it's something we go and look at, like an attraction. In this particular park, it was so bad there was a fence next to the path I walked. I had to climb a fence to get there.You have worked in China, Slovakia, France, the United States… territories where you export your fantasies and create amusing scenes. Looking at them, Shanghai and New York no longer seem quite as intimidating. Were they welcoming playgrounds?
Shanghai was chaos at its best. The nicest and most interesting city I have ever been in. A mix of New York and Bangkok, but so much better. New York sucked as a photographer - nothing unexpected happened, it was like painting by numbers. I was helped a lot by people there to make it happen, which was really nice, but it took a lot of effort and sweat. You often give your projects amusing and unusually long titles - almost sentences. Is it a way for your to address the beholder as if telling a story?
I want all of my pictures to tell a story by themselves. Every picture needs to have a storyline. I don’t want to tell the same story twice, so my work is quite diverse. I do focus on certain themes to organise them into a series, but consider this as one work. I think the titles help as a guideline to get into a chain of thought.
I should also add that my titles are getting longer and longer because my urge to write is becoming stronger.
Limited edition, numbered and signed.