My series “Losing our minds” was taken at the beginning of the corona crisis 2020: a bizarre, but extremely fascinating period. Man loses his mind because a stormy situation presents itself that is new and challenging for him. Fear tries to overpower him, he freezes, starts to reflect on the world and on the punishment that Mother Nature seems to send us. We have treated our Mother Earth too lightly, demanded too much of her in our egoism. Reflection is necessary.
I want this poetic-philosophical reflection to speak through my images in these corona times. In my series “Losing our minds” I consciously show only young people who are looking for themselves, for the meaning of life and the relationship between man and nature. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between realism and surrealism, between reality and madness. Are those figures real or staged in my photos? Sometimes we as a layman have the same reaction: is this the real world in which we live or is this madness / surrealism? These are photos of ultra-Orthodox Jews who can enjoy their freedom in an unorthodox way in the storm (of their lives) and escape the lockdown.
My images however try to transcend the anecdotal and in that sense they not only reflect what is going on with the corona crisis in 2020, but they try to be a universal expression. They could take place anywhere in the world and not just on the Belgian coast where these photos were taken in one day and within one hour. The young people in my photos are of course a symbol of change / revolution / going against the tide. They symbolize spring that starts anew every year. Within these young people you see in my images “Einzelgänger”, those who only try to compete against society. Some idealists throw themselves completely and don't care about anything. Their slogan is straightforward. More than ever we realize through this crisis that man is a social animal and it is difficult to stay in his room. In group we are strong, we go for it and we climb the highest mountains. In this case: dunes of course.
Ultimately, we are so dependent on the forces of nature that we cannot help but be guided by the flow. I consciously placed "Statues in the storm" (photo 18) last because I think the symbolism is the greatest: people become statues, as it were, puny - sometimes pathetic - beings in the universe. The wandering man looking for his own way, reflecting how to deal with himself, the others and the earth.
Is there no hope, no spring found in my images? Definitely. Youth represents spring. She sings, fights (a way), cries, laughs, works, prays and admires. All these aspects can be found in these (primal) images. Let us all be a Ramses Shaffy (famous Dutch singer): self-willed paving our own way with respect for themselves, the Other and Mother Nature.
June 2020: Selected with "Losing our minds" (click here for photo) @ the reputable Duncan Miller Gallery - Santa Monica - California (USA)
July 2020: Belgian Winner @ EISA MAESTRO Photo Contest 2020 with "Losing our minds" - Published in Focus Magazine 7/8 - (The Netherlands)
July 2020: Laureate of the "Grote Prijs Sociale Fotografie" (Belgium) with "Losing our minds" - Exhibition in Ghent (Belgium)