Thanks to Dieter Debruyne for this interview in urbanautica, a leading independent online publisher on photography.

by Dieter Debruyne


© Boris Eldagsen, #98, ‘The Poems’

Tell us about your approach to photography. How would you describe your personal research in general?

Boris Eldagsen (BE): In my work I’m interested in transforming what is in front of my lens, trying to show the unconscious reality beyond time and space

I have given myself the task of creating a timeless image that has an impact on an emotional as well as an unconscious level, something which cannot be translated into words. So I ask myself the question if it’s possible for me to show an internal psychological structure by using the material that’s in front of my camera.

To achieve this I hijack what others refer to as ‘reality’. Technically speaking half of my images are considered street photography, but it’s not about showing what was happening at that particular time and place. If I can make all of this disappear to create a timeless image or psychological archetype I have achieved my goal.

© Boris Eldagsen, #102, ‘The Poems’

© Boris Eldagsen, #95, ‘The Poems’

This method enables me to work wherever I am without the need of a studio or specific location. I only need the night time, my camera and my laptop, and sometimes an adventurous volunteer model.

How did your research evolve in time? Starting from your first shots to you work now?

BE: Over the past 20 years I’ve tried out all possible ways of working, starting conceptually or just intuitively working from my gut. I started working very intuitively when I was 18 years old and now I’m back where I started, with the difference of possessing a deep and wide knowledge of what I do. It’s as if my conscious and unconsciousness are dancing together.

Tell us about your latest project ‘how to disappear completely | THE POEMS’

BE: With ‘THE POEMS’, I want to create images that have an impact on an emotional and unconscious level that cannot be translated into words. I call my images POEMS to show that they aren’t stories but a creative use of the medium of photography that requires you to engage in the conversation with your own feelings and memories. A poem uses words in creative ways to evoke feelings and memories and it’s much more open than a story, you need to interpret it with your heart, mind and soul.

‘THE POEMS’ is a meta-series that currently contains over 100 images all of which can be combined in endless possible ways, in accordance with the subject of an exhibition. My site-specific installations feature photographs in 5 different sizes on large-scale wallpapers. The images are clustered and hung together like groups of connected emotions and memories. The variations in size force the viewer to shift his perception, from being a giant looking at a tiny picture to being a midget walking through an enormous wallpaper.

Boris Eldagsen, Galerie, Voies Off, Arles, France, 2014

What do you think about photography in the era of digital and social networking?

BE: A lot of contemporary photography tends to stick to the surface or run around a documentary/rational concept. But if you are not able to see what’s inside, just stop photographing the world outside. I want to feel the emotions, the guts, the artist’s own demons. If a piece of work is too rational I can appreciate the concept but I remain untouched, it still bores me to see typological work by followers of followers of the Becher School for instance.
That said, I also feel that times are changing. Over the past three years I have visited many photography festivals and there is a fine group of photo artists between 27-40 years old, producing amazing work.  I can definitely see some trends: a return to black and white, symbolic work, journeys inside, new mixes of abstract and figurative and so on.

I do not care that much about photography, to me photography is just a medium that can be used for any purpose. If photography festivals would be festivals of words or poetry, we would see advertisements, newspapers, lyrics, trashy magazines and world class literature, how-to-manuals and cooking recipes. But because language is the oldest medium of  humans, we do not have events like these, they are all split up in their various sub-forms.
With photography it is still a mixed bag, this is why it’s necessary to be conscious about your own reasons and purpose to use photography, it is only then when people using photography are truly able to communicate. Such is the case with social media. You need to know how and where to communicate your ideas, who you want to talk to and what you would like to get out of it.

© Boris Eldagsen, #21, ‘The Poems’

Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, who influenced you in some way?

BE: I’m mostly influenced by historic painters (the likes of Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt van Rijn, William Blake, C.D.Friedrich, Arnold Böcklin, Max Ernst) and film (Peter Greenaway), not so much by photographers to be honest. There really is no existing influence from the world of photography but a feeling of relatedness to some aspects in the work of Lieko Shiega, Roger Ballen, Sarker Protick, Nadja Bournonville, Alexander Gehring, Katrin Koenning, Alis Resnik, Magdalena Wywrot, Marlous van der Sloot and a young Bangladeshi photographer named Shadman Shahid.

Three books of photography that you recommend?

BE: – ‘Rasen Kaigan’, 2013, by Lieko Shiega
– ‘Grand Circle Diego’, 2014, by Cyril Costilhes
– ‘Shadow Chamber’, 2006, by Roger Ballen

Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

BE: At this year’s Noorderlicht festival, the curators Wim Melis and Hester Keijser built two opposing shows: one with a rational conceptual approach named ‘Data Rush’ and its counterpart ‘Pulse’, representing the intuitive, dark and emotional side.  Being one of the 15 ‘Pulse’ artists it felt like this was the beginning of something new, a symbol of some kind. This is what the curators said: «What we encounter in the work is someone looking back at us, with the kind of gaze that meets you in the mirror, and you’re not quite sure if you are looking at yourself or a stranger…the feeling of throwing yourself into the pool, of sudden cold rushing past your skin, the water entering your mouth, ears, nose, your senses.» It’s also worth checking out the whole list of artists here.

© Boris Eldagsen, #91, ‘The Poems’

Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?

BE: Carine Dolek (from Circulations Festival and Le Petit Espace, Paris) won the Young Curator’s Award, curating my work at this year’s PhotoLux Festival in Lucca, Italy. As the festival’s theme is “Sacred & Profane”, we are currently preparing a big solo exhibition mixing photography, wallpapers, video and objects. The opening is scheduled for November 21st.

Besides the fact that ‘THE POEMS’ is constantly evolving (I have been working on this for 6 years and since I became more focussed on installation the work takes off), I feel like I have freshly fallen in love, there is so much more to explore and expand towards the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk.  I can’t imagine quitting this work and starting something new just yet.

© Boris Eldagsen, #55, ‘The Poems’

How do you see the future of photography in general evolve? And where do you place yourself in this future?

BE: The technology of cameras is constantly evolving and like always there are artists working on this matter, making this technical development their subject.
I belong to the group of artists that can work with any type of technology, we look onwards and we are interested in timeless questions and archetypes. Technology just helps us to create our images and I predict that this small group of artists will grow. The last Noorderlicht festival based its whole festival on this distinction. On one side ‘Data Rush’, the conceptual ‘Tech-Geeks’ and on the other side ‘Pulse’, powered by desire, emotions and the quest for the unconscious.

Boris Eldagsen