Photography by Bruno Roels

Mar 26, 2018

Bruno is a Belgian photographer who works profusely in the darkroom composing and decomposing photographs in order to reflect about the meaning of 'the image' and the ways it relates to iconography. Working mainly with palm trees and repetitions, Bruno demonstrates that reality can have an infinite number of representations and evoke, at the same time, different meanings.


Following we present an interview that we had with him:


am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

BR - I’m a Belgian photographer, I live and work in Ghent. I have a background in linguistics and literature and studied photography in evening school. That’s where I learned my way around a dark room and analogue photography in general. I started out with digital photography in 2000 but made the switch after I realized analogue photography gives me more than a digital camera and a computer ever could. I’m in New York at the moment, I have a show opening this week at 'Howard Greenberg Gallery'. I’m excited to find out how this city will react to my work. I’m also working on a book that should be published soon.


am - How did you start in photography?

BR - I’ve been photographing my whole life, but for a long time it was about ‘making images’ and I wasn’t really thinking about what they meant, or could mean. I wrote a lot about photography for a Belgian newspaper and after a while I started thinking “I’ve been spending so much time on other people’s photography, what about my own?” So I  tried to figure out a way to get my work shown and that’s how I ended up at 'Gallery Fifty One', Belgium’s most prestigious art photography gallery. And it started snowballing from there: art fairs, exhibitions...


am - What is your work about?

BR - My work is about a number of things: it’s about the analogue photographic process, it’s also about repetition and variation. I make work in which I show 100 prints in one frame. These prints all come from the same negative but they are all different because I played around with typical parameters that come with printing in a dark room like contrast, exposure time, state of the chemicals. So I photographed one reality, and use the dark room to create an infinite number of representations of that reality, and then I

show them all at once. It’s also an inquiry into the ways images get meaning and the ways images cross over into iconography. To be more precise: I like to use a lot of palm trees in my work, and I’m interested to find out what dynamics gave palm trees the meaning they have today (adventure, luxury, money, freedom, decadence...).


am - What inspires you?

BR - Nature and modernist art. I like nature because it uses the same elements to reinvent itself constantly. My garden is dead, it’s waiting for spring, and the plants will use their genetic information to grow again. But they won’t look exactly the same, they will look different from the year before. I like modernists because they turn wonderful ideas into wonderful art, and they did it with style and changed the course of art history.


am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

BR - I have a soft spot for conceptual artists like John Baldessari and On

Kawara; and I can’t get enough of Cy Twombly.


am - What are your main interests as an artist?

BR - I’m interested in the photographic process (what happens after you make a photo?), I’m also fascinated by the way images get iconographic meaning. I work a lot with palm trees because they are universally recognized, but how did palm trees get their ‘meaning’? And how do different cultures give different meanings during different periods of time. I’m interested in the role photography (in the broadest sense, not just art photography) plays, I’m thinking about stereographs, post cards, even stamps.


am - What’s your favourite movie?

BR - The film that really blew me away the first time I saw it must be Tarantino’s 'Pulp Fiction'. I saw it when I was 17 or so and it changed the way I looked at cinema completely.


am - What is your favourite photo book?

BR - There are too many to choose from, but I have this artist’s book by Ed Ruscha called ‘A few palm trees’, published in 1971. Very simple, very funny, very dry exploration of palm trees. It fits perfectly with his other books from that era.


am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.

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