"ARTIST FEATURE" : WIM WINTERS
Welcome to the second edition of the "Artist Feature" here at The Rothschild Photo Collection where we chat with musicians/photographers. This month features a virtuoso on the clavichord who has a strong eye for pattern and the abstract with his camera: Mr. Wim Winters
Has music and photography always been a simultaneous source of expression for you or has photography become something more recent in your life?
Well, to start with, I would not consider myself a photographer. I am a musician who really likes to take photographs. However, I had a camera in my hand first before a key under my fingers! That has all to do with my father, who passed away only last year, and I still have his beautiful Bronica. He had his own darkroom and ended his career in the mid 90's with nude photography. He had a very good artistic eye, did not hesitate in his photographic work, and what he left on print is still impressive to me.
I sat literally hours next to him when he cleaned his equipment (and he was always, in my memory, cleaning), and on his walks on Sundays I was the one who went with him, often carrying the big bag with lenses and filters and other stuff!
He was a guitar player too in an earlier life, and when I played a small electrical organ at a friend's birthday party, he jumped on my musical education, which quickly went to quite a high level. One year later, I won an international competition for amateurs in classical organ playing.
Photography never was at the center of what I did, but it was always very natural for me to talk with people on depth-of field, composition, lenses, etc. It became a stronger part of my life only a few years ago while sitting on an airplane next to the builder of my clavichord, Joris Potvlieghe. He was about to buy a new camera, and one of the reviews he read was about the Fuji X-Pro1. I was sold immediately and am still convinced that camera was the right choice for me.
I noticed a strong sense of pattern in your photos, which feels very musical in a way. Do you feel there is a relationship between your language of music and how you make photos whether conscious or not?
That is an interesting question, and while making a top 6 list of my work, I noticed this kind of abstract feel in the photographs that appealed to me. When I read Ansel Adams autobiography (Adams was first a pianist), I recognized that his musical education served him well as a photographer. He meant that the mental reflexes of a musician, especially the concentration factor, also transfer to the art of photography. And when I go out for a walk, alone or with a friend, I feel liberated when I find a spot that draws me in with minimalistic views. I feel relaxed in a way afterwards that is hard to describe, happy almost, and since I do consider photography as a hobby, I can deny all reflexes that are automated by my music, telling me constantly what there is to approve or not. I would say, if music has influenced my photography it's in the field of concentration and focus.
Your video recordings of your musical performances are so artfully shot with a strong sense of light, geometry and mood. Have you ever considered self-portraiture in your photography?
I take that as a real compliment from the pen of a photographer. Two of the big challenges for my YouTube videos is the light and geometry. The clavichord has a horizontal shape: I, with my length, go vertical. That doesn't fit very well in a landscape format. And since we do not have big spotlights on the ceiling, we work with small LED lights that give no heat (important for keeping the instrument stable in tuning). Setting up the lights is a constant challenge, avoiding disturbing shadows, and sometimes we just accept the imperfect result. But a self-portraiture is something I would not consider. Luckily I have a friend who's an excellent photographer, and every time I need photos, I just ask her. Better this way!
Your musical performances seem so precise and virtuosic. Do you feel your photography is a departure from that and more spontaneous?
Oh yes! As said before, one can only reach that level of precision (if I may say so) because of a constant critical reflex, that at times can be rather fatiguing too. One of the great things I feel about photography is that I am very conscious to let that element of self-criticism only rise to a certain standard. It is also a form of self-protection, since it would take me too far from my core activity if I would dive too deep into photography (and I know myself on this!).
Do you have any recordings of your music as part of an album? And if so, would you ever consider your photography as possible album cover material?
We are working hard on our first release of Authentic Sound Records, which will be Bach's famous Partitas. I am about to record these fabulous pieces on tape, for release on Vinyl disc, packed in (what we would like to be) beautiful boxes with CD, HiRes downloads, alternative versions of some movements, behind-the-scenes, a more elaborate version of my series Afterthoughts, and a real old-fashioned big book of about 40 pages with meaningful articles and photographs. I dream of giving the cover as a kind of exhibition piece to photographers. I've talked about this with Ted Forbes of 'The Art Of Photography', about collaborating on this, and that just might happen. This kind of cross-over collaboration is very appealing to me.
Your work has a very abstract quality. Do you have any photographers who resonate with your vision?
To be honest, not really, and as I said before, the abstract 'quality' (too much honor for me) is partly because of the ease of process. It is extremely difficult to produce stunning landscapes as Adams did or make portraits like Richard Avedon. I've learned many new names through Ted's channel,"The Art of Photography". While I wait for him to make an episode on Stieglitz (of which I have several books), to help me understand his work. One of my all-time favorites certainly is Edward Steichen. His photographs are just unbelievable in every way.
Your YouTube channel looks like it requires immense work and dedication to be able to perform and record the music at the highest level. I am sure it takes up so much time. With that said, do you have any photo projects or ideas that you would like to explore in the future?
I wish I had the time for that. As you say, the channel is literally eating time, and besides the YouTube channel, I work as an organ consultant, an architect for the restoration of historical church organs. I am project leader of quite an important organ project in the famous Belgian university town Leuven. Also, unbeknownst to many. I have been working on a novel for the past 4 years that I hope to finish later this year. So, as we speak, photography is (shame on me!) is a low priority. My father's darkroom chemicals are still waiting on me in the attic. I would love to do some dark room work since it feels so essential. It might take flight sooner or later, I don't know. But what I do know is that it will never disappear!