Profile No. 12—Morgane Erpicum

Morgane Erpicum moved back to her native Brussels three years ago, after living and working in New Zealand for one year. “[It was] a weird place to grow up,” she wrote. Everyone seemed to know everyone, but only on a superficial level, and she never felt like she belonged. In her words, “[I] did not fit in the box, though God knows I tried and tried.” She graduated from high school at sixteen (most Belgians graduate at eighteen) and attended medical school for one year until moving to the U.K. to study osteopathy. Her father was an osteopath, she said, and growing up, it felt like a career in healthcare or the sciences was the only way to dependably support herself. Though she enjoyed art, she wrote, she “did not dare] bring up career choices such as graphic design” to her parents. “I was not artistically talented enough, nor could I ever dream of being financially independent in such a field.”

After graduating, she and her husband moved from the U.K. to New Zealand, where she worked for some time until moving back to Brussels. Though she initially felt averse to the idea of moving back, New Zealand was simply too far away. “We came back with the idea of exploring different locations and finding our home on earth,” she wrote; they wanted to have “an easy home base while travelling and working.”

Today, she practices osteopathy every day, unless she’s travelling and shooting the landscape photographs she’s become especially well-known for in recent years. “I have always felt pretty artistic, but didn’t fully get in touch with that side of myself until I was done with studying,” she wrote. “Photography came easily…and felt much more intuitive to me than drawing or playing music ever did.” She never studied it in school; her education amounts to, in her words, “a lot of reading, experimenting, and studying on my own.” She started while living in New Zealand, at first seeking to document her life and her travels. Soon, though, she began to feel greater artistic impulses; today, she shoots in order to “pursue real artistic goals and work on long-term projects [to] bring together a continuous body of work that I can be proud of.”

Landscapes, however, haven’t been her focus since day one. “I genuinely thought portrait work would make up a big part of my portfolio,” she wrote, “but it turns out I am never as happy as when I am alone with a landscape.” While she still shoots portraits today, sometimes on commission from a client, she noted that she always shows the subject within a landscape. The urban landscape, too, has recently caught her fancy; in recent months, she’s started shooting architecture, and told me that focusing on shapes and angles is “mesmerizing and soothing.”

Around 2015, two other things happened that proved to be crucial in her creative development. First, she started shooting film, which she exclusively uses today. “It is impractical, to say the least, it is heavy, and it is very expensive,” she admitted, but she still feels its benefits — “wonderful tones, grain, and versatility” — outweigh the drawbacks. She often uses Kodak’s Portra line of films, whose subtle color palette helps define the lightness and calm that figure highly in her photographs. (She emphasized the importance of finding a good lab, too; she wrote, “[I spend] no time in post-processing, which I really appreciate.”)

And in that same year, she joined Instagram, where today she has roughly 12,000 followers. It has, she believes, raised her profile and helped her make connections; she enjoys being able to share personal work with a large community of people. At the same time, she admitted that the platform “awakens my competitiveness. I find myself getting attached to data and numbers that do not mean much.”

On a similar note, she told me that her photographs are intensely personal, and that sharing them “is like sharing pieces of myself, and I am a very private person. […] Sometimes, just the thought of receiving negative feedback on a shot that means a lot to me is too much to bear.” Still, she said, taking the risk of publicly sharing her work has led to a process of discovery, of “discover[ing] who I was and what I was capable of.”

“Photography,” she said, “ultimately became one of the drives of my life.”

All photographs copyright Morgane Erpicum and used with her permission. You can find more of her work on her website and her Instagram.

Author: Peter W. Coulson

Writer and photographer from Baltimore and Los Angeles. Founder and editor-in-chief of Profiles in Photography.