Arian Christiaens (1981) has been working as a photographer and photography teacher in Belgium since graduating as a Master in Photography at KASK Ghent in 2004.
In 2019 she published her first artist book ‘Xenia’ in collaboration with Jurgen Maelfeyt (Art Paper Editions, APE, BE). The book was presented with a solo show at RIOT Ghent, it was nominated for the Arles Photobook Prize 2019 (FR), got a four star review at ‘De Standaard’ newspaper and was on show at FOMU (Photomuseum Antwerp, BE).
The lockdown in 2020 was the context of the work ‘Home’, a series of 58 family portraits. Christof Ruys made a podcast on the social relevance of the series and a selection of the images was published in ‘De Standaard’.
In 2022 Christiaens was nominated for ‘.tiff Emerging Belgian Photography’ by FOMU. ‘In Camera’ was on view this summer at the Photomuseum Antwerp and at Vlaams Cultuurhuis Brakke Grond in Amsterdam during Unseen. The artist book ‘In Camera’ was published in december 2022 with APE (Art Paper Editions).
Christiaens examines ideas of photographic and familial gazes, recontextualising family images and the photographic genre in a way that resonates with ideas of a reclamation of sites of photography. It’s multi-layered work where family, photographic, and gender-based narratives overlap with material ideas of the photographic image.
Colin Pantall, 2022
What do photos tell us about the people we love, about the people we relate to? What do photos tell us about ourselves, and about how we relate to the other? Does photography bring us closer to the other? These are the questions that Christiaens asks herself in her work, each time through a personal and intimate narrative about family and relationships.
The medium with which she does that, photography, is also questioned. Is the lens a window into the other? Or rather a mirror for ourselves and our desires? What changes when the photographer steps into the image and becomes a subject also?
Whether it’s documenting her sister who used to be her brother, portraying her own family during the pandemic or looking for overlaps and differences in her own story and that of her mother, what Christiaens is trying to do is to create an image of herself in relation to the other, and of the other in relation to her.
Stefan Vanthuyne, 2022
‘HOME’ is a series of 58 family portraits Christiaens made during lockdown in Belgium in 2020. Christiaens sets up a daily rhythm: the portrait as an investigation, a game. By adopting multiple roles Christiaens questions her identity as a photographer, as a model, a mother and a partner. ‘To portray’ is a verb that is being used and exploited in all possible ways. Each image is the outcome of a collective act, of the relation between all actors in that particular moment and space, but the director and her camera are clearly present. The camera even becomes a part of the family. The series is clearly made to be seen. The actors know this and behave towards this knowing. How will I be perceived? What will you think of our family? How do you define ‘family’? The search for identity pops up again, how one can flirt with the own image and the different roles we (ought to) play. Hereby transforming daily life into a theatrical environment. There is a thin line between ‘staged’ and ‘natural’, between private and public. As a director and photographer, Christiaens plays with the power of looking, staging and interpreting.
Lien Van Leemput, 2020