Interview with Jonathan De Keyzer, Photographer

Jonathan De Keyzer first discovered his love for photography while studying interior design in college. Architecture, however, is only one subject that has influenced the photographer. Describing his style as “eclectic,” Jonathan draws inspiration from many sources. His hometown of Ghent, Belgium is one of them. It’s “a melting pot of different cultures,” he says. When he’s not snapping pictures around his city, Jonathan loves to travel. This past year alone he paid a visit to Amsterdam, Paris, and London, taking photographs all along the way. In our interview, The Waking asked Jonathan more about his inspirations, why he loves photography, and how he believes art makes an impact in the world.

Q: Why do you do photography?

It started out as a need. I needed to buy a cam to take detail shots from my interior-designs situation before the works (empty structure) to be able to precise maps. That’s how the passion started. Now, I can’t live without my camera anymore; I always have it standby. But, it’s also a family bug in my dad’s family. [We] have some great photographers in our family. Actually, my great-grandfather was a photographer and an interior-architect as well, so it’s definitely in my genes.

I found out that what attracts me the most in this discipline of art is the freedom; it’s a perfect way to escape. For 3 years I was balancing on the verge of life and [death]. I had a deadly liver-disease and in between the medical tests and treatments I needed to unwind, so I took with me when I drove to the hospital and if I had the energy, I took some pics. I also tried to do a lil’ walk each day to focus on other positive, beautiful things around me. It was my way to survive this hell…

Q: Who or what inspires you?

I have a few names who are a true source of inspiration, like Ansel Adams and Carl de Keyzer, Gérard Sioen (visited his gallery in Carcassonne, France)…and of course I admire a lot of photographers at the photo community. I’m totally addicted to that site; so many talented artists. My favorites are Manky Maxblack and the McCormick sisters, Meg Elizabeth and Mariah (MGM photography). [I] have learned a lot from them and it’s always a pleasure to see their works. I constantly watch good pictures. I’m totally focused on what’s visual, esthetical. I focus on what’s beautiful, unique…the word beautiful might have a dangerous message to you, but I also try to look behind the surface; beautiful people are not always the nicest persons. I look for what’s inside…

Since I was a kid I followed the latest fashion and design trends, followed what was hip ‘n’ cool. I was a magazine freak, watched a lot of TV, just to keep up with what was going on in the world, and now I’m always in need for fresh cool websites.

Actually, I have a wide range of influences, from flower-artists like Danïen Öst, to Swedish Glassworks, to dreamy fashion designers like Kaat Tilley and Nicole Cadine, to real (interior)-designers like Maarten van Severen, Quinze & Milan, everything that’s Italian and stylish to little, local, young artists. Actually, if you watch my blog “God is An Artist” (older posts), you can clearly see who inspires me :))

Q: What would you like to accomplish with your art?

I always was a very dreamy person and I still am a dreamer. It’s not that I isolate myself, ‘cause I’m a very social person, [I] need to have fun with my friends. But, I’ve always tried to create beautifulness, to polish a rough diamond…to show what people don’t see…’cause they don’t know the value of it. Normal, daily things in the right context can look totally different than when you serve it on an ugly plastic placemat, for example. What I try to do is to let people dream for a while; they enter in a world far away from the daily horror that’s confronting them in the daily news. Call it escapism; I call it focus on the right things. Lots of people actually breathe in and out what’s negative, what makes them sad, dirty, down…I want them to breathe fresh air…it’s an exercise to find something positive and to enjoy the good life. God created glorious, beautiful things, not to look over it, as we mostly tend to do in our busy scheduled life. Focusing on the beauty of creation is standing in awe for the maker of it and the next thing you do is WORSHIPPING THE MAKER OF IT, not me!!!

Q: Why is art so important? 

It’s oxygen for me. When I entered the brave new world of art school, it’s like I came home. I was like a sponge soaking up all the dazzling beauty of miraculous masterpieces. I was thirsty and I found what I was looking for. My professors showed me the way in this labyrinth, ‘cause you have to part the sea; there’s a lot of filth, lot of dirt. But there’s also an enormous amount of pearls and diamonds, treasures in art world. I need good input; it’s soul food. It’s the same as reading a good daily devotional…you need food for body, mind and soul…that’s what art is to me.

 Q: What is your advice to aspiring photographers?

In times of digitalism, there’s no need to save pellicle film. You have to shoot as much as you can, to delete what’s average, to start all over again when it’s crap. You have to shoot every single day. Take your cam wherever you go; I always have it standby (made one of my best shots, at the breakfast table, looking at the traffic in my very busy street) and never think, “This is too crazy, what [do] I want to shoot now…” Create your own style by trial and error; it’s hard work, it’s a learning process. Digital photography is so much more than taking a pic with a trendy, cool looking shooter; it comes with lots of terms…you have to know at least the basics…but most important is experimenting with editing programs, discipline and practicing. 2 key words…if it’s your thing it becomes your passion, and then nothing is tough or hard anymore. You try ‘til you get the right tweak, the right composition. Good luck to the new generation. I only shoot for 3 years, every day, so there’s hope dudes!!! 

Q: What is one album, movie, or book that everyone should own? 

Album: That’s so subjective but I’m a huge fan of Smashing Pumpkins, so I’d say “Zeitgeist” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” Most of Moby’s work, U2, Radiohead, Woven Hand, Sigur Rós and so much more.

Fav movies:  Tarantino rules!!! Just saw “Inglourious Basterds” and I loved every minute of it. “Into the Wild” (soundtrack from Eddy Vedder) and John Travolta’s work (like “A Love Song for Bobby Long”).

Books? My fav designer book is Karim Rashid’s work “I Want To Change the World,” Gaudi’s entire collection (I love Barcelona!) and I have a little photo book from “The Cornish Coast (UK)” by Bob Croxford; totally amazing. A must have is also the photo book “Hope in the Dark” by Jeremy Cowart and Jena Lee (check their website for blood water mission (aids patients in Africa), and architectural work from Frank Lloyd Wright and Tadao Ando.

Normal fav book is “Redeeming Love” from Francine Rivers (just read in 9 hours), Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and I’m currently reading “Wild Goose Chase” from Mark Batterson and an amazing book called “Tesjoewa” from Teus Schep.

To see more of Jonathan’s work, please visit his website!

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