As a child, Belgian photographer Karel Fonteyne spent a lot of time in nature. This enhanced his innate sensitivity to the world around him, with its specific vibrations and intangible, elusive dimensions. Admittedly, nothing pointed to him becoming a photographer back then. It was South American literature by Borges, Marquez and Corthâzar that eventually opened the door to photography for Fonteyne. After studying art in Antwerp, he began his prolific career as a photographer. Fonteyne almost immediately gained recognition through exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (Brussels) and the Royal Palace on the Meir (Antwerp). In 1980, he moved to Italy, where he got into fashion photography – without making any compromises! With his impetuous imagination, but also invariably with a touch of humour, Fonteyne took fashion out of its conformist context in magazines like Vogue and Bazaar, and placed it in a new, narrative universe. Emerging Belgian designers such as Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Bikkembergs also called on him at the time.
Karel Fonteyne is captivated by all things inexplicable, mysterious and intangible. This ‘personality disorder’ is the basic theme of his oeuvre. So too in Tales of Silence, a series for which he worked in colour for the first time in 2014. Mind you, there are hardly any primary colours in the series, but rather browns, greys, greens, etc. Each time used in a specific vein. Another constant: women hiding themselves – each in their own way – and trying to draw attention to something else. However, that particular something never unfolds. His photographs are fairy tales of silence ... before the storm. Because just like in any other fairy tale, there is always a sense of danger and alienation. Fonteyne has never been a snapshot photographer. His photos are extremely well thought-out, nothing is what it seems at first sight, every composition is unexpected. He avoids the obvious. This complexity, the use of colours and his subjects are what make Fonteyne a photographic painter.