Célia Schouteden is a twenty-four year old film photographer based in Belgium. Her portraits of people are often soft and poetic; inspired by love, human connection and the pursuit of the intangible feeling of home.
Where did you grow up and how did your environment influence you?
I live in the small but welcoming Belgium. I’ve lived in Liège most of my life. I also found a second home in Montana (USA) where I spent two life-changing months in 2015. I’m currently attending college to become a psychologist, though I already have a teaching degree a few years back.
I’ve always been fascinated by the elsewhere. The outside-the-box way of life. I’ve felt as a citizen of the world before anything else and I have this urge to find new homes. As much as I love Belgium I don’t really feel at home here. I need mountains, lakes, wide-open spaces, deep silence. That’s what I found in Montana and eventually it’s where all my artistic journey really started.
All my life I’ve had this emptiness inside that I wish I could fill and I had a strange sensation of peace there, I didn’t feel so lost for the first time in so long. I started writing and painting again, I would take my digital camera everywhere. I was looking for understanding in every little thing around me which I couldn’t do in my hometown since it was so threatening to me most of the time. I think the more people I see the less understood, I feel, and it’s scary in so many ways.
I like people, I find them captivating, especially the melancholic ones, but as an introvert I need to be alone to create and to be myself. I lose myself in people sometimes.
What is your background in film photography and what inspired you to start?
I first tried film photography when I was dating my ex-boyfriend. He would take photos with his old film camera that his dad gave him and I remember finding it very intriguing. I only began to take photos of models in August 2016 as a first artistic attempt– and only with my film camera right from the start! See, I’ve never really been into digital photography. I’ve tried many times along the years but it doesn’t feel right to me. I don’t find it as poetic as I want it to be. I like to deeply think each caption; I try to make the best out of it. I think what I love the most in film photography is that I really have to share a connection with myself and others to make it work. You must be real and live the moment since you only have 36 chances to express yourself.
I think what inspired me to start all of it is the urge to speak. I was looking for a way to reach others and art has always helped me to achieve that. I’m not really good at talking. I had to find another way to share what I see and think with the people around me.
What do you primarily shoot with?
I started with an old Olympus OM10 and then I met Tchin, my lover, and he gave me my current camera which is a Nikon Fm2n. It’s a perfect match. I’ve tried many film rolls from different brands but I always find my way back to the Kodak portra 400. I love the warm tones and the softness of it.
Your portraits of people are very emotionally driven. Does your work revolve around any specific themes?
Yes, absolutely and I am glad that people notice it.
Suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety and cyclothymia (which is a milder form of bipolar disorder) I find it essential to share those issues with the world because there is still such a strong stigma. I have this desire to fight it by sharing my own emotions, to show it’s real. Every day is a challenge, every task requires a huge effort and my life is a rollercoaster because of my mood swings but as many patients I keep going. We all are survivors and it’s important to me to be empathetic.
What I want to achieve most of all is to be able to help others who are suffering daily, the hopeless romantics and the hypersensitive people, I want to be able to make them feel less alone.
I’ve always found myself misunderstood because I’m so emotionally driven and people don’t usually get that or they even strongly disapprove how I react sometimes. I know I can be so frustrating to others. I think art is my way to heal: I think we need to feel understood and supported to grow. I do. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I find support in the arts, mostly in literature. Sylvia Plath’s work really resonate with me. That’s why I named my accounts the way I did, it’s a reference to her poem, Elm, my favourite. Music is crucial as well. I admire Elena Tonra from the band Daughter for her honest and intense lyrics. And most of all: love. Love inspires me among everything. I wouldn’t have done half of what I did without my lover by my side, supporting me. I know nothing I do will ever be perfect and I don’t want it to be. I want to be honest, that’s all. It’s not much but we all try to make things happen on our own scale. We all try to give meaning to what we’re going through I guess.
How do self-portraits play a role in documenting your life?
Self-portraits are new! It has helped me more recently when I couldn’t find any model to take photos of. It’s hard to find people interested in the kind of images I want to create or maybe it’s just me being too picky, I’m not sure. I feel that most of people only want great portraits of them so they can share them on social media and that’s it. I would like to avoid that. I want to share a real connection with the person I take photos of and sadly it’s not something we can come across every day. Real connections are rare and that’s what make them so special.
I think self-portraits are interesting because they force me to discover myself and to be really honest, plus they don’t require anybody around which is easier. But I still need people to create, they intrigue me, I want to know who they are and what their dreams and fears are. I’m so curious of them, so I’m sure I would quickly become uninspired without them.
Are you currently working on any projects?
I’m currently working on a project which would associate my photos and some writing. I would love to create a poetic journal with all my feelings and thoughts to help hypersensitive people. Not sure how long it’s gonna take but I’m willing to try. In the future I hope I’ll be able to use writing and photography in art therapy as a psychologist.
One book and one film recommendation.
Oh that’s so hard to pick one!
Book: Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Jamison.
Film: Dead Poets Society is one of my all-time favourites.
Favorite Instagram account of the moment?
@amongtheruins is so talented.