Minimalist photography is open to a lot of creativity. The less is more approach in photography means that the whole attention is brought to the subject of the photogaph, other elements must be kept to a minimum. We had a chat on the amazing art of minimalist photography with Lea De Meulenaere, talking about minimalism and more.
by Alessandra Bettoni
Lea De Meulenaere is a very nice 61 years old lady. She lives in Belgium, born and raised in Brussels but living in a small town called Kortenberg together with her husband, her 3 kids and almost 8 grandkids.
AV: That’s a big family Lea! You should be always busy, between family and work. How is your attitude to life?
LDM: It’s true. I love my family and I’m very happy to spend time with my grandkids. They often say I don’t look my age. It’s a nature’s gift. Life is very fleeting. It’s important to be happy. I am gentle, simple, modest, not a big talker and enjoying the little things in life. People say I’m too good. I’ve changed a lot….. but it’s still hard to say no sometimes.
Humor is very important in my life. If you can’t look at how something is funny, you can’t get around it. Life is complex enough in itself. We have to make it as fun and pleasant as it can.
I had Bypass Surgery at the end of 2015. Never been sick in all my life. Now I’m on a diet and I have a more conscious life with a healthier lifestyle. I take one day at a time because you never know when it’s your time to leave.
I’m a teacher, teaching the Dutch language for French Government. My students are adults. I’m also teaching in companies and different language centers. In summer my public are kids and teens.
Apart from family and work, I have 2 passions in my life: music and photography. Both are sometimes linked together, especially when I’m editing photos and experimenting things. Other interests are books, nature, cooking.
Not far from where I live, in Kortenberg there has been a Benedictine abbey since 1222. It’s a very nice place with a vast area. The grounds have been opened to the public as a park for recreational use. I’m going there to take photos at least once a week.
AV: How was the start with photography Lea? Where does your passion come from? Is it something you have learnt from your relatives? Is there a specific moment which triggered in you the passion for photography? When did it happen?
LDM: I’ve started photography in 2012. My father was an amateur photographer, and I got my very first camera when I was 12 years old. He had a darkroom … which was … the kitchen. He always warned us whenever he was going to enlarge pictures: “remember kids……. nooooo lights on tonight”. At that time and later, when I got older, I was not that interested in photography but it was nice for family portraits. Later when I was married, my husband got the hang of it. The camera was an important object in our family and obviously family talks were often about photography. In 2012 I bought my very first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot DSC-WX7. That same year my father got very sick and I felt I had to do something to continue his work. I had seen some photos about Minimalism on FB groups and planned to start with this style. I walked for hours in Brussels to shoot doors, windows and other details. Later I was very proud to show the pictures to my father.
AV: Minimalist photography is actually what you practice, your minimalistic approach to photography is clean, sharp and effective. How did you get there? How did you evolve as a minimalistic photographer? Are there some points of reference that helped you in determining your current style?
LDM: I never leave home without a camera. I’m not myself when I have no camera with me. I’ve progressed as photographer and evolved my own style. I often look back to the works of others who have practiced their craft before me for inspiration. In the minimalist photography it’s important that the whole attention is brought to the subject of the photo. Elements must be kept to a minimum. Members tend to forget the rules in some FB groups and that irritates me sometimes. For example, I don’t live in a colorful country, houses are all similar with dull colors…… and not very attractive for minimalism. So it’s important to find other things to attract the viewers’ perception.
I’ve read “The Minimalist Photographer” by Steve Johnson. It is proving that it’s possible to take very good photographs with relatively cheap equipment. It works with the idea that the brain and the eye are far more important than the camera. The author is right. My best shots are with my small cameras.
I now have a Canon PowerShot G9X. The zoom is much better than the Sony. The advantage is you can come very close to your subject. I’m also using a Nikon D3300 with a standard lens DX18-200mm and a Tamron zoom 70-300mm. I don’t need more lenses. I’m happy and satisfied with the ones I have.
In 2014 Turkish Aegan Photography and Cinema Association contacted me. They invited me to their “4th International Photography Days” in Izmir, Turkey. It was a nice experience. I gave a presentation of my minimalistic photography and the people were very enthusiastic. It was a style of photography they were not so familiar with. After my visit the local photography group started with minimalism.
AV: What is your main inspiration when you go out for a shooting? What are your preferred subjects and how do you chose them? Is it more like letting be inspired by what you see, rather than previously studying and researching the places where you can find your inspiration?
LDM: I want to be aware of what is going on with art in my country. I’m not going particularly out to shoot something special, unless I’ve read an article about a place that could be interesting for taking photos. In that case I can respond on the place very enthusiastically, even childish sometimes. Once I’m there I’m inspired by the things around me and I shoot until I’m physically exhausted.
AV: You are the founder of one of the main Facebook Group related to minimalistic photography, Minimal Urban Photography. Can you tell us about this success story? When did you start? What the idea behind it?
LDM: I have a few minimalist photography groups and a page on FB. My most popular are The Minimalist and Minimal Urban Photography (MUP). MUP was founded in October 2013. I was inspired by my building passion and the fact there was not a group with that style on FB yet. It’s a popular group. Members post on a regular base and the quality of the photos is very good.
AV: In conclusion Lea, we can actually perceive in your work and in your words, you put a lot of passion in what you do. What would you suggest to inexperienced people willing to approach photography? What did you learn from your experience?
LDM: How to approach photography as a hobby? Experiment with different styles of photography. Go out, be yourself and shoot the things you like. Read on the subject. Buy a magazine or follow tutorials on the web. You will learn from your own experience and change things unless you have found your own style.
AV: Thank you so much Lea, it has been a pleasure.
LDM: Thanks to you and greetings to all friends in MUP and ArchiMinimal.
Lea De Meulenaere Minimalist Photography