Inside this issue
Frédéric Demeuse is a photographer from Belgium, raised and based in Brussels. As a naturalist and visual storyteller, he is both witness to and interpreter of the diversity of this precious and unique planet that we all share. From his explorations of and immersion in the most varied and remote environments, he brings us back images whose purpose is to question us on the scale of time, on our relationship to the living community, and to stir up our curiosity about what exists beyond our human condition. He uses photography as a raw material, a permanent work of observation and research on the light, the texture and the composition of his images.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Frédéric’s interest in, and study of, ethology and ornithology shows in his images. Instead of an empty landscape, he shows the animals, birds and insect life of the forest in its setting. He’s an advocate for nature and its restorative effects. When we think of rainforest, we frequently do so in the context of tropical or sub-tropical regions. It’s easy to forget that there are temperate rainforests too and that these are just as precious and just as vulnerable. We even have our own remnants of Atlantic rainforest on the south-western fringes of Scotland (and having spent time in it in the rain, I can vouch for the fact that ‘rainforest’ is not a misnomer). While many of his images are in colour Frédéric also likes to work in black and white, enjoying its ‘soul’, so we’ve included a number of monochromatic images with an emphasis on mood and texture within and without the trees.
Would you like to start by telling readers a little about yourself – where you grew up, your education and early interests, and what that led you to do as a career?
I was born and raised in Brussels where I still live. I was lucky to grow up in a neighbourhood next to the Sonian Forest, the green lung of the European capital. My childhood home overlooked a large wood of several hectares (now classified as a Natura 2000 reserve) where I made my first observations as a naturalist. Squirrels, amphibians and newts of the small pond, birds at the feeders in winter. I quickly became passionate about ornithology, a passion that has never left me. From an early age I devoured naturalist books and magazines. My field guides about birds never left me and each family trip and vacation gave me the opportunity to discover new species and new biotopes. Around the age of 8-9 years, I took my first pictures of robins, tits of all kinds (the crested tit was a favourite), nuthatches, wrens, woodpeckers, finches... I had fun recording my observations on the computer. But I never figured out that photography and nature would take on such importance until much later in my personal and professional life...
How did you first become interested in photography and what kind of images did you set out to make?
I made my first hides in my garden - the great spotted woodpecker was by far the most eagerly anticipated bird! It was, therefore, my passion for birds that led me to photography, probably motivated by the need to keep track of my observations. At the age of 12, I received my first serious equipment, a Nikon F401 film camera with a 300mm lens. A few weeks later I fell from a weeping willow into a pond near my home while trying to photograph a couple of great crested grebes…
It wasn't until around the age of 25 that my early interest in photography resurfaced in my life. At that time I was passing my final qualifications to become an airline pilot (my passion for birds probably made me want to fly like them) but an accident put an end to this career that had been set for me. Passionate about extreme skiing, I fell heavily while jumping over a rocky barrier because of a misidentification of the track. It was a big blow because I was no longer physically able to take the commands of an aeroplane, mainly due to a loss of sensitivity and motor skills in my left hand. But in hindsight, it was a great chance to return to my first passions of nature, forests, and the animal world.
I then worked in an office specialising in real estate acquisitions, but one Monday morning I resigned because I realised that it was much more interesting and fulfilling to run through the woods and to chart your own course. I found no sense in spending time in a job that I did not like; in fulfilling objectives contrary to the interests of the planet, the biosphere, our survival... A dog shared my life at that time and thanks to many walks I rediscovered the Sonian Forest which became almost my second home as I spent countless hours exploring every corner and focusing on different subjects over the seasons. Wildlife photography, landscapes, but also a lot of macro.