This month’s Olaf Willoughby interview is with Eva Deporteer, a photographer based near Antwerp, Belgium. Eva achieves two things many of us aspire to. Firstly, she concentrates on a particular project for a prolonged period. Secondly shoots only with one camera and one lens. The results are some intriguing insights into the lives of the Jewish community in Antwerp.

To start can you give me an overview of your project, its title & what is its main theme?

I live in Antwerp where there is a large Jewish community. This community gave me the opportunity to start this project and therefore call it “The fascinating Jewish community of Antwerp”. The Jewish community of Antwerp consists of around 15,000 members. The majority of residents identifying themselves as Jewish belong to traditional or Orthodox communities, although levels of religious practice vary.

[Tweet “”I was drawn to combine my curiosity and my photography into a photo essay on this community.” Eva Deporteer @OlafWilloughby #Leica @leica_camera”]

I became fascinated by them for two reasons. First of all I admired the way the stay together, united like a big family. Secondly as it is a religion I don’t know much about I try to understand their traditions, the significance of certain holidays and with a lot of respect, watch them live their lives. I was drawn to combine my curiosity and my photography into a photo essay on this community.

Photography has always been an interest and more recently it has become a passion. I love to photograph people. To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in a seemingly ordinary place.

I never leave the door without a camera… it’s just so much fun! I enjoy what I’m doing, capturing humanity with a lens. I like to work on certain themes such as the challenge in approaching communities. Getting results is very satisfying! It is handy if you can be your own cheerleader.

And how does that theme develop as a story throughout the project?

Whenever possible I try to communicate with my subjects… some are quite cautious while others take the time to teach me something about their habits. I would like to improve my connections in the future, hoping to get more access to their lives. I’m definitely working on it but not being Jewish, it remains difficult.

Is the project purely for yourself or do you have a commercial or cause related end in mind?

I’m a hobbyist, an “amateur”. ”Amateur”, comes from the Latin verb “amare”, to love, and an amateur is someone who pursues a path for the sheer joy of it. I think that the best professional photographers are also “amateurs”.  Also let’s not forget that playing without purpose is sometimes a most creative virtue.

What is your vision for the project and how will you judge if you’ve been successful?

Showing your photographs to others is important, there is always an interesting response and it is helpful to get an objective point of view. I post images on social networks, share them with friends… feedback, positive or negative can only make you better.

Did any particular person or body of work influence or inspire you?

Roman Vishniac’s photography of Jewish life is very inspiring. Hungary is extraordinarily rich in its photographers. I have always admired their work, a lot of them are Jewish. It seems that it was a tradition in prewar Hungary for Jewish boys to be given a camera as a birthday present in their early teens. Just think of the legacy of these artists… André Kertész, Martin Munkacsi, Robert and Cornell Capa, Lászlo Moholy-Nagy, Eva Besnyõ, Sylvia Planchy, Ergy Landau, Brassaï, Lucien Aigner, Károly Escher, Rónai Dénes amongst others.

I could go on but I must also mention Vivian Maier…this lady is such an inspiration. I guess unconsciously we are all influenced by seeing the work of other photographers. I think we can inspire one another, and when we’re inspired we have the opportunity to do something worthwhile. 

Not all projects are smooth sailing. Have you had any setbacks and what were your learnings?

Discouragement, setbacks and self-doubt are a reality that accompany every creative endeavor. In order for this work to mature into something I can be proud of ….I realize that I must be patient and persevere.

[Tweet “”Discouragement, setbacks and self-doubt are a reality that accompany every creative endeavor” Eva Deporteer @OlafWilloughby @Leica_Camera #leica”]

Are there any technical or workflow challenges you’d like to mention?

I am just following my intuition, photographing at will, allowing myself to be fascinated with the subject. Sometimes I do ask permission  sometimes I take a picture without permission depending on the situation. Asking permission sometimes kills a candid moment. Capturing emotion to me is the essence, one has to understand technique, but doesn’t have to be ruled by it.

What Leica equipment do you use and how is it particularly suited to the needs of this project?

For many years I worked in analogue. When the door to the darkroom closed, that was my world! I started the series on film, Tri-X, working with 2 Leicas; an M4-P with Summilux-M 35mm, f/1.4 and an R6 with Summilux 80mm f/1.4. A few years ago I decided to switch to digital, working with the Leica M 240, Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. I go out with one camera and one lens.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and where we can see your work?

In the 90s I enrolled in an evening photography class at the Academy of Fine Arts in SaintNiklaas (Belgium), where I learned to print and enlarge. That class jump started my photographic interests. I just love photography, being unique among the media of expression in that it is an unusual blend of the creative and the technical. It’s all about learning to see and trying to let the world see what I see. I try to take pictures every day, my goal is to report and record life as it happens.

I’m still working on the project and let’s hope that tomorrow I’ll feel like I’ve done something better than today!

Thank you Eva!

Note from the editor: Eva Deporteer has recently won the I-Shot-it Black & White Competition. Read more here.


Olaf Willoughby is a photographer, writer and researcher. He is co-founder of The Leica Meet, a Facebook page and website growing at warp speed to over 9,000 members. Olaf co-teaches with with Eileen McCarney Muldoon. They have recently taught, ‘Visual Conversations’, a creative photography workshop at Maine Media College in Rockport and ‘Destination Brooklyn, Unlocking Mysteries’, a Street Photography workshop in Brooklyn, New York. They will repeat these and also teach in London in 2016.

If you have an intriguing project or body of work that we might feature, completed or in progress, contact Olaf at: or