Bram De Martelaere is the kind of photographer that makes brilliant shots look like a walk in the park. We recently got in touch with him and asked him a few questions to see what makes him tick, what keeps him shooting, and how he loves classic Americana.
Hi, Bram! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Bram De Martelaere. I was born in Belgium but moved to San Francisco in 2007.
Who is Bram De Martelaere when not shooting? What do you do on your down time?
Depends on how I feel, but usually, I'll try to skate some curbs with friends, go ride bikes with my girlfriend, go to bookstores and museums. Shoot the occasional skate photo.
Tell us about how you discovered photography. When did you know that photography was for you?
It's a stereotypical story for any photographer that skates. I broke my ankle when I was 15. When you're that young, you don't want to sit inside and not be around skateboarding. You want to be around your friends, so I started shooting them with the Minolta SLR that belonged to my dad.
Photography stuck with me. I don't remember when it clicked, but I do remember wanting to keep shooting. That feeling of getting the shot exactly the way you saw it before you hit that shutter.
How would you define photography?
I think it's different for everyone. For me, it's telling a story. Documenting what's around me.
What's your favorite thing about photography?
The documenting aspect of it all. While I like setting up for a portrait and completely being in control, my favorite aspect is getting dropped in a strange situation and figuring out your place and how you're going to showcase this setting.
How does your professional work differ from your personal photography?
The professional gigs I've had came from people liking the personal work, and they want to mimic that.
So, maybe ask me again in a couple of years.
What’s your favorite subject?
Honestly, good old-fashioned Americana still hasn't gotten old for me. This country is so insanely different from where I grew up. The culture, the way of thinking, the way things work. It's fun to explore and dive in.
What places/neighborhoods have you visited? How was the reception of the locals? And what was the most memorable place you’ve been to recently?
I'm lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit all over the place for various reasons. Cutty South Houston neighborhoods, super-rich Florida retirement communities, small-town events only a few hours outside of San Francisco. They all have their own characteristics and enjoyed all of them. Shooting a rodeo in Oakdale got a little bit weird, there were some hostile vibes there, as that community is very protective of what they have going on. All good though.
How do you prepare for a photograph?
Depends on what I'm going to shoot. A teacher once made it a point to show us how important it is to blend in. So I take that into account when I try and shoot certain things.
How do you stay creative?
Museums and books help. It helps to look at what other people do and have been doing.I think it's really important to know what has happened before you. I'm not saying you need classic training or a degree but it baffles me when people present themselves as photographers but don't care about photography.
That sounds fair. After all, you really can’t do something you don’t understand or have no idea of. Who are the photographers of old that you think had the most impact on your style/work?
Robert Frank, 100%. That feeling when I looked through 'the Americans' for the first time. I'll never forget. I can still recall that exact moment. The edit, the layout. The photos, so much class. Cartier-Bresson as well, his decisive moment and skateboarding have a lot in common.
In your personal experience, how do you deal with creative block?
My block comes in the form of having too many unfinished ideas in my head. Not knowing which project to finish up first. I try to list out what I want to do and then figure out which ones take priority.
What would you say are the most challenging things about photography?
Standing out in this day and age would be the biggest challenge. To not get swept away in certain fads and trends that are so obvious in the Instagram age.
How would you describe your style in five words?
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good photograph?
I know I like a photo when I get this weird gut feeling, it's almost a weird envious feeling I'd say. "Why didn't I see that? "I want to shoot a photo like that" Why didn't I shoot it that way" Those are the photos I really really like.
What’s your favorite photograph?
I really can't say. It changes from day to day.
Are there photographers/artists that you follow religiously?
At this moment in time, I'd say Alec Soth and Quentin De Briey. Two very different photographers in very different fields but I enjoy everything they put out.
Who’s your dream collaboration?
I have a couple in mind but I don't like to put them out there. I'll tell people when it happens.
What’s next for Bram de Martelaere?
I want to keep focusing on documentary style work. Not just general street photography, but pick subjects, do your homework and shoot and present them in a classy way.
If there was one thing you would replace photography with, what would it be?
Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be able to draw. Comic book character style. Looking at skateboarding graphics. That's what I wanted to do. oh well.
How do you think people should handle success and failure?
Everyone fails so just get back up and keep at it. I don't think anyone ever reaches a point where they don't fail anymore.
What do you think matters more -- talent or skill?
I'd say you need a bit of both right? Persistence is the one though.
What does a perfect day look like for Bram de Martelaere?
Wake up on a sunny day, go for a bike ride with my girlfriend, shoot photos in the afternoon, skate and drink some beers with friends to end the day.
Any last words for our readers?
Thanks for reading and checking out my photos.
We would like to express our gratitude to Bram for letting us feature his work and for being so gracious in answering all our questions. If you're interested in his work and would like to see more, you may head to his website and Instagram account.