b. 1969, Belgium

Stephan Vanfleteren Biography

Stephan Vanfleteren (°1969) is one of Belgium's most renowned photographers. Among the general public, he is mainly celebrated for his penetrating black and white portraits of people from all walks of life, from artists and actors, to surfers, fisher- and sportsmen. However, his oeuvre is much more diverse than that. Starting his career as a press photographer, Vanfleteren made captivating photo reports about the events that dominated the news of the 1990s, such as the genocide in Rwanda, the war in Kosovo and the Dutroux affaire in Belgium. Later on, he began to elaborate a variation of themes in extended photo reportages, going from storefront façades to a journey along the mythical Atlantic Wall. For his most recent work, Vanfleteren withdrew into his studio to focus on his own version of classic themes such as nude portraits and still life photography. In the latter, entitled 'Nature Morte', he portrayed dead animals (in colour) he found near his home. Where most of his images are very time phased, this series marks an evolution in Vanfleteren's work towards a more timeless approach and subject matter.Whether it concerns his journalistic, documentary or artistic photographic projects; Vanfleteren always remains true to his characteristic style and esthetic. A palet of black and whites, the use of sharp contrasts and well-defined details is the trademark that he developed throughout the years. Vanfleteren prefers to portray his subjects against a plain background to be able to focus on the people and characters standing in front of his lens, including all wrinkles life gave them. The resulting purified and raw images stand out for their simplicity, intensity and drama.

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A romantic soul hides in the photographer. Driven by creative gloom, Vanfleteren often focuses on what is on the verge of disappearing. From the turn of the century onwards, he starts documenting his home country Belgium and its inhabitants. Traveling this land for fifteen years resulted in 2007 in the series 'Belgicum' (an accumulation of 'Belgium' and 'Unicum'). In this photo project Vanfleteren visualises in an unparalleled manner this complex nation, with all its diversity and contradictions. From the damp back of a farm horse and a car wreck in what seems the middle of nowhere, to night owls and deserted high ways in the early hours. From a remarkably constructed pigeon house and 'La Reine des Fritures', giving away Belgium's notorious urban chaos, to the dark power and beauty of the North Sea. Next to the heavy theme of portraits of people living in poverty in cities like Antwerp and Brussels, there is also room for humour. Comic relief can be found for example in the infamous photo of an elderly couple taken on the Koekelberg Basilica in Brussels: a stroke of luck without equal. Sadness and desolation nevertheless play the upper part in 'Belgicum', further emphasised by Vanfleteren's dramatic photographic style. After all, it was not an objective report he was after, but a subjective declaration of love to his complicated motherland, driven by emotions and compassion. To the contemporary viewer the result may be a melancholic trip to a country that for the most part no longer exists.

Text courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

Stephan Vanfleteren Featured Artworks

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Noordzee, Golf #29 by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Noordzee, Golf #29, 2006 Archival pigment print
108 x 135 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Theofiel, Pajottenland by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Theofiel, Pajottenland, 2004 Archival pigment print
35 x 35 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Carice van Houten by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Carice van Houten, 2015 Archival pigment print
150 x 110 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Wolk, Friesland by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Wolk, Friesland, 2010 Archival pigment print
80 x 100 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Georgette, Brussel by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Georgette, Brussel, 2004 Archival pigment print
50 x 50 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Golf, Noordzee #28 by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Golf, Noordzee #28, 2006 Archival pigment print
108 x 135 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Bussels, Belgium by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Bussels, Belgium, 2004 Archival pigment print
35 x 35 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Dunkirk, France by Stephan Vanfleteren contemporary artwork photography
Stephan Vanfleteren Dunkirk, France, 1990 Archival pigment print
32 x 40 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery

Stephan Vanfleteren Recent Exhibitions

Stephan Vanfleteren Represented By

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