Immersion in wild flowers by Willem Douven

Far from the photo studios, it is while hiking that Willem Douven photographs wild flowers; sometimes taken under the rays of the sun and the light beams of the moon. In a personal quest for calm, Willem Douven encounters the raw elements of the forest. The result is a composition that the Belgian photographer wishes to be both balanced and chaotic, a mirror of nature.

How did your love for outdoor photography begin?
Photography was always present in my family. My grandfather was a photographer. My father made photos for fun, to capture memories.  It was only after watching the film documenting street photography in New York, directed by Cheryl Dunn, Everybody Street (2013) and after discovering the work of street photographer Vivian Maier that I really got into photography. Later on, I made the switch from the crowded cities to the more quiet scenes of nature.

Despite your “street photography” inspirations, you capture nature paths. Why ?
It is the feeling of being in nature. I like to walk breathing in the fresh air of the day or night, and to photograph my encounters. In times of climate change and deforestation, being in nature while being aware of its magic is being aware of all the good of a forest. Flowers are one of them. As an atheist, they are for me “the work of the gods”. They are special for their smell, color, shape and are proof of millions of years of evolution. They are a very special link between the plant world and the human world.

Flowers are in your images like thoughtful compositions, where every detail counts.
Even if I don’t want any disruptive elements in the frame, in my practice I am more driven by my intuition and not by reason. Often people want to know what I want to tell with the photos I make. And I have to be honest. Most of the time I don’t know. I think it’s just my fascination for beauty and calmness in nature and to share this beauty makes people aware of the beauty and meanwhile more respectful for our planet. When I hike, sometimes there is a feeling, an atmosphere almost magically that is difficult to describe in words that you somehow feel in your stomach that even makes your heart beat quicker. Than I feel I just have to photograph.

 What detail calls out to you to press the shutter button?
This is the mood of the moment. It can be an eye-catching color where the flower is, the light that is present at that time … but also the condition of the flower. A blooming or withered flower gives a totally different feeling to the image.

Flowers and nature are full of vibrant colors, yet sometimes you opt for black and white as in the “Silver Silence” series.
If you look at all my work it can sometimes look a bit chaotic seemingly there is no constante. Some flowers can be crackling fresh and vibrant with popping colours but other ones will be more dreamy with pastel colours…Somehow I can not and don’t want to choose for a constant in my work. I always take two lenses with me when I go for a hike. The mood I am in, the choices I make at the moment or afterwards can vary. I make them in nature where they are growing. Sometimes people ask if I make them in a studio but it isn’t.

Willem Douven’s website:
Instagram: @willem_douven
© Willem Douven