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Marc Apers: Photographer of the week

Marc Apers started rather late with photography, first with slides but soon turned to black and white photography which remains his passion till today. After working almost 20 years in the darkroom he finally made the decision in 2010 to turn to the digital process and admits that he don't regret it. He is a most talented artist who considers photography as a fantastic medium and discussing forum. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview.


Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.

I was born in Wilrijk in 1958 and now live in Kontich (close to Antwerp, Belgium). After my commercial studies I started working at a large bank (KBC) and 34 years later I am about to end my career at this bank. From March, 2016 I will be able to focus 100% on my two passions: photography and travel, particularly in Africa. Each year for most of the last 15 years my wife and I visited a different African country. Something we’d love to keep doing in the future.

What first attracted you to photography?
I didn’t get into photography until later in life. My father was an avid amateur photographer who had his own darkroom and who often invited me to join him but as a youth I was never interested. I took my first photos (slides) when on honeymoon in Kreta in 1981. When I showed them to friends and family they reacted enthusiastically. After a few years of only taking photos during our annual holiday I decided to broaden my interest in photography. I joined a local photo club and in 1988 developed my first roll of b/w film. In 1990 I joined the Royal Photoclub of Duffel. The members of this club specialise in black and white photography and are very involved in various photo competitions. To this day I am still a member of this club. I participated in national and international salons and over the years I started to see a pattern in what most interested me.

What type of photography mostly interests you and can you explain your vision?
I decided that portraits of people in their natural habitat were the subject matter that most suited me. For me “people” are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. I am a very social person, have great respect for others and am truly interested in them. These feelings manifest themselves in my photos. I am especially interested in taking photos of people of different backgrounds in faraway countries. Each time I try to capture their soul, their background and their life’s experiences in one single shot.

My vision is that a picture says more than a thousand words. A photo must evoke emotion and must produce that “wow” feeling in the spectator. A perfect technical finish is important. They used to say that 50% of a black and white photo is produced in the darkroom. I agree with that as I worked analogue for more than 20 years before making the switch to digital. My portfolio mainly consists of b/w portraits and street photography. Sometimes I venture into architecture or landscape but not very often. Once in a while I try to compose several photos into a creative edit. I don’t much plan beforehand but am focused on what’s happening in the moment.


What is your relationship to your subject beyond being an observer?
I am always looking for typical black and white subjects with an emphasis on shapes and structures, light and dark, sun and shadow. Subjects in which colour is not very important. And I find these subjects in human faces, especially in the expression in their eyes. That’s probably why I am so attracted to the people in Africa. They are pure, wise, poor but mostly happy and they are not bothered by the hurried Western lifestyle. I present myself openly and honestly to them as if I’m one of them. A little wink, a short chat and a smiling face will convince them to pose for me. Sometimes they even start telling me their life stories.

Do you carefully prepare the locations where you plan to photograph?
I am of course always looking for the best location and try to stay away from the tourist hotspots. That way I don’t come home with “classical” photos. When I find such a special spot it will still depend on a lot of other factors whether the shoot will be successful: the available light, the mood I’m in or the fact whether something special is happening at that moment.


What gear do you use?
I own only one camera: a Canon Eos 5D Mark II with a 24-105mm lens. Most of my pictures are taken with this lens. I do own a Canon 100-400mm but I seldom use it.

What software do you use to process your pictures?
My post processing is done in PS CS5. I only use a few basic adjustments. As far as all sorts of fancy techniques are concerned I am not the right person. I mainly use PS the way I used to work in the darkroom, like dodging and burning. I do use the curves to lay accents and the gradient filter and I have to admit that the cloning function is handy to get rid of unwanted elements.

What is your most important advice to a beginner?
My advice is to get out and photograph a lot. Explore your own city or a nearby one. Try to make contact with the people you meet, be open to their way of life. Dare to approach your subject. Be critical with your own work and also show it to others, ask their opinion, be open to criticism. Try to understand why others might not like your work and learn from it. It’s a process of ups and downs. Question yourself and look for what you prefer. Once you have found your favourite subject stick with it. Don’t only be inspired by other photographers but also by painters, sculptors and other artists.

