Youqine Lefèvre (b.1993 in Yueyang, China) is a Belgian photographer presently living in Switzerland. After getting a Bachelor in Fine Arts at the Graphic Research School of Brussel (Belgium) in 2014, she continued studying photography at the School of Applied Arts in Vevey (Switzerland). Her project ‘Far from Home’ is a moving series of photographs portraying the young children temporarily hosted in a foster home, away from their families.
About me: The human, the portrait, the memory, the childhood, the family and its weaknesses are central to my artistic practice. My work deals with intimacy while aiming for universal. Photography gives me the opportunity to discover worlds that would otherwise remain unknown to me. It also gives me the possibility to have access to places that theoretically are closed to the public, and get in touch with the people inside. The relational, human aspect, the fact of establishing a relationship with my subjects based on trust is very important to me.
Far from home - Statement: Far from home, away from home and family. This project is about children living in an isolated foster home in the mountains, and whose parents are temporarily unable to look after them. Children, who have been deprived of what would have been an ordinary life path. They have been transformed by past trauma and find themselves in a transition phase, caught between a world of innocence and of experience, stuck in an in-between, where the world of childhood persists somewhat nonetheless.
Intimacy, childhood, memory, family and its weaknesses are recurring topics in my artistic endeavor I obsess over these concepts for they are directly and deeply related to my personal history, my own adoption. The challenge of this project is to be able to move beyond my own family and intimate problems towards something broad and open.
The story of these children is close to mine. In my portraits, I try to capture moments when they let go of their guards, forget about the physical existence of the camera and the photographer to be their real selves. Getting over self-representation, the role that we think have to play facing the camera, in order to achieve the beauty of “being”. I’m looking for weaknesses, perceptible hesitations; some sort of uncertainty and fragility echoed in the environment and not unrelated to the situation they are in. Nature and landscape, both of which are highly present, are key elements in the series. They are the result, among others, of many wanderings and states of mind experienced when I found myself there.
Far from home is a long-term process, requiring patience. In which I set in certain “slowness”, the vector of proximity with the people and places photographed. I need to immerse myself in the environment, to create connections with the models, to somehow be part of the community as I move closer to children, both personally and formally. After all, this is quest for intimacy. Besides, my photographs of landscapes, interiors and objects voluntarily withhold information to the point of becoming abstract. My artistic practice verges on the the documentary and the intimate. As the project progresses, it tends to swing increasingly towards the intimate.
Stone images are recurrent in the series; they are of a particular interest and value to two of boys in the foster home. Having no knowledge what so ever about lithotherapy, they invested the stones with power that enables them to comfort or soothe their anger for instance. And when a child leaves the foster home forever, a stone is always offered to him by an educator, supposed to represent his personality. Dealing with these stones is a relevant way in my view to further this quest for intimacy.
In this work, I communicate my vision in an intuitive manner. The ensuing images therefore have a strong emotional and psychological dimension, sometimes sensual, sensory, and almost tactile. My photographs are permeable to my softness which also happens to bring them together.
I only shoot on films. I use a Mamiya 7 II and sometimes a Hasselblad.
My influences: Concerning photography, I love the works of Bryan Schutmaat, Alec Soth, Sarah Mei Herman, Carly Steinbrunn, Tom Callemin, Cynthia Henebry, Alexandra Catiere, Stine Sampers, Anne de Gelas, Geert Goiris, Andrea Modica, Laura Henno. And I think I am quite influenced by films such as ‘Mud’ by Jeff Nichols, ‘Joe’ by David Gordon Green, and ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ by Benh Zeitlin because it is about childhood and at the same time nature is very important there. I also love the work of Terrence Malick.