Belgian photographer Elise Corten explores themes of intimacy and connection through long term documentary projects. In a recent body of work titled Warmer Than The Sun, her primary subject has been her mother. The tender images are an intimate depiction of daily rituals, the relationship between mother and daughter, and a reinterpretation of the definition of maternal intimacy. Gallery Girl spoke to Elise about her inspirations and what drew her to photography.
What sparked your interest in photography in the first place?
I came to photography very spontaneously. I got my first camera when I was 20, a point and shoot which I used until it fell apart. It was a friend who encouraged me to pick up a camera, since then I’ve been discovering the medium with an interest that’s all consuming and constantly evolving.
I love your images of your mother. What caused you to start photographing her, and how has it changed your relationship?
Thank you. It happened very organically. I didn’t have a project in mind prior to shooting. We are close, so naturally I started photographing her. I think photography can definitely help bring people closer. It’s a very contemplative medium. In my case, I am looking at someone or something over a long period of time, studying the little details, developing the film, editing the negatives, it’s a long, slow process that allows for intimacy to happen over time.
For my mother and I, our understanding of each other became more apparent the longer I was photographing her. We could communicate through the images. I saw my mother in a different light, I started seeing her as the person she is, besides my mother. This shift was very interesting as we are both women in different stages of our lives, who have so much in common, yet are very different.
Your images focus on intimate depictions of women, can you comment on that?
I think all kinds of people are interesting. Women particularly because I feel it’s easier to relate to women, there is a greater understanding. I am interested in the naked body, honesty and purity of depiction. I am however also photographing men and people in all stages of life.
Who and what are your inspirations?
It’s difficult to name a few because I think as an artist you are constantly touched by beauty and find inspiration everywhere. Some photographers/artists/writers that have had a profound impact on me are; Sally Mann, Larry Sultan, Elinor Carucci, Patti Smith, Elif Shafak,… Inspiration is endless.
What is the art scene like in Belgium?
Belgium is a small country but there are a lot of interesting artists who are based here. We have some very nice museums and galleries which I often visit. Brussels, the capital is an inspiring, artful city.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I hope to keep making work that connects me to others, to make work that fulfils me and where I learn something in the process. Besides being a photographer, I would like to live on a farm with my partner, train horses and adopt lots of greyhounds. 😀