Titus Simoens: “I like to observe the body language of a person”

Titus Simoens. © Jef Boes

Titus Simoens. © Jef Boes

Titus, your topic invites us back to the 20th century. Why did you choose to analyze this particular subject? Do you have a personal connection to it?

I like to choose my subjects intuitively and lonely worlds have always attracted me.

Mostly, I don’t have a personal connection to them. The initial plan was to join sailors on their trip on the sea for a while.

I got in contact with the Ibis school in Ostend after seeing the  documentary ‘Children of the sea’ of the Belgian female director Annabel Verbeke.

Which intrigued me greatly. It’s a wonderful documentary about the children at this school.

I got attracted to this topic because you can feel the tension in a school like this.

The children grow up without their parents and the environment they live in is very structured and disciplined.

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 02

,,,Simoens Titus - Blue, see 03

“Blue, See” is a documentation of the Marine training at Ibis, an all-boys boarding school in Belgium. It seems from the pictures that these boys have behavioral issues. How did you manage with it while taking pictures of them?

Ostend’s Ibis is a boarding school for boys who come from troubled homes or who have behavioral issues.

They live in an environment where kids don’t really belong in the first place.

They lack the warmth of their families, but together they form a community, a new family.

I have spent a whole week in the school several times. I did what they did, talked with them and explained them what I was doing there.

That is how I work, I tried to make a connection with the boys and gain their trust, so that taking pictures was no longer a strange thing for them.

I also gave them cameras to introduce photography in their world.

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 04

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 07

A cohabitance of rather mixed moods and bright colors is very noticeable in your pictures. It is deliberate or spontaneous choice?

It was a deliberate choice to use an external flash to photograph this subject. For me it felt necessary to use this flash to shoot my subject.

It brings an extra form of attention to the subject of the photo and the viewer is not distracted by other objects which are less important.

Often, my photographs are taken frontal, to capture what happens that instant. I like to observe the body language of a person, how somebody moves or stands speaks, which can tell you a lot.

You create awkwardness, which is interpretable by the viewer in many ways.

At the end I think it is always a combination of working deliberate and spontaneous at the same time.

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 06

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 09

You are taking photos of people from different age groups. After this series, who you would like to work with as a model for your next project?

This series is part of a long-term photography project that I will finish in 2015.

The series Blue, see is made in 2012 and is indeed a model for the project, taking in consideration that a project always grows and changes when you work on it.

Last year I went to China 2 times to work on the series Mount Song in a Kung Fu school.

I was shooting there in a school in a very disciplined and structured environment. I used the same method as in Blue, see to approach my subject.

This year I will go to Russia to work in a military school.

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 10

Simoens Titus - Blue, see 12



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Posted in Interviews