Dirk Braeckman views the darkroom as a site of recollection, manipulation and composition, a place where process is stretched and extended rather than simply forming a stepping stone in the photographic journey. His images bear the complexity of this method. Old negatives are altered, drenched and fused with their neighbours to create works of half-truths and concealment. Landscapes flirt with fiction and domestic settings feel eternally empty, even when strange bodies lurk in the ink.
The Belgian photographer then enlarges the images for presentation, offering them a portrait- or even canvas-like monumentality. What once was hidden and inverted becomes an intriguing, self-conscious spectacle. S.B.-C.P.-18 emits a certain ethereality. The line between earth and sky is hazy but also marked by a central wired line, a sole moment of certainty in an otherwise unstable savanna (Braekman manually etched the negative to create the effect). Six thin vertical scars show the artist’s intervention, adding to the landscape while simultaneously detracting from its integrity.
“What once was hidden and inverted becomes an intriguing, self-conscious spectacle”
The pale mustard represents a highpoint in Braeckman’s use of colour in LUSTER, his current solo show at GRIMM, New York. The show features a series of sea studies rendered in shades of taupe, while elsewhere the artist retains the monochromes of the original negatives.
“The reason I take time to select the images is to create an emotional distance from the moment I shot the image,” explains Braeckman. The resulting space clarifies not just his process, but the act of viewing too. Closed scenes and cool shades offer a two-way decoding: the invitation to look, with images enlarged to render their oddity even greater.
Images © the artist. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Galerie Thomas Fischer, and GRIMM
Ravi Ghosh is Elephant’s editorial assistant