BEN HEINE (born June 12, 1983 in Abidjan, Ivory coast) is a Belgian multidisciplinary visual artist. He is best known for his original series "Pencil Vs Camera", "Digital Circlism" and "Flesh and Acrylic".
Ben has a degree in Journalism (started at "Université Libre de Bruxelles" (Belgium) and completed at "IHECS" (Belgium) & "Utrecht University of Applied Sciences" in The Netherlands).
Following his studies, Ben has tried all kinds of different jobs but visual creation has always been his main concern. Since 2006 until now, his pictorial works have been published in famous Belgian and international newspapers and magazines (Daily Mail, The Sun, Telegraph, Loewe Magazine and many more) and they have been seen by millions of people online. Ben Heine’s artworks have been exhibited in Belgium, Great Britain, France, Canada, USA, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, South Korea and Spain. Ben is currently represented by several well-established art galleries in Belgium and abroad, such as the Gallery Garden (Brussels), the Appart Gallery (Brussels), Start/Stuff&Art (Cape Verde), the Art Movement (London), the Next Gallery (Jacksonville), the Radeski Gallery (Liège) and others. He has also participated in numerous art events such as the London Art Fair, the Affordable Art Fair, the Berliner List, the Accessible Art Fair, Art Event, Music for Life etc. In his maiden attempt at any photographic competition, Ben Heine’s each of the three submissions at “Epson International Photographic Pano Awards, 2012” (thepanoawards.com) have recently been awarded a "Bronze" award each (The three award-winning photographs: Pencil Vs Camera - 59; Paris from the Eiffel Tower; Cologne 360 degrees Panorama can be seen in his Fotosocial album).
Many of his final photos look somehow like paintings. Photography is all about light. Ben knows it and he always tries to remove all the visible imperfections to enhance and add a dramatic touch in all his pictures in a creative way to get the best results possible. Here is what he had to say in his interview for us.
Please tell us how you got started and how long you have been in the business.
I started drawing and painting in the early nineties. I took my first photos during my studies in Journalism. I started sharing my works online in 2006 (first on my blog, then on Flickr, then on deviantArt and finally on 500px and some social networks). I began to make a living out of my creative works only recently through exhibition in art galleries and art fairs, in Europe mainly.
“Professional opportunities became serious and interesting just after I launched my Pencil Vs Camera series in 2010.”
What has been the career defining moment in your life?
Professional opportunities became serious and interesting just after I launched my Pencil Vs Camera series in 2010. This is certainly the highest creative peak in my career so far.
While most of the photographers capture the world in their images, you are much more of an image creator. How do you conceptualize such themes?
As most of the photographers do, I also “capture the world” in my standard photos, but there is another dimension in Pencil Vs Camera, which is much more powerful: imagination. This series belongs to mixed media, the images in this collection mix drawing and photography, imagination and reality. I do not really spend time to “conceptualize” any of my pictures. I simply express my ideas and feelings with the mediums I have used the most these past years: photography and drawing. The idea came very naturally.
“This series belongs to mixed media, the images in this collection mix drawing and photography, imagination and reality.”
Your photographs have a strong message in them against injustice. What else do you portray through your photographs and how important is it to retain the sense of humor in your photographs?
Humor is important but it’s not my priority. I like to generate a dramatic mood in my photos. Let’s say it’s more about irony, derision and sarcasm.
How important is it for a photograph to tell a story and how do you relate to an audience?
There is a story behind each photo. Some stories are more significant than other ones. When there is a special and unusual anecdote behind a picture, I always try to mention it because it’s not always obvious to the viewers. I think sharing the circumstances in which the photo was taken makes sense and gives more value to the photo itself. Definitely a photo becomes really successful when it talks by itself and when no comment or legend is needed at all.
“Definitely a photo becomes really successful when it talks by itself and when no comment or legend is needed at all.”
You have made paintings, sculptures, political cartoons, illustrations, portraits, caricatures, collages, photos, calligraphy, and poems. Which form of representation is the closest to you?
I think the real me is more of a painter/drawer. Some people tend to say that many of my pictures look like painting. Because, this is what I like most!
Are you a dreamer?
Yes, I totally am. I’m not sure what exactly are my dreams, my hopes or expectations, but I always try to achieve things that seem completely impossible to accomplish. I’m not afraid to take a wrong direction or to do mistakes. We all do. It’s important to keep going and give the best all the time. I wake up every morning believing I’ll manage to achieve new goals. May be I won’t, but in the end, the path counts more than the final results.
Who are some of your favourite artists and how have they influenced your work?
In my creative projects, I try not to be influenced by other artists. I definitely agree we are a big community of creative persons who influence each other, but I really do my best to stay away from the standards, just by doing what I want in my field and following my own direction as much as I can.
Marketing and self-promotion is critical to any business and even more so for photographers. What is your take?
I have worked with an agent during almost 2 years. It didn’t work well. I prefer to manage myself even if it looks strange. It’s difficult for artists to manage themselves commercially speaking.
Seeing your photographs, it seems like you can even turn the mundane of things to a creative life form. How important is it to be bored to be inspired to change things?
That’s a good question. It’s true I often get loads of creative inspiration and ideas after some days of doing boring stuff.
Tell us the egg or the hen question, do you click photographs first or do you sketch before you click an image?
Most of the time, I do the sketches first and then take the picture. I often need to add some small corrections to the final photo in post-production to make sure the sketch on the paper matches perfectly with the photo.
Do you have a critic to examine your photographs before you share it with the world? If yes, who is the one whose judgment that you always rely on?
No, I don’t have any person to evaluate my work before I post it online. As soon as I’m finished with the production and the editing of an image, I share it online. I’m the only one to blame if I share bad stuff...
“Most of the time, I do the sketches first and then take the picture.”
When you move from being behind the lens, what do you enjoy?
I love to spend time with my wife and my family. I like to walk in parks, forests or any other green environment, do sports, go out with friends and get completely wasted (this happens only a few times a year, lol)…
“Right now, I’m working on something very different and totally unexpected for people following my work.”
What do you have in store next and how different is it to your previous projects?
Right now, I’m working on something very different and totally unexpected for people following my work. It might take a lot of time and be a total fiasco in the end but I need to give it a try. I also have a new graphic project in mind which I might start this Summer, I plan to make giant portraits with organic elements, I can’t say more so far.
What equipment and software do you make use of in your work flow?
Here are the cameras I currently use:
EOS Mark II. Lens EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. Lens EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.
Samsung NX11. Samsung lens 50-200mm f 4.0-5.6 ois. Samsung ifunction lens 20-50mm f 3.5-5.6.
I work on an iMac, I use an Intuos Wacom tablet and my main images editing softwares are Adobe PS CS4 and Illustrator. For my traditional works, I use paper, pencils, canvas, acrylic painting, ballpoint pens…
Learn more about the man himself and visit more of his works at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ben-Heine/45292293615