in the Category: art
It is the most beautiful job in the world
KASK & Conservatorium brings together talented and motivated students with outstanding educators, inspiring artists, designers and theorists in art and design from all over the world. In this mini-series, we’re featuring some of its graduates from the past years. Next up, however, isn’t a student or recent graduate, but a humble and influential photography teacher who’s throwing in the towel of teaching at SKI and Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Ghent. Marc Van Roy is blowing out 66 candles on his next birthday cake and can proudly look back on his photographic journey which started after graduating at KASK & Conservatorium in 1982. With a new solo expo insight on November 21, he’s not considering laying down the lens. We’ve had a lovely chat with this inspiring and mysterious figure, who happened to be our very own photography teacher for the past 2 years, on his life’s work, art and teaching.
Interview by Herlinde Raeman, text by Victor Seys
Photos shot by Nick Moons
Hi Marc, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
You’ve recently been my student for two years and you don’t know that much about me, I guess that already shows quite a lot about my persona (laughs). This aversion to being in the spotlight mostly refers to how I like to define myself as a teacher. I prefer to offer an open climate in which I, as a teacher, can subtly 'adjust' and become an almost invisible mentor. Encouraging and guiding a student to self-consciously explore and discover his/her identity equals real growth to me. That's why I don't think it's a pity when students forget me… That doesn't necessarily mean you didn't mean anything.
I don't think it's a pity when students forget me… That doesn't necessarily mean you didn't mean anything
I always wanted to study animation film but it turned out my drawing skills were insufficient. However, my passion for cinematography was still over present at the time. All photography linked to cinema and film truly inspired me. So I moved on to photography and film and later graduated from the academy (now KASK & Conservatorium) in 1982 alongside Dirk Braeckman, Lieven Neirinck and Carl De Keyzer, each of them very good friends and later wonderful colleagues in the field.
What is your approach as a photographer?
There has always been an ongoing process in my works. In the beginning, I always tried to capture ‘le moment décisif’, but now I prefer to create a certain time lapse. As if the picture isn’t just a snapshot but almost a live image. I guess I can also state that the setting or backdrop now takes the upper hand, where before my focus would be on the human presence. Mother nature now provides the majority of inspiration and settings for my works. A long shutter speed (30’) with little light truly does miracles in a nocturnal forest. When shooting in very dark situations, the place barely reveals itself, or only sparsely, and that influences your photographic view. The choices you make are an intuitive -rather than a photographic- search. You try to record what you think you perceive but afterwards, you discover a surprise or sometimes a disappointment… The memory therefore rarely coincides with the actual image, but that is precisely what I find fascinating. Sometimes the location reveals itself as something completely different and that is an unexpected gift. It is an attempt to detach myself from the photographically perfect moment and an attempt to stretch the sense of time…
The memory rarely coincides with the actual image, but that is precisely what I find fascinating
What did you do after you graduated?
Army service. (laughs) I was lucky to make it into the photography department though, so besides the basic training, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Once that duty was fulfilled, Dirk, Carl, Lieven and I opened a photo gallery in Ghent near the sinister red-light district. XYZ was a place where many good memories were made, but it, unfortunately, came to an end.
How did the gallery come to an end?
The focus of my partners at the time turned towards their artistic careers and successes. And by all means, I don’t blame them for anything. We hosted many great photographers, 20 every year, and the establishment of a community and network was a great asset to the wonderful projects and memories. Looking back, I could have continued the gallery on my own, but I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. It wasn't a livable project and there was little time for my work during the golden years of the gallery.
How did you deal with the closure?
After combining some shitty jobs where I couldn’t express my creativity or find meaningful work in any way, I found my calling in teaching. Luck was on my side when I was suddenly invited to give photography lessons at the academy and evening school. It is the most beautiful job in the world.
What’s so nice about being a teacher?
Being granted the chance to mean something in a student’s artistic and social development has truly been a privilege. The amount of satisfaction I got from all those years of teaching photography is unbelievable. Yet, I do have to admit that the world of teaching has changed immensely over the years.
At the time there was this chaotic, yet cosy mess at the academy. Times have changed now, really (laughs). I embraced that chaos and even thought of it as a safe haven for the developing young creatives. There’s still healthy chaos of artistic melancholy but now it’s all digital and well sorted out by all kinds of rules and laws. It isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes you gotta love some rock and roll, right?
Sometimes you gotta love some rock and roll, right?
Are you looking forward to the expo?
To be honest I’m quite stressed out. I never really exhibited many of my works, only at the beginning of XYZ gallery. The works I’m exposing now are trying to capture an image that alternates its identity, an image in which you can get lost for a moment. Lack of confidence held me back from releasing these works before.
The expo will be accompanied by a painter who works similarly as I do, as well as a couple who crafts structures out of natural elements. There will also be a performance that fits in the concept of nature and trees. Appointment on the 21st of November at gallery D’Apostrof!
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