2019 - Ongoing
East Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan; Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu, China
Laurens Thys (1995, Belgium) is an artist based in Hasselt, Belgium. His work explores documentary storytelling in his own unique way. His photographic style can be defined as cinematic and architectural. His work takes shape as exhibition installations and self-published photo-books. In 2019 he received a master’s degree in photography at the Luca School of Arts in Genk. He graduated with his first large-scale documentary called ‘Granitsa’.
In his images, Laurens Thys starts from his fascination with new industries, often linked to China and his fascination with documentary photography. His research into the ‘New Silk Road’ took him for the first time to the border region between Kazakhstan and China for his graduation project Granitsa. In Granitsa, the Russian word for border, he focuses on a specific area that is marked by a new railway line that connects East to West and puts Kazakhstan on the map as the ‘gateway to Europe’. The photographer’s central question is whether this new Silk Road merely serves to channel wealth between East and West, or whether it can also be a positive development for the countries it crosses.
Thys’ images were made with an analogue medium format camera that forces a slow work process. This not only gave him the space to carefully build up his images, but also created the time needed to make contact with the landscape and its inhabitants. A random encounter with the guard of his hotel, who then became his friend and guide, was essential for Thys to really explore the landscape and its inhabitants. This enabled him to document the relationship between the intimate lives of the railway workers and the aggressive Chinese industry.