Fr ederik Buyckx
This Sony World Photography award-winner tells Lottie Davies why he’s reconnecting with nature for an ongoing project that’s shaping his career
The Sony Landscape Photographer of the Year talks travel and adventure
Frederik Buyckx (pronounced ‘boeks’) began working as a photographer only six years ago. Since then he has won, among other accolades, the Young Promising Photographer Award (twice), the 2014 ANI PixPalace Award at Perpignan, and a World Press Photo Award. Most recently, he was named Landscape Photographer of the Year at the Sony World Photography Awards for his series ‘Whiteout’ – six striking and emotive images of snow-covered landscapes in the Balkans, Scandinavia and Central Asia. At the relatively young age of 32, the Belgian looks to be at the beginning of a remarkable career. While he’s based in Ghent, Frederik is something of a nomad. His photography, and his life, is a collection of travel adventures, as he observes and records the different people and ways of life he encounters along the way (similar to fellow Belgian Kevin Faingnaert). A messy quiff of ashy brown hair tops a face with an easy smile, and his manner suggests a relaxed equanimity with the world – whatever comes next is fine with him, providing it’s interesting.
Frederik began travelling at the age of 17, and took an evening class in photography with his cousin around the same time, although ‘real’ photography came a little later. His studies were in advertising design, and after a four-year masters degree, he ended up being offered his dream job: interning for a top Belgian ad agency in New York.
“It was a great experience,” he says. “I was sitting, drawing, coming up with concepts and ideas, but I was behind a desk. I didn’t know where I wanted to go exactly, but I knew I wanted to travel.” At the end of the internship, he bought his first DSLR camera, booked a flight to Central America, and left the world of advertising behind. “I hadn’t wanted to become a photographer, but I found something that allowed me to combine travelling with a lifestyle. I discovered that I really liked it. Photography gave me a reason to travel, and it gave my travels more sense.”
“I hadn’t wanted to become a photographer, but I found something that combined travelling with a lifestyle”
Frederick’s award-winning ‘Whiteout’ images were taken from two separate ongoing projects – Wolf, which he began in 2014, and Horse Head, which he started only last November. ‘Whiteout’ was born from Buyckx’s fascination with small communities who live in harsh winter conditions. In this snow-bound white world, there is a simplicity and a quiet emptiness. A donkey stumbles in an empty mountain-scape, a thick black road disappears into nothing, a figure with a broom is walking to somewhere – we don’t know where.
“This work is more personal than my previous projects,” says Frederik. “I wanted to explore nature, and to work in black and white. It’s more peaceful, it’s darker in a way – the snow landscapes are very bright, but all of the other
Opposite A donkey stands up af ter rolling, 2015, from Wolf Above The frozen hair of a horse, Kyrgyzstan, 2017, from Horse Head