March 15th, 2018
For the 44,000 plus followers (as of March 2018) who follow Valérie Timmerman’s Instagram gallery, it’s a source of inspiration for photographers and artists like-minded who are attracted to urban landscapes, street photography, motels, cinematic quality photos, and dreams. The photos chosen by Valerie are pretty consistent, mostly of urban emptiness, moody, dark at times, and sometimes a photo that is almost dreamlike. I wanted to know more about the curator behind the curtain and understand the process of curating such a successful Instagram feed.
Hi Valerie, could you introduce yourself, your background, and how you started the account @valtimmermans, and what were your intentions in the beginning?
“My name is Valérie Timmermans. I was born a Belgian and I currently live in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. I work as an executive assistant in a hospital. After working in the world of finance for ten years I felt the need of leaving this “artificial” universe behind and from there one evolve in an environment that better suited me, being in line with my vision of what should be my life, my need to be closer to all kinds of people, from all sides and all social layers.
So in 2015 I created my Instagram account, mainly out of curiosity, without any precise intention. I started sharing photos, quotes and a few commonplaces, without any further ambition.
I then started to realize that Instagram actually was a kind of endless “platform” that, with time, allowed me to broaden my photographic horizon and allowed me to multiply, day after day, my knowledge and my discoveries around photography.”
Are you a photographer yourself, do you want to become a full-time photographer or is it just a hobby for you?
“I always took photos, all the time. I always am attracted by lots of things. It can be a face, a detail, a funny situation, a word or a sentence. I do it with passion. I don’t like the word “hobby” too much because it means more than that to me, it is something like food to me.
It often happens that I am obsessed by something I saw: a place, a situation that I didn’t photograph or that I didn’t think of photographing on the spot.
I only very recently started night photography. I love all kinds of pictures because, to me, all of them, each of its own kind, reflect an emotion, a message the photographer wants to pass, his vision of the world, … It does not need to be technically perfect, but it somehow needs to “talk” to me.”
I love pictures that speak to me, telling me something, that, when I watch them, make me feel a smell, the warmth of the sun, feel joy or sadness.
Your gallery is pretty consistent in genre and mood, do you ever wish you could add something outside of your typical pattern? Do you keep the photos consistent for consistent sake?
“I love pictures that speak to me, telling me something, that, when I watch them, make me feel a smell, the warmth of the sun, feel joy or sadness. In this genre, I particularly like the work of Matt Eich, Jim Goldberg, Nan Goldin or Darcy Padilla. I don’t really have a preferred genre because I am curious about everything.
Klaus Pichler’s work, for instance, through his book “Golden Days before they End”, touched me because of all of these out-of-standard peoples-faces on which one can read their life story. Also, Richard Billingham’s “Ray’s a Laugh” in which he photographs his alcohol addicted father with such a love that it never looks ridiculous or pathetic.
My choices are made according to my moods, my meetings. Sometimes William Eggleston’s landscapes, Saul Leiter’s streets Or Todd Hiddo’s night will transport me on a journey and Alessandra Sanguinetti’s pictures will bring me back to my childhood.
To summarise, I don’t like to categorize. My eye and mind always are on the lookout, be it a Martin Parr’s picture with a big coloured cake, a crazy photo by Kyyyyyle, a portrait by Jim Goldberg or a Crewdson scenario, I take them all.”
Has anything changed since the start of the account and now, have the selection of photos changed?
“I can’t really explain how my account eventually switched to the less dark side of the force. All I can say is that the first photo I shared was a Sally Mann picture: I shared it because I just had bought one of her books and I felt that I had to share a bit of my passion of collecting photography books. Gradually, and because I actually buy a lot of books, I started sharing more and more photos linked to my passion.
What changed over the years is that I became addicted to looking for photos, to discovering new talents and, most of all, to the numerous exchanges I have with photographers over the whole world, with whom I can exchange feelings…
It is not unusual that some of them ask my opinion about their photos, ask me for advice on how to develop their Instagram page, on how to buy photos, whether I can recommend books.”
My preferred photographers are amongst the 956 people I follow.
How do you decide a picture belongs in your gallery? What do you usually look for when you’re on Instagram?
“I would say it is the photo that comes to me! Every day, I read magazines, I dig in Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr,… and I see lots of pictures. Some strike me, others don’t. To decide what I will post, I always rely on my instinct. I know that, at one moment, I will discover a picture and that it will be THE one because I feel an emotion, a kind of crush that will determine that it will be THAT picture and no other.
For some time now, I have been lucky enough to be contacted by photographers who propose me to post their work or submit a friend’s work, a crush, etc…
For my Instagram publications, I try to be consistent. As you already will have noticed, the majority of my photos are about new topographics, vacuum or suburban architecture. This kind of pictures is not the only genre I like. However, I wish, above all, that my publications are consistent and integrate in a set that, eventually, forms a kind of collection, a representation of what is being done around this particular topic.”