Who are your favourite photographers and how have they influenced your work?
Like many others I have the greatest respect for figurehead Cartier-Bresson, but to be honest I get more inspiration from Robert Doisneau. As far as contemporaries go I have a lot of admiration for the Belgian photographer Stefan Vanfleteren. He knows how to combine emotion and story into one image, also my ideal combination.

Is there a specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a big deal and why?
Lots of photographers inspired me and still are a source of inspiration to me.  But if I really have to choose one it will be this gorgeous one seen on the exhibition “Le Pays Noir” from Stephan Vanfleteren in Charleroi.

© Stephan Vanfleteren


Describe your favourite photograph and tell us why it is special to you.
My favourite photograph is “Island Girl” for three reasons:
– It dates back to my analogue period and it is one of my most successful photos
– I still remember the special feeling I had when shooting this photo
– It represents best what I try to achieve in my photography.


Are there any specific directions you’d like to take your photography in or are there any specific goals you wish to achieve?
My main goal is to keep looking for that “ultimate” picture and therefore I think the best is still to come. I will also try, now that I am about to retire, to get some commercial assignments so I can cover some of my expenses. But the pleasure of photography remains the most important aspect.

What do you think of as a home base for your work? is and remains a daily source of inspiration. I have met so many new people and top photographers. On top of that I have become a moderator after having been put forward by one of my top favourites Andre de Plessis. I am part of a fantastic team. Thanks 1x, I am glad to be a member. And of course a special thanks to you Yvette.


Prachtige beelden en interview Marc, gefeliciteerd! Je maakt op een bijzondere wijze contact met je onderwerp en dat kun je zien aan de uitdrukking. Leuk om je te leren kennen tijdens de meet-up en we hebben veel gelachen. Hopelijk tot een volgende meet-up!! Groetjes, Edith :-)
Bedankt voor al die mooie woorden Edith en tot bij een volgende gelegenheid !
mooi interview en nog mooiere foto's
Bedankt Nico !
Gefeliciteerd, erg sterk zw/w werk, zeer aansprekend. Ik had vorige week de eer op deze plek.
Bedankt Gert en ook voor u een dikke proficiat !
Great article from nice photo's and photographer:-) Best, ben
Thanks a lot for your kind words Ben !
Here we have a really MASTER of photography!
So much honor ... thank you Filiberto !
Congratulation. So wide and deep opus. Bravo.
Thank you very much Dragan !
What an amazing portfolio of images
Thanks a lot Deborah !
Compliments Marc :) Good work and words :) Enjoyed both so thanks both you and Yvette. Congratulations!
Glad you like it, many thanks !
Evan Oz CREW
Congratulations Marc, Really enjoyed learning more about your personal philosophy and approach to photography. Reviewing your photos, I am impressed once again with how successful you are in allowing the subjects' persona to shine through, then burnish it to perfection with your exquisite toning. This is a sure sign of your talent and an inspiration to those of us who admire your work. Thanks to you and Yvette for allowing us these insights. It has been my pleasure to be on the moderator team with you!
Many thanks Evan, the pleasure is mutual, wish you good light !
Marc, so pleased to see this spotlight on you and your work. I new about your love of Africa but I was aware of your darkroom beginnings. Island girl is indeed very special in so many ways. I love your processing and your people...I could not find a more gentle and kinder person to say congratulations to. !!! Phyl
Thanks for so many kind words Phyllis, it really means a lot to me. Wish you a healthy day !
Een plezier om je integere fotowerk door te lopen Marc: niet voor niets vallen jouw beelden regelmatig in de prijzen bij internationale salons! Ze verdienen die onderscheidingen! Gefeliciteerd met ook weer deze onderscheiding als featured photographer!
Bedankt voor zoveel eer Huib !
Fine interview Yvette, I learned to know Marc when I was asked to join the Mod team. We spent a fine afternoon together. Marc, I admire your work, most of all because it is so different from what I do. Your portraits are deeply human, of great quality. You can feel the analog touch throughout. Chapeau .... :-)
Many thanks Luc and yes Yvette did a wonderful job !
This series of photos in various categories reflects the photographer to maturity own language, which is very effective and influential, Thanks to U Marc Apers and Thomas Brindt for selecting the potos!
Thanks a lot Mohammad !
Congratulations, Marc !!! A pleasure to interview you ... Thanks !!! Cheers, Yvette
Thank you so much dear Yvette, see you soon !
Complimenti Marc
Many thanks Massimo !