Monica Bekkers is a photographer who rarly leave you unaffected. Her work full of imagination and has a great variety. The common factor is that they almost always involve humans in one way or another. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview. You will find more photos at the end of the article.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies, your other jobs.
My name is Monika Vanhercke, born in Belgium in Oostende. I'm 51 year old and now living in the Netherlands since 7 years. My biggest hobby is taking pictures, reading books and I enjoy a good movie from time to time. I am now between jobs, I hope to find one very soon, but it’s not easy.
How has your history and life experience affected your photography? What are the most important experiences that have influenced your art?
I come from a big family, 5 sisters and 2 brothers. My parents didn’t have much, but we got along just fine. Sometimes my mother needed a rest and let us kids spend some time with relatives, a little vacation for us and for her. I had to spend a week with my uncle. I was 9 years old. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good stay. To make a long story short, he abused me. It lasted for 1 year, and this is strange to others, but while the abuse was going on, I started to imagine things in my head, design people in my head.
First I drew sketches of these characters on paper, usually they were a bit strange, but always nice, and full of humour. I kept doing it until I was 17. Later on, my teacher saw them and found them very good. She went to my mother and asked her to send me to academy school, but there was no money to do so, so it never happened. I did not sketch anymore, it just stopped. At 28 a friend gave me a camera, and that is where it all started. I took photos of everything I saw, villages, animals, people, I loved it all. But I had no education. I wouldn’t give it up, so I learnt all I could by myself. I had a busy life, so the camera was sent to a place where it could rest, until I was pregnant with my child. Then I bought a camera to take a lot of pictures of him, because I did not have any pictures of me when I was little. Later I made the pictures like the characters I had imagined when I was little, and that is how it all started for me. I still love to make pictures and I have a big imagination to do so.
What first attracted you to photography?
The creativity attracted me to photography, to design something, to enjoy the feeling from it, to meet people. The first picture I saw from Sally Mann, I will never forget. I wanted to take pictures like she did, different and with love.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I would like to be able to go into the soul of my model. The most important thing is that it is special to me, has a vision that is clear to me. It’s not what I see, but it’s how I see it. Sometimes people don’t understand my work, but that’s okay by me, because it’s still special for me.
Why are you so drawn by mood life photography?
I can enjoy it. It’s something that comes in my mind, and not all I imagine can be put in an image. Sometimes I don’t have the props to do so. I love humour in my pictures, I have a great sense of humour or so I have been told.
What is more important to you, the story behind an image or the technical perfection ?
For me it’s the story behind it. Although technical perfection as well. A bit of both I guess. I am a self taught, never went to school. I learnt a lot from the internet, looked at workshops on the internet. So I am not a technical photographer, I just do what my heart tells me to do and keep on trying to do it right.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Personal, I am involved in it from the beginning. I Love to work with people I know, that I can trust, that I can send my feelings to. Children are my favorite objects. They are innocent and they are great to work with. I Love to dress them up and work with them, until I have the image that I had in mind.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in photography and how do you get started?
Always put your heart in it. Don’t go for that one image, but go for the image that touches you the most. Learn from the internet, or go to school. Be creative and try not to copy-cat. Make something that makes you feel good. Have fun. That is very important to me, having fun doing it.
Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Sally Mann - she was the first that I saw. Koos Breukel, and photos from the 50s-60s I love a lot. That is very strange because I love colours in my pictures, I am a colour girl. It has not affected me, I think in my work, but she made me start taking pictures of life.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you in a big way and why?
There are many photographers that inspire me. I love creative edit. I am not good at it (yet). That is what I’m going to learn in the future. Like Ben Goossens:
Love his work a lot, like i said. There are a lot of good photographers on 1x.com.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
No, there are not. I am just taking pictures because I love to do it, for fun and to clear my mind. It’s like a thing that I have to do.
Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
My son. I took this image of him with natural light, while he was seriously ill. This is the image that I hold on my heart forever.