Dirk Braeckman, V.B.-C.N.-11, 2011. Gelatin silver print mounted on aluminium, 180 x 120 cm.
The photographs of Ghent-based Dirk Braeckman (b. 1958, Eeklo, Belgium) have a distinct stillness and quietude that counter the whirl of today’s visual landscape. Images of empty, unidentifiable interiors, architectural details, oceans, and partially obscured nude figures are just some examples of the artist’s subject matter. Braeckman’s deeply gray photographs are often abstracted, contributing to the mystery and intrigue of what his images convey while adding a sense of distance to the intimate interiors and views he depicts. Rather than setting up scenes or shots, Braeckman travels with a camera and captures what he sees, including hotel rooms, museums, and vacant corridors; his approach is partly diaristic, yet because the locales are anonymous and the photographs’ titles are unclear codes, Braeckman’s work is relatable and open-ended, eschewing photography’s documentary impulse. This fluidity is intentional and meant to engage, as the artist states: “I’m not a storyteller, I’m an imagemaker. The story is made in the mind of the viewer.”
Since the mid-1980s, Braeckman has tested the limits of photography, especially its materials and processes. Challenging the reproducibility of a photographic image, particularly in light of today’s vast dissemination of images, Braeckman creates unique prints using analogue processes and physically taxing experimental methods in the darkroom. The individuality of his images and the physical nature of his processes are evocative of painting, as is the rich tactility his unglazed photographs embody.