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From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
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Through The Lens Of Cedric Van Turtelboom: An Odd And Fascinating World

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 6 January 2017
Ordinary situations with a twist and mundane images hosting an unusual atmosphere: these are the kind of things that excite Brussels based photographer Cedric Van Turtelboom. For his self-published book Noroc—meaning both ‘good luck’ and ‘good health,’ the young Belgian made his way to Romania, capturing the landscape with surreal beauty. We chat with Van Turtelboom about his first book, immersion in other cultures and a fondness for the road less traveled.
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

When did you first realize you wanted to become a photographer and how did you go about achieving this?

When I was around 23 years old, late at night I opened a photobook I received one year before: La solitude heureuse du voyageur précédé de Notes from Raymond Depardon. I read it all at once and was fascinated by all the images and the stories behind it. I then decided to quit my job and to go back to school to learn photography.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

Your self-published book Noroc is composed of photographs taken during your travels through Romania. How did you choose this country?

I started this project during my last year as a student in 2010. I wanted to discover and photograph an Eastern European country that had recently become a member of the European Union. I didn’t have a specific country in mind; the only condition that I imposed myself was to be hosted by local people in order to get immediately immerged in the culture. By chance a Romanian family accepted to host me! I was happy to have the possibility to travel to a region I’d never been to before. Since 2010, I’ve traveled to Romania every year.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

How important are a country’s history and politics to you when taking photographs?

This project was guided by a sort of politic and historic choice but I prefer to think it was curiosity that led me there. I don’t do research about a country’s history and politics. I prefer to discover and feel it when I’m there both visually and while talking to people.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

What is absolutely essential in an image for you to select it for one of your books?

I wanted to avoid as much as I could images of Romania we’ve already seen that depict the rural countryside or the big, grey Communist blocks. I was looking for an ordinary situation that turns into something incongruous or anomalous. My photographic approach is documentary based but tends to become more suggestive. I do enjoy it when someone sees a picture and is a bit confused about what’s happening there.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

With Noroc, what do you hope to convey to your audience?

What I wanted the most is for the viewers to enter into a ‘visual story’. I think you could see this project as a kind of tale and without bothering about the location of the images, but you can also see it as a documentary book depicting some reality in Romania. I kind of like the new creative documentary scene that is currently emerging in the photography world.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

What are some of your own personal favorites out of the Noroc series and why?

My favorites change from time to time and they are often the last pictures I shot. For now I kind of like the ostrich with her head covered in a small van. I like it for its surrealist presence and the total nonsense it shows. In fact the situation was simple and easily understandable…

From Noroc |Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

Your work often has a strange, fairytale like quality to it. Is there a specific technique you use when capturing these images?

Be patient and be ready for those moments to happen! I also traveled a lot during the winter and this can reinforce that sensation. I also use a flash most of the time. I never manipulate images in Photoshop or software like that.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

Are there any other art forms besides photography that inspire you?

Yes, I like movies and painting/drawing.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

Are there other Belgian artists whose work has inspired you?

For photography I like the work of Carl de Keyzer and Geert Goiris. In painting I’m a big fan of the work of Michaël Borremans and Luc Tuymans.

From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom
From Noroc | Courtesy of Cedric Van Turtelboom

You’re spending a lot of time in China right now. Tell us a bit more about the project you’re working on over there.

My next photographic project is about winter-snow leisure in Beijing and its suburbs. I’m documenting a ski resort and snow park. The hobby emerged there simultaneously with the rise of a new middle class. Those resorts are often built by referring extensively to a western traditional architectural code and this combination creates some strange and hybrid places. This also calls into question an ecologic point of view because the climate there is very dry and so most of the snow is artificial, creating some absurd snow covered hills mixing with dry ones.