The Truffle Hunter – exhibition in Sulmona.

The French photographer’s pictures tell the story of his time in Abruzzo.

Alendander Van Hoorde

Alendander Van Hoorde

CASTEL DI IERI – Retracing his mother’s footsteps from France to Abruzzo, Alexander Van Hoorde has now settled in Castel di Ieri where he continues to work as a photographer exhibiting in Rome and Sulmona.  Here he talks about his Abruzzo experiences, filtered through his mother’s memories.

From France to Abruzzo, from the big city to the “workshop of silence” why did you make this choice?

At the moment I live for 9 months between the two countries but I hope to eventually live permanently in Abruzzo and complete my photography projects about Abruzzo, Lazio and Puglia.  My mother was born in Castel, and I have known Abruzzo and the small town of Castel in the province of L’Aquila since I was a child. Almost a year ago I decided to return to my roots, something in me was telling me I needed to, I wanted to improve my quality of life, leave the hectic city for a slower, simpler and more introspective environment.

What do you see through your camera lens?

Through my lens I love to see the particular features, the little details that in our busy everyday lives may seem insignificant.  I love to go below the surface of things, to look for the light that exists in all living things, in everything belonging to nature.

What is the significance of time for a photographer?

Time is a key issue for a photographer because it allows him to define his photographic style, and it’s central to everyone’s everyday life, not just the photographer.  For those who make photography their work, time is relative to the light, the brightness and the exposure ‘time’ of a photo!

Alendander Van Hoorde - Equilibrium


When you’re in Italy you live in Castel di Ieri, why should tourists visit that spot in the Subequana Valley?

Well, that’s easy, whoever loves nature, likes to eat well, to discover little known country towns inhabited by smiley, generous people, can’t not visit this little corner of paradise nestled in the Abruzzo hills.  But they should beware because if they come here they are at risk of always returning or even staying here forever!


Do you think ‘time’ is different here in Abruzzo?

For sure, you notice it as soon as you arrive here, there is a serene calm that seems to grow out of these old mountains.  Those of us that come from big cities have a different concept of time, so a city dweller, used to the frenzy of city life, needs a period of adjustment.  However following this brief period of transition it becomes an unmeasurable pleasure to live in this slow way, and regain that lost rhythm. An expression that sums up perfectly the Abruzzo way of life is “HAVE A SLOW LIFE”.


Are there things, people, landscapes that make you say “no, I don’t want to photograph this”?

I love to capture beauty and light.  If I have to photograph something that I don’t love at first sight then I try to uncover something special that’s hidden beneath the surface, and I always do.


At the moment you are exhibiting your work in Abruzzo and also in Rome.  Let’s talk about your projects and, if you can, any future plans.

Il cercatore di tartufi

Alendander Van Hoorde – il cercatore di tartufi

My exhibition in Rome is titled “10cm2”.  It’s about abandoned industries in the north of France (I lived in Lille), and focusses on substance and light.  At the same time I am exhibiting another work in an art gallery in Sulmona.  This is a photo-documentary of the daily life of an Abruzzese truffle hunter from Castel di Ieri.  For several months I followed him every day on his morning hunts, in fact the exhibition is called “The Truffle Hunter”, and is the first of a series about local artisans.  It’ll be followed by works on other local masters of their trade like winegrowers and others. I’d like to eventually produce a book of photographs dedicated to these master tradesmen of Abruzzo.  At the beginning of May I started on a new project to be called “The parasite”, which is focussed on the theme of personal growth and development and will be made-up of a series of portraits.  I think I’ll need at least nine months to complete it, but when I’m in Abruzzo time doesn’t bother me, it’s on my side!

(*) translated by Gail K.