A different vista awaits as Belgium-based photographer Morgane Erpicum takes the Lomo'Instant Wide through the dunes of Iceland and California as she talks about minimalism, anxiety the fragility of the planet, and the minuteness of human beings across the wilderness. Here's our interview with Morgane.
From Iceland to the California desert, uninhabited areas appear to be your favourite kind of places. How come ?
Today, I'm not able to say if the themes that inspire me to explain my visceral need to explore these stripped spaces, or if this attraction is the origin of my photo series. The base of my artistic researches is therapeutic, it's evident. Photography (and also painting) taught me to reduce my anxieties, got me back on tracks when I was not able to find peace in my daily life.
In acknowledgement of my vulnerability of a small human being, lost in these vast arid extents, I found my place. Modestly, eyes fixed on the horizon line, I apprehended these immensities and decided to permanently live in them, doing my best to help for their protection. Indeed, I got aware of the growing evidence of the terrifying susceptibility to change in these regions. Not only, the ones nested at the heart of the wild, but also the ones at the cross-roads of our civilizations. The ones we tease the limits of, the ones we stifle, the ones we monopolize.
These regions are really susceptible to change and this is reflected in extreme vulnerability. I hope to bring to light the precariousness and the urgency of the situation through my series in sublimating the fragile beauty of these environments on a path to extinction.
In your images their something of the aesthetics of entropy, a discourse on the relationship between the photographer and the deserted landscapes, sometimes chaotic. Why this glance that leads in images almost devoid of any human presence?
It's true, I disconnect myself from the representation of the human scale in landscapes. I favour minimalism in my compositions, as an analogy to the photographic medium's limits and the ones of the human perspective. I supposed that these photos are at first sight, mainly triggered by the sense of the aesthetic. After all, photography takes advantage of instinctively pleasant viewing angles: I have to conclude that these instants of serendipity fixed on film were carrying symmetry and harmony that I found touching.
In the end, human beings are constantly looking for sense. We are permanently looking to forge strong links, to establish connections, to suggest rationalizations. It is, I think, what the eye does when it's confronted with the chaos of certain landscapes.
The magic of this mess resides in the details, the ones revealed by the eye after a long period of observation. The infinite sequences of rocks, sky, snow, sand, demonstrate the inherent order of our universe which is everything but chaotic. They show that nature will survive us in its infinite alterity and the fact that it's unknowable despite all our efforts to define it as an object of consciousness.
You seem inspired by photography from the '70s with your photos taken with the Lomo'Instant Wide. Is it the case ?
Yes, it is! Instant photographs allow a more playful approach. The grain bestows a nice authenticity to these spontaneous snapshots.
The landscapes and the slightly anachronic atmosphere of California were very well suited for the use of the Lomo'Instant Wide. Decrepit buildings, dappled motels in ghost towns, car or garbage cemeteries in open-pit, gardens with manicured cactus and blinding turquoise swimming...
How do you apprehend landscape in your photographs? It is the exploration of territories that leads to the photographic act or the fact that you are a photographer that pushes you to explore and discover ?
It's definitively photography which pushes me to exploration. I'm a lazy traveller, always reading a book, just going for long walks as an excursion. It seems that the territory dictates the type of exploration I undertake and that this exploration doesn't necessarily go through photography, especially during holidays, strictly speaking.
In contrast, the landscapes we discussed before are an invitation to surpassing oneself, to channel and to focus on essential. The exploration of these landscapes establishes the premises of dialogue that I'm trying to translate through my lens. It as to be done with respect, in the traditions of the territory. It's a mutual discovery and sharing motivated by a strong instinct to protect the planet earth and the perspective of countless apprenticeships acquired along the road.
You used the Lomo'Instant Wide with black and white films for this series. What did the Lomo'Instant Wide help you to achieve?
I really wanted to work in black and white. In general, I avoid to use it in medium format so I only have the opportunity to work in monochrome with my 35 mm (grain, grain, grain) and instant cameras. Colour harmonies are often difficult to accurately depict with film, and I like the neutrality and the timelessness of black and white.
I really enjoyed the width of the film too. I like to use horizontality as an anchorage point in my pictures, and it combined well with the Wide format.
You've already tested the Lomo'Instant Square Glass last year. Do you have a preference for one of our two instant cameras you've tried?
I have a slight preference for the Lomo’Instant Square Glass, which surprised me. I thought that the Wide-format would win over the Square format but it's not the case. The two cameras have similar features. They are both solid and easy to carry (with a slight preference for the compact aspect of the Square) and reliable.
A very small problem is when framing as the eye is not directly behind the lens on the Lomo'Instant Wide. Even after getting used to it, I did not always find the compositions I wanted. On that level, there's no problem with the Square even if you have to keep in mind that the setting of the depth of field will have an impact on the focus.
In your Instagram bio, you have put "Environmental advocacy through art". Can you tell us more about your implication?
An interesting fact shown by media recently is that the environmental problematic divides. It's quite outrageous in a way because she should all be united and volunteers and address the consequences of climate change. To develop a real implication, I think that we have to use positive values and emotions. I'm sure that fear and culpability are not the right driving forces. Even the extreme emergency of the situation and the terrifying denial of some, do not justify the use of such means.
By putting the spotlight on the richness of the territories in danger through photography, I delegate the role of ecological emissary to the Beauty of these places. It speaks for itself, it transcends the film, poignant, incredibly powerful... And so fragile, so endangered. I hope to be able to make people fall in love with these regions, the same way they made me.
I try to reveal the essence of my subject through the sobriety of compositions and my photographic practice and in this way, I hope to ensure respect and a strong instinct of protection and preservation.