Prepare The Flash shines a light on folks that shine a light themselves. The people behind the camera, taking pictures of the artists we all love. Let's take a look behind the scenes of some of Belgium’s most infamous clickers. This time with Alexander Popelier!
First things first, how did you get into photography?
"I was always that kid who brought his disposable camera to take pictures of everything. I just wante to create visual memories for the future and never saw it as my main thing. I only started taking it more serious when I was 21 years old and studying Graphic Design. I made someone a website, some graphics and in exchange I got my first semi professional camera. Your whole perspective changes the moment you say, OK, now I’m really going to try my best to take a good picture and see how this works out."
When did you decide to become a fulltime photographer?
"After graduating, I worked for a graphic design agency named Coming Soon, where we combined graphic design with photography. But as I was doing more and more shoots on the side, I was working less hours at the agency. Eventually, I had to make a choice whether I would work fulltime for the agency or not. That was the moment I fully dedicated myself to photography and when I started a studio (Avantgand) with Lieven Dirckx."
Was it hard to start your own business?
"Well, It’s not easy. It's never been easy, and it probably will never be easy (laughs). But it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Having your own studio is the best place for crafting your skill and it’s definitely the most satisfying. Everything moved very gradually and I’m grateful being at this point right now. Making your living out of photography is not to be taken for granted, and I’m really happy I’m able to pursue my dreams."
You made the picture for Brihangs’ album cover, right?
"Working together with him was great. We were brainstorming and I asked him to bring some of his materials because he’s a visual artist. We made a mini-installation in the studio and were just improvising. That shot of him hanging over it is actually one of the last pictures we took. Its one of my weakest but also strongest points that I improvise a lot. It’s not hard to take a technical correct picture, everyone can do that with the right settings. But the hard part is making an interesting picture that sticks. It’s not because you can play some notes, that you can create a good song. I always try to find a good element to start from. Like for Brihang, we used his gear as a theme, for other shoots it could just be a color. Sometimes limitations can make it harder, but if you dig a little deeper in it, and just go with it, new possibilities rise from that perspective. It’s hard, but also the most satisfying if it does work that way. That’s why I love doing portraits and fashion, because it allows you to experiment the most."
Do you have a favorite picture?
"We once had a Sensation White party at someone’s house and it was crazy. I made this perfect Tumblr snapshot (first picture in this article, ed.): unrecognisable people with a lot of dynamic. It’s one of the few pictures made by me, that is hanging in my house. I’m proud of a lot of my pictures but that one that stuck with me the most. Even though I don't see it as a portfolio shot, that’s why I put it on my blog Dailyzoob.tumblr.com"
Who are the most inspiring people you met?
"I’m inspired by a lot of creative people, whether it be one of my friends or someone I met along the job. Photography took me to a lot of places. The great thing is, that there’s always a reason why someone’s pictures needs to be taken. So I consider most of them interesting in a way. I love to see how different people move and act, sometimes in an artificial way. And how my prejudice on people I don’t know can be right or wrong. You don’t know the person until you’ve been in the same room, nonetheless in front of your lens. So that’s the inspiring part for me. The good thing is that I’ve always been surrounded by creative people. I come from the breakdancing scene, even though I was not a breakdancer myself, but it felt like a creative hub. I met people like Lander Gyselinck (STUFF.), Admir Mirena (Red Bull BC One) and even my partner Lieven which who I run the studio with. Even till now, a lot of my friends have a connection with that period in my life and it’s crazy to see how that community from 15 years ago ended up becoming successful in many different professions."
How was 2017 for you?
"2017 was a great year. It’s actually the first year that I really felt confident about doing my own thing, even in commercial shoots. Before that I would’ve been happy just to please the client. I also took a picture of John Malkovich, which was a real challenge at the moment of shooting, but satisfying after. I also got a lot of nice assignments from the magazines I work for, like Knack Focus and Sabato. It’s great to feel trusted by them. About the future, that’s always a big question mark. Mostly an assignment pops up in my inbox only 2 weeks in advance, so I have no idea what 2018 holds!"
Any tips for new photographers?
"Make people aware of what you do. So you won’t have to explain yourself all the time! And the hardest part is staying true to yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but you. It’s you who needs to be happy about what you’ve done!"
Head over to Alexander's website for more absolutely awesome shots!