Do you have favorite photographers, favorite photographers on Instagram?
“I like a thousand photographers and I like more of them each and every day. The ones who triggered that passion are Nan Goldin, Todd Hido, Alec Soth, William Eggleston, Harry Gruyaert, Robert Frank, Kris Killip, Saul Leiter, Mark Cohen, Jim Goldberg, Joel Peter Witkin, Lars Tjünbork, Alexander Gronsky, Richard Misrach, Roger Ballen, Henri Wessel, Wim Wenders, Lewis Baltz, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Ansel Adams, Darcy Padilla, Robert Adams, etc.
My preferred photographers are amongst the 956 people I follow.”
Is there one or two or three photographers that you share the most frequent on your page?
“I love sharing Alexandre Gronsky’s work through his series “Pastorale” in which I cannot make the choice of only one picture and through which I became an expert on Norilsk.
I often post Chris Malloy’s photos, whom I love to discuss with and who shares his works with me, Josef Hoflehner whom I love, Nigel Agar, whose work increases in power, Tim Franco, Steven Brooks, Patrick Mc Cormack, Patrick Warner, Emmanuel Monzon.
Nothing is really planned. I principally follow my instinct and my heart. It sometimes happens, when I post a picture, that I surf and look for what work of this photographer already is present on the web and realize that what I find on Instagram had already been posted… by myself…”
Do you have any upcoming plans for the account in the near future?
“A friend of mine advised me that I should build something more personal. And he is right!
I would love to realize a project that eventually would give birth to a book that would mix feelings, personal stories,… All illustrated by photos.
I would also love to develop an internet platform to promote and discover new talents. And I would love to collaborate to the realization of magazines, photography collections.
I am also dreaming of having a coffee with Alec Soth, Todd Hido, wander with Patrick Joust, Gangswithaview, Nigel Agar, Andy Feltham or Josh Sinn, drive Chris Malloy wherever he wants to, work at Steidl and meet all those fantastic photographers who, every day, make me dream of new lands and give me wanderlust.”
Speaking of platforms. Flickr and Tumblr – I wanted to ask you about these two platforms, do you think it’s a dying platform or is there hope for a comeback? How do you feel about these two, is it a great place to discover talent, should photographers still use them?
“When I am looking for something, I use both, with a slight preference for Flickr that is easier to use, more user-friendly when, for instance, you are able to look for the author of a picture. Tumblr is less precise which makes your searches longer.
However, I am a fan of anything that allows photographers to publish their work freely. These platforms often are a base, a starting point that will lead you to an Internet site, to other photographers.
They are tools amongst others, a small stone on the way to recognition; that recognition is more or less important according to the country you live in or the place where you are. Here, in Luxembourg, for instance, photography is not considered a genuine art. People tend to prefer painting or sculpture.
The most important asset of these platforms is that they are inextinguishable sources of inspiration and open the door to endless exchanges.”
Aargau by Gangswithaview
“I like this picture because it releases a feeling of calm, it soothes me. It also has everything I like in suburban pictures: windows with lights on behind, you can imagine people hovering, living their lives, the quietness of a place, the small of a cold but heartening night. I also like the mystery that surrounds Gangswithaview. ”
Motel Villa Anna, Gaspésie, 2009 by Benoît Paillé
“I like this picture, firstly, because I love photos of motels. Motels, for me, are a source of dreams times one thousand. They make me travel and imagine lots of stories; if only those walls could talk!
I also am a fan of their vintage architecture. I chose this photo by Benoît Paillé because he is able to do anything. He is impossible to categorize, never makes concessions and nobody can say where he will stop!
NB: As an anecdote, we only have one motel here in Luxembourg.”
Duff-Washa Road, Oak Harbor, by Andrew Borowiec
“And as an end, I chose this photo by Andrew Borowiec because it is full of self-mockery. On its own, it can summarize the life of a man. With this well-maintained garden that symbolizes the dream of being a proprietor, the deckchair oriented to the sun, the barbecue, the decoration, everything is present to symbolize a tender “Home Sweet Home” and the dream of a life.
This place is perspiring fullness, though in a nuclear environment. It’s pathetic and hard-hitting of beauty. I love it…”
Valérie, I’ve always wanted to meet you and learn more about you and your curation process, so this has been a real treat and honor for me personally to do that. Thank you for the interview and the work you put into your gallery. Keep up the great work!
“Merci beaucoup Yung Tsai. I was really honored with your request and all I can say that you can feel free to come over for a meeting! Keep on going your great work on Pixsoulmag and see you soon for new photographic exchanges.”