Love, sex, flowers, drunkenness… For Jill Verhaeghe photography is a way to escape from the coldness of the nowadays world by capturing the beauty of everyday life. Born in 1994, Brussels, Belgium is a multidisciplinary artist currently living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated film school in 2016. Her main focus now is photography and writing.
- You were born in Brussels, Belgium but you moved to NYC, United States. What was the reason of your moving out? Are you planning to go back to Brussels?
I wanted to get out of Belgium that’s for sure! For as long as I remember I dreamed of living in far and exotic places. New York is not so exotic but it’s definitely the home of all my heroes. When I met the love of my live, he turned out to be American. We got married and took a one-way plane to pursue our dreams and here we are! Leaving Belgium has not been easy but it’s exactly what I needed. Maybe we’ll come back, maybe we won’t. I have the feeling New York is only the first step of our journey.
- How would you describe your stay in United States?
It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster. It’s a dreadful experience to obtain that damn Green Card. I’m still in limbo after almost a year. I can’t leave the country nor work legally and that’s been really taking a toll on my sanity.
I’m a white girl from Europe, imagine how it is for all those people out there who are way less privileged… Being in the birthplace of Capitalism has been a real eye opener. Everything you take for granted in Belgium, stuff like accessible health insurance, does not exist here. The only thing that counts is making more money no matter the means. New York is a beautiful city full of beautiful people and I fell in love with it immediately but it’s also the city of Wall Street and Trump. I feel like I’m in heaven and hell at the same time, maybe that’s the New York magic we all thrive in.
- Do you think living abroad has influenced your work? What connection do you have to Brussels now?
In a way Brussels is just a tiny version of New York. I loved spending my adolescence there but then I got bored. Sitting in the same bars every fucking night for almost a decade, your whole life within 1 square mile… I can’t wait to drink cheap beer with my friends again but I’m also happy I don’t feel stuck there anymore.
“I think it’s important as an artist to get out of your comfort zone, that doesn’t necessarily mean crossing oceans”
- What would you say to those artists that left their respective countries to pursue their career? Any advice?
I guess I’m still the one that needs advice haha. In general I think it’s important as an artist to get out of your comfort zone, that doesn’t necessarily mean crossing oceans. Confront the concept of home, you’ll appreciate it or you won’t know where it is but either way it will be a learning experience.
- What do you want to express with your photos?
I studied photography in high school and cinema in college. For years I felt the most important thing was to explain your work rather than making it.
It gave me a rich intellectual background but I also felt really limited. I tend to overthink everything but when I take a picture I don’t think at all. If I see something that touches me, I want to capture it before it slips away. I tend to rebel against the male gaze and I’m always looking for beauty in ugliness.
- What brought you to start photographing people from your inner circle?
I got my first disposable camera when I was 5 and used it to take pictures of my friends. Guess I just never stopped. What’s more beautiful than your naked lover on your bed? Or your best friend laying drunk on the floor? It’s all about capturing memories, we all do it with our smartphone. We need to hold onto these moments of intimacy because the world out there is harsh and cold.
“Lingering between my dear past and a distant future, my images process those faint moments in between. They carry all my secrets. My desires, obsessions and fears. They evolve around everything close to me. Or is it the opposite? A way to embrace the unknown?”
- Flowers and square format patterns can be seen on your work with frequency. Any particular reason?
I’m not sure about the squares but I certainly love flowers. When I think about flowers these words of Robert Bresson’s linger through my mind: Mon film naît une première fois dans ma tête, meurt sur papier; est ressuscité par les personnes vivantes et les objets réels que j'emploie, qui sont tués sur pellicule mais qui, placés dans un certain ordre et projetés sur un écran, se raniment comme des fleurs dans l’eau. (My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resurrected by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.) Has anyone ever said anything more beautiful about film? Maybe that’s why I like flowers so much.
- Do you have any future projects?
I’ve been working on a photography/poetry book for a while now, maybe one day it will be finished haha. Finally returning home and looking at Brussels again through my camera with a different perspective will be interesting. Furthermore I’m writing a movie with my love so that’s pretty exciting too. Once I get my papers I can start focusing on a fashion photography career, I have some opportunities waiting there. In New York you never know what will cross your path but I’m sure the future will be bright. Except if Trump gets re-elected, then I will probably jump off a bridge.