Artist Spotlight: Yves De Brabander
BY Albert Smith
June 19 2010 4:00 AM ET
A brief bio: Yves De Brabander traded in his seaside roots for Belgium’s very own Big Apple, Antwerp. In 1998 he graduated cum laude in photography. At the suggestion of friends, he founded Photoaddict in the fall of 2002.
Yves’s main influences are Larry Clark and the great snapshot photographers of the ’80s. His style is similar: funky, trashy, and dreamy, but primarily straight to the point, simple, and minimalist.
His Web space, bursting with beautiful boys, would become famous very quickly. In 2006 his photos were published in the prestigious Visions: Contemporary Male Photography book, published worldwide by the Berlin publisher Bruno Gmünder. Yves is the only Belgian included in this catalog, as a result of which he received much attention from international press.
Why are you a photographer?
I always had this deep interest in aesthetics: architecture, design ... As a child I always sat alone in my room writing and drawing — probably imitating my father, who was an architect.
So at age 18 I left the rural seaside and moved to Antwerp, this country's beating heart for arts, photography, design, and mostly fashion, to study photography.
I graduated cum laude as a photographer in 1998 in Antwerp. The first years after graduating, I wasn’t into photography at all anymore, because I constantly had to justify myself for the past years, as my teachers didn’t understand “male photography.” There were a lot of sexist remarks, like “Are you doing boys again? Pick a woman next time ... ” I guess I was a little tired of all of that ...
Only four years later I picked it up again and started shooting some friends and friends of friends in a contemporary way. Through those works I got to shoot campaigns for local gay and lesbian movements. Later I became an in-house photographer for our Belgian AIDS and sexual health campaigns. But I kept on doing my own projects on the side.
Finally I had the feeling I could prove male photography to work, trying to break down the taboo on male nude art photography.
What catches your eye?
Everything that interests me. It’s just a matter of attraction. I like to travel, so I shoot foreign and desolate places; I like fashion, so I shoot editorials; I like men, so I shoot them. But I guess the male form seems to be something I come back to again and again. Of course, it’s always nice to combine these: doing male fashion editorial on top of a glacier in Iceland or an abandoned swimming pool, or a bare male body on a '50s-style couch that I like very much.
How do you choose your subjects?
I usually start with an emotion, a feeling. Then I look for a location and finally a model or a type of guy that fits right in. I like working with normal guys — not too skinny, not too muscular. Most of them are friends, friends of friends, or people I find on Facebook and MySpace.
How do you describe your work?
Minimalist, contemporary, and straight to the point. Others like to describe my works as funky, trashy, and intimate without being too explicit. I like to portray my boys at nearly unattended moments. I usually reach them in a situation or a feeling and watch how they handle it, what they do, do they feel comfortable, how do they react, do they start jumping around when naked, or do they crawl into a little corner behind the couch?
What makes a good photograph to you?
There has to be an emotion “trapped” inside. Photography is not only capturing the right moment following all right techniques they teach you in art school. There has to be a story behind and going further outside the photograph, an emotion, a feeling, a frozen situation in the life of the portrayed. I also ask my models to not look into the lens. I hate it when they do that — there has to be something else, something more outside the captured frame