Belgian photographer Dirk Braeckman (b. 1958) invites viewers to take more time in front of his work than they’re used to: his layered, obscure, intensely grey photographs don’t reveal their secrets easily. Suggesting rather than explaining, these are no longer photographs of things. Braeckman keeps on discovering and stretching the limits of the medium in order to discover what photography really is. In the darkroom, though, his background as a painter comes to the fore, using all kinds of tools and techniques to manipulate the originals into something completely new, further obscuring their subjects in the process. These experimentations result in works with a tactility rarely seen in photography. The photographs become objects in and of themselves.
After mostly documenting himself and his friends in the 1980s, Braeckman found his visual language in his depictions of anonymous hotel rooms. It is the non-specificity and interchangeability of these places that he is interested in. This theme would keep on influencing his work, where he has explored the non-moment and the non-placethrough subjects that could be labelled “anti-spectacular”, such as the sea, curtains, and tiled floors.
After a career spanning several decades, Braeckman was selected to represent Belgium at the Venice Biennale in 2017. He turned his country’s pavilion into a sanctuary in the middle of the Venetian chaos with works that force the visitor to slow down and contemplate. Now he returns to his home country for two simultaneous exhibitions in Bozar, Brussels and M-Museum Leuven. His work from Venice serves as a starting point for both shows, the first connecting it to the architecture of Victor Horta and the second showcasing the photographer’s experimental side.
Dirk Braeckman’s exhibitions are on show at Bozar, Brussels and M-Museum Leuven until April 29, 2018.