One of our missions at behindthefra.me is to make the work of photographers approachable and personal. We believe photography is a democratic and accessible medium—why obscure its meaning rather than bring the viewer closer?
To this end, we will be publishing interviews with each of the 20 photographers whose work will be available for purchase in our inaugural sale "Always a Beginner." Get to know these impassioned image-makers a little better.
For our fourth interview, we sit down with Mexico-based, Belgian-born documentary photographer Annick Donkers. Having started her photography career in Mexico, Donkers has begun to establish herself internationally, exhibiting her work across the Americas and Europe while winning awards in some of the world's most prestigious competitions. Below, Donkers delves into her beginnings with the medium, her varied inspirations and much more...
Songlines (The Netherlands)
BtF: How did you begin your work in photography? Was there a "decisive moment" when you knew it was a special medium for you, when you felt truly committed to it?
AD: I never had the idea to become a photographer. It started as a hobby after finishing university and later while I was working in marketing research. Then, a decisive moment arrived when I started travelling in Mexico. After my first visit, I wanted to come back and work on stories. From there, things began happening to push me towards it. Although it has been a long and often difficult road, I eventually realized that photography was what I wanted to do and what I had to do.
BtF: When you were beginning photography, were there any people, artists, books, films that served as essential inspirations? How about now—any sources of creativity you discovered recently that give you that jolt of "beginner's" passion?
AD: A big inspiration for me to use colour was Luc Delahaye's book Winterreise. I was used to working in black-and-white but when I saw the pictures and the way he told the story in color, it opened a new world for me.
Colored Feet (Mexico)
I think everything can be a form of inspiration for me. Of course, I monitor the work being produced by the photographers of Magnum, Agence VU'...but also movies, art exhibitions and moments of daily life.
BtF: Cartier-Bresson famously said, "Your first 10,000 shots are your worst." Can you share a humbling moment that happened to you recently with regards to your photography? A moment when you realized, like all of us, that there's always much more to learn?
AD: I remember when I was just beginning, I was invited to take pictures of ballet students. There I was, standing with my old Canon camera and a couple of Kodak TMAX 3200 rolls. When the dance started, the light kept changing the whole time and I realized I had no idea what I was doing. But when I showed the pictures later to the director of the ballet school, she told me "Well, you are not a dance photographer but there is a certain kind of ambience in your pictures so you should continue taking pictures."
Huicol Art (Mexico)
Last year, I felt like an amateur again when entering a carwash-turned-arena to cover a Lucha Libre Extrema event. This time I was armed with a Canon 5DIII camera. But still, the light was so bad; the movements quick and unpredictable, and the last thing I wanted was to get myself hurt. Still, I kept going and confronted my fears. This time, I was rewarded, winning prizes at the Sony Awards and many other competitions.
—Annick Donkers, interviewed by behindthefra.me
Editor's note: Donkers' work will be for sale in our inaugural themed sale, "Always a Beginner," running until February 14, 2017. Discover over 70 images now!