Dries Segers

Interview: Thomas Van Loocke


As a young photographer, you received a lot of media attention for your book Seeing a rainbow (through a window that isn’t there) and became known for images that explore the rainbow spectrum in the Flemish landscape. Why have you decided to show another aspect of your work here, that is, process-related images?

Three of these process-related images come from black body (), my main project of the past three years. It’s a project where I perforate colour film with nails, screws, saws and grinding discs and then expose it to different colour temperatures. This creates images without a camera playing any part in it, images of which I am both the maker and the viewer due to the unpredictability of the outcome. This dual role actually arose during Undecided photographs, an earlier project, which gave rise to the other two process-related works. The images, which are always cast in Plexiglas, are the result of accidents. One day, I thought that there was no film in my camera and opened it up: I was wrong. For me, the images are meaningful because of my fascination with the rules of photography, the appropriate and the inappropriate, but unlike the black body () pieces, to which I impart additional layers, they are purely aesthetic by nature.

While the projected negatives make one think of bullet holes, the cosmos appears in the developed images, which are mounted on black Forex. Is this one of the layers of meaning?

Yes, indeed, but it goes even further. Black holes are detected by radiation, the specific colour temperature that they emit. What do I do? I make a hole in colour film, expose it to different colour temperatures and end up with a picture that looks like the universe (laughs). Hence the title of the series. When I discovered this jumble of links, I was stunned.

The black Forex wasn’t chosen any more randomly than the material I use to present my Undecided photographs. I wanted to exhibit the black body () images developed for this exhibition in such a way as to preserve the relationship with the original negatives. That’s why I chose a flexible material like Forex and why I show the works like objects resting on nails.

When we see perforations and gashes that allow the space into the work, we immediately think of the work of Fontana.

For me, perforating or cutting is not about tension but about curiosity. I was curious to see whether it would be possible to capture colour temperature in physically damaged film. So it’s not so much about creating space but about seeing that there is space. I didn’t know that there would be space in my images. I thought that I had made perfectly round holes, that light would circle, but that was totally not the case. I got ragged edges and shading. It was the same with the grinding discs. I hadn’t thought about how heat would be generated and that this would melt the film. So the black body () works are not spatial concepts like Fontana’s work, but space has crept in due to my curiosity and work process. I always start out from the perspective of wonder, of questioning, and that’s why I think that I’ll continue to produce work for a long time.

Is the space that emerges from your images also the reason for choosing the image on the left?

Yes, even though it was also chance. I got it back recently and quickly realised that there was a link with the black body () works. So I then selected the two Undecided photographs because of that image from the book: when you add up the colours of the two works and of the projected negative, i.e., blue, pink and gold then you have the colours of that image (laughs). The arrangement of the pictures was therefore very intuitive.

I also chose that image because I wanted there to be a link to the recognisable: I wanted to make it clear that I also have a relationship with reality. I also don’t believe that this phase, the making images without a camera, will last. I want to get to grips with the material of colour film first, but I equally love looking at things. Alongside perforating and experimenting with film, I’m still taking pictures on the street but I’m not planning many projects with that for the moment since first I have to sweat out my book (laughs). I still see too many rainbows and I’m longing for a new idea so that I can look at things from a specific context.

© Dries Segers
© Dries Segers
© Dries Segers