Marie Wynants

Our interviewee of the month describes herself as an ‘epileptic photographer’. Marie Wynants is a talented, young photographer who has already shot four campaigns for Xandres. The epithet ‘epileptic photographer’ is both a reference to the epileptic fits from which she used to suffer, and a poetic way of referring to her impulsive, greedy, almost volatile way of living and working. She allowed us to lose ourselves in the charming chaos of her thoughts and to get a taste of the energy constantly crackling in her head.

Why did you choose photography? As a teenager you had other ambitions: you trained as a dancer.

“Between the ages of 14 and 18, I studied dance at the ballet school in Antwerp. When I finished, I wanted to audition with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. But the auditions are only held every two years, so I wanted to do something else for a year while I waited. When I was dancing, I was always very focussed on the visual aspects, how my stage structure was, how the lights fell, and so on. For me, the visual took priority over the substance. Rather impulsively I decided to do photography for a year. At the start of the course I was a bit lost. Everyone else already knew what a diaphragm was, and shutter speed. I didn’t even have a camera. (laughs) I did the course at Sint-Lucas in Brussels. And it turned out to be a great choice, because the school is both technically and conceptually strong.”

Was it the visual aspect that particularly attracted you?

“I think so. I have never been a conceptual artist; my triggers are more visual. I look for a location, supplement my colour palette, and mainly try to create an atmosphere. The concept usually only becomes clear afterwards. My work is driven by gut feeling and intuition.”

“For example, I often hide the face in my photos. To begin with, I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why I did it. Yet I continued to choose these images without faces intuitively. Later, I realised that I have a fascination for what is absent in a body. If the face isn’t shown, the body says more. Because of my previous history as a dancer, I tend to look for a more universal significance in a body. Our brains are trained to automatically detect emotion in a face. If the face is missing, your experience or emotion is more open when you look at an image.”



You didn’t go back to the dance world, and threw yourself into photography after your course. Was that a conscious choice?

“Actually, I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t exclude going back to dancing, but I had already got some commissions during my last year of photography. My friends in the music business (Max Colombie from Oscar and the Wolf, and Charlotte De Witte, ed.) were doing well and I was able to take their photos. I don’t have the feeling that dance is completely closed to me. I just think that I approach my passion for photography differently. I often work with dancers and I focus a lot on movement in my photos.”

You work for fashion brands, musicians, and there is your own individual work too, yet these diverse projects fit seamlessly into your portfolio. How do you manage that?

“There is no difference between my commercial work and my own projects. I am very selective about the clients I work with. I could never work for a brand I have no feeling for or an artist I don’t believe in, for example. That is why I am very critical and think carefully beforehand about whether I can add value to the brand.”

“For me personally, there are no boundaries between the different types of jobs - commercial, music, fashion, and so on. After all, music and fashion shoots are very similar. Both of them demand the creation of a world for which my vision as a photographer is required. With musicians it’s about creating an alter ego, with fashion brands it’s about creating a brand image. As long as I can do my own thing – and the customer is happy, obviously - I’m happy too.”

Is there any time left for other passions besides your job?

“Yes, I love to travel. I do a lot of sport, especially running. And I like to listen to music. But my main passion is travelling. Why do I love travelling so much? Because I love to land up in new environments and dynamics. You get to know yourself better when you travel. You become worldlier and can put things in context better. It inspires me to see things differently, to discover new things, and to go outside my comfort zone sometimes.”

Which project are you proudest of?

“There are three. At Xandres I am very proud of the evolution we’re going through together. We’re growing together. When I see the previous campaigns, I see we’re making  progress, yet we’re keeping the Xandres style. A second job I will always cherish was the job for the handbag brand Delvaux. That was my breakthrough into fashion. And the third project is the collaboration with Max (Colombie, ed.). We’ve grown together, too. As a photographer I attach a lot of importance to building trust and getting to know each other. It gives you the chance to draw someone out of their shell and to push the boundaries with them. That’s how the best shots are created.”


Xandres selected you as an ‘inspiring woman’. Who do you consider to be an inspiring woman?

“Ooh, that’s difficult… Michelle Obama. But that’s obvious. Perhaps I should choose a woman I have more links with. My mother, for example. If a woman puts her own life on a back burner for a man, she’s not really considered to be a very good example - from a feminist perspective. But I think it’s fantastic that you let someone else do want they want to out of love. That aspect plays a role with Michelle Obama, and with my own mother too. She never pursued her own ambitions, so that my father could develop his career. Women who feel comfortable with themselves and can give things up – I think that’s beautiful. I think I could give up a lot for love too. Women can be very strong in that, it can be more difficult for men.”


What are the ambitions or dreams you still cherish as a photographer?

“I’d like to work abroad more this year. Last year I was a bit too hasty with those foreign ambitions. You get used to what you’ve built up in your own country, whereas abroad you have to start again to some extent. Now I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. The older I get, the more mature my photography becomes and the more I really get to know myself. All the photographers I look up to only made a breakthrough in their forties. So, I have to give myself time.”


The best is yet to come, Marie! We wish you every success!