The renowned Belgian photographer and filmmaker talks to us about nature, sports and the evolution of his artistic philosophy

“I was lucky, I grew up in a small town in the eastern part of Belgium, in Saint Vicht, in the middle of nowhere. With my friends I used to build tree houses. My parents always loved to travel, they always put experience first. Every year we went to exotic places, as a child I went to Cuba, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, several times to Africa…. This combination lit a spark in me, helped me become a photographer and filmmaker”

Chris Eyre-Walker’s multimedia production is an endless adventure. This Belgian visual artist, featured within the upcoming ONA Film Festival, traces itineraries in the most striking places on our planet with his productions. He paints them with a lens that, over time, has decided to accompany nature to sport, aesthetics to documentary research, evolving a quest that for Chris began at age 18 in his country’s army.

“My father always used to carry a camera with him. When I was young, I wasn’t too artistic. Then I joined the Belgian army and started to develop this passion. With my first paychecks I bought a camera, put it in manual mode and started shooting on weekends. I always liked to challenge myself. I think it depends on my sports background. I was a javelin thrower until the beginning of my military career. I was number 3 in the nation. Sports gave me the competitiveness, the constant desire to push my limits. I love documenting people who are good at sports that combine nature and physical exertion…. And I love challenging myself to portray these athletes”

Nothing is too difficult, nothing is too dangerous. Chris explains that his time in a special unit taught him this and much more, such as mental strength. Characteristics that, once out of the army, the little more than 20-year-old Belgian photographer pours into his art, beginning to travel the world and settling in the home of surfing, Australia. A place where Chris shaped his own poetics, based on the contrast and balance between landscape, light and human presence.

“I traveled the world for a year with a friend of mine, combining photography and adventure. Then I went to Australia and stayed there for six years. It was like having a blank canvas to paint on. In order to earn money initially I worked for a photography studio, in the mornings and evenings I would go to the beach and shoot waves and surfers. I also got a chance to intern with Chris Burkard, one of my photographic reference points, a pioneer in unconventional surf portraiture. Then I went back to traveling, this time for work. I had clients in pretty much every part of the globe, and my rhythms began to be unsustainable…. At least until the pandemic, when overnight everything changed”

The film that will be shown on the screen on San Servolo Island in Venice is about this transition. ‘A Note to Self’ is an inner and outer journey in the last chapter of this creative’s life: a personal evolution, a maturation of artistic awareness and consciousness. Work isn’t everything, Chris wants to tell us with this movie. Photography isn’t everything, or rather, it’s only a part of it: an art that becomes incidental if you don’t really discover and create connections with its protagonists, with the elements and human beings that populate it, with the feelings that surround it.

“At some point as a travel photographer and filmmaker I felt guilty. Guilty because I was not creating a real connection with what was around me, with what ended up in my works. I didn’t have the desire or the maturity to narrate a story. Just a beautiful place. This film is a kind of reminder to myself: sometimes it’s okay not to use the camera and enjoy the moment, sometimes it’s okay to lose a good light to talk to a person, to find out where you are. I don’t want to portray meaningless things anymore. The pandemic stopped a totalizing flow, which had made me forget why I started doing this job in the first place, and allowed me to realize that you don’t have to jump from adventure to adventure in order to enjoy life: good things after all also happen at home, next door to you. For example, I discovered that near my village there are trees that are believed to be among the oldest in Belgium. Fascination can arise even five minutes away from where you live”

Credits: Chris Eyer Walker
IG @chriseyrewalker
Text by Gianmarco Pacione