Jean-Luc Feixa: Public Windows

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Tell us more about yourself and your practice.

Originally from Toulouse in the South of France, I've been living in Brussels for 5 years now. I focus mainly on street photography on daily basis, shooting pictures on my way to work or strolling downtown.

What was your creative process for this series or for your work in general?

When looking at it, My Public Window is quite atypical for few reasons -

First, it's my only project about Brussels. Honestly, I find it pretty difficult to photograph a city in which I live. It's so difficult stay awake once you get used to places, to the architecture or to the movement of crowds, I therefore lose those magical details. I was looking for a project within Brussels that would push me to rediscover the city and force me to open my eyes onto its hidden wonders. The theme of windows came naturally because I live in a neighbourhood of Brussels where a lot of people decorate their windows.

Secondly, I normally use black & white. For this series, using colour made sense and it forced me to change my habits and perspective.

I simply can't overlook the fact that for the first time, I've put aside the technique for this series. Reflex camera, mobile phone ... I just wanted to show the window, as it is, as I see it. What matters to me is the documentary aspect of the subject, regardless of the optimal quality or my shadow in the window. This is a day to day series, with no constraints!

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Such a wonderful practice used for this body of work. The subject speaking for itself over the medium. In the end an image is an image regardless of what medium it might belong to. Your more classically inspired black & white works are equally as great though, shows you have diversity. What work inspires or has inspired you?

My project My Public Window was inspired by a funny and well done work signed by David Helbich entitled Belgian Solutions. It's a whole series of hands-on solutions for everyday environment (particularly within Belgium). This book is awesome and I loved the concept of it! Aside from my inspiration for My Public Window, my references come clearly from black & white master photographers. I love the work of Sergio Larrain for example, whose series on Valparaiso remains a strong reference for my work. I am also a big fan of Raymond Depardon's monochromatic work and the magnificent books by Spanish photographer Cristina Garcia Rodero, whose series on religious traditions in Spain are so unique. I highly recommend the last book of the young photographer Andre D Wagner from New York as well.

Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?

I particularly like American realism in painting, with representatives like Edgar Hopper. The idea of describing a reality, while tinting it with a touch of melancholy and loneliness, reflects in my black & white work. Regarding a photographic movement, I follow mainly “street photography”, even if it is a bit a “catch all” term, several photographers inspire me.

A lot of “catch all” genres are highly regarded. Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?

I photograph and work on subjects because they fascinate me. The idea behind my practice is creating interactions - that's my only ambition. And nope, I have nothing to complain about or any powerful ideas to defend apart from connecting with people and understanding them, discovering their reality.

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We are such fans of work involving the banal. My Public Window is such a comedic celebration and archive of suburban ornamental obsession in Brussels. Can you tell us more about your own opinions on the banal and why you decided to archive this fascinating collection via photography? 

Taken at the right moment, the banal becomes extraordinary. When we really think about it, some of the most famous pictures are instances taken from the ordinary scene. As I said before, I find it very difficult to photograph a city, a place in which we live because we quickly lose the sense of detail. When you open your eyes a little and take the time to observe, the panorama offered is often interesting, worth the time and very curious. This is the scenario with My Public Window. In France, few people transform their window into a personal museum, for Belgians it's perfectly normal and few of them even understood my enthusiasm while shooting the series. For me, looking at these “installations”, this stuffed fox, these soccer jerseys, these kitschy statues and collection of photos - it’s fascinating! Those windows say so much about the host, his habits, his day to day, and the day to day of this city. Some windows do not exist anymore, they are part of the archives now and some are new and pop-up every day, it's dynamic, as is Brussels.

Love how you describe each window as an “installation”, communication in the form of imagery is everywhere. Your collection of windows are not unlike framed images with carefully laid out subjects, offering insight into who lives there. Do you have any words for aspiring artists?

Work and again, work. Daily life tries to take your thoughts and energy but you have to dedicate some hours every week to take pictures, to paint or to do whatever you love to do. See the big picture, don't underestimate the varied aspects of communication. Contact galleries, get in touch with newspapers - that’s all a part of the journey. Of course, meet other artists to exchange, collaborate, and expand your views. 

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Is there anything you’re currently working on or any way we can keep up to date with the progression of My Public Window?

I will continue to work on My Public Window in the near future, I will make a book in the future and look for publishers. I met some of the guys behind the windows to hear their stories, there is a facebook community on www.facebook.com/Mypublicwindow, a great platform where people around the world share and exchange such windows!

I exhibited another black & white series titled "Mist and dust" in July, 2018 in the South of France. It is a photographic dialogue between a mountain and a desert between Spain and France, around the Pyrenees region.