• La fille au poisson rouge
  • Kid Noize
  • Grossesse sous l'eau
  • Marine Paquet for I Comme
  • Waterbaby
  • Harry Fayt

Harry Fayt - water as muse28/03/2017

An unusual career, and an internationally recognised style. Harry Fayt’s photos are creating a stir everywhere they go. Artists, models, babies and pregnant women have all been the subjects of his incredible shoots. Meet a master of underwater photography.

Emotion. This is a common thread running through the work of Harry Fayt, originally from Charleroi before moving to Liège. He has chosen water as his photo studio. His underwater photographs have been shown in exhibitions in Brussels and used in international advertising campaigns. They also take pride of place in the homes of private collectors with an eye for a strong statement. While previous projects have received much interest, the ones he is currently working on, which will be made public in upcoming events, will cement his reputation further still.

Harry Fayt’s career so far has been anything but ordinary. He graduated in 1998 from the Institut Technique Félicien Rops in Namur. At the time, he planned to go into fashion photography. “But I had friends working in music and I got roped in.” He smiles. “Up to 2003, I photographed concerts in Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands... my photos were published in a few magazines, but I had to rely on temp work to pay the bills”. At that point, he found the urge to go back to fashion, and travelled to Paris to pitch to the agencies there. “It was disappointing”, he admits. “I was less interested in the clothes than the women wearing them.” This fascination with the female form was a first step in the underwater journey...

Back in Belgium, he photographed cars for a website to make ends meet. “There was nothing artistic about it. Front, back, interior, snap-snap-snap. And onto the next one… I needed something else". So he went into photographing pregnancies and births to capture those moments which are so precious in the life of a woman. Over the months, this activity started to take over from his work photographing cars. He also photographed babies: “fragile little things - the perfect models for my minimal style, which was far from the standard for the genre at the time”.

Then, in 2008, he decided to set off in pursuit of the American Dream. He dropped everything and went to open his own studio in New York. “It was great, but an administrative issue forced me to come back and abandon everything there”. The disappointment was short-lived - Harry isn’t the type to give up easily. After a few weeks, he had a revelation: he started underwater photography. “I wanted to photograph swimming babies. Some say I was inspired by the Nirvana album cover. Others say it was the Evian water adverts…”. He then shot a series of underwater sessions with babies, families and pregnant women...

A contact with a Ukrainian modelling agency would give a new direction to his work. With these models, Harry Fayt decided to shoot nudes. It was September 2011. The series was exposed in 2013 in Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Berlin, London and Monaco - arresting images which left the viewer wondering whether they had really been taken under water.

We blur boundaries, to find a sense of primal beauty. I love the surrealist, oily quality and the play of light which comes with water. The photos which are staged involve a lot of serious thought before the shoot. I add very little with Photoshop, but it may be necessary to remove a cord, for example, that was keeping a model in a specific position. Photos can also be taken upside down without the viewer realising.

Artists and mythology

Over the past several months, Harry Fayt has set himself a new challenge. Photographing artists who represent the cultural wealth of Belgium. “I would like to work with Virginie Efira, Benoît Poelvoorde, Arno, Stromae…”. His photo of Kid Noize, a DJ from Charleroi, gives a taste of this series.

In parallel to this, he is working on his next exhibition: “Modern Icons”. “It’s a reinterpretation of major themes from the history of art and mythology”, he explains. “I want it to be an exhibition which goes beyond 2D media. There will be sculpture, holograms, videos...” The project will include The Madonna, Raphael’s Young Lady with Unicorn, the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea…

Finally, Harry wants to return to underwater shoots with pregnant women and swimming babies, which he has neglected somewhat. In 2017, he will therefore be working on a raft of projects, and he wants to take us with him for a breath of fresh art.

Laurence Piret

This article is taken from Revue W+B n° 135.

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