Photographer Frederik Vercruysse’s aesthetic abstraction

The practice of photographer Frederik Vercruysse (1974) is steeped in a personal context that sees the Antwerp-based artist illustrate his own obsession for architecture, interiors and graphics through a highly constructed narrative. Creating a parallel universe of straight lines, shapes and compositions, his images take from both reality and fiction in a bid to document time, his images imbued of an inner serenity that brings his work within the realm of still life photography. Having just released his book ‘Index: 2006-2016’, we talk early influences, interests and aesthetic abstraction.

At its core, what is your work about?

I like the idea of documenting architecture and interiors as documents of time, yet I don’t see myself as being specialised in one sole topic. My work documents a wide range of different subjects, and I’m fascinated by graphics and composition, which often results in images that resemble paintings more than they look like photographs. I make still life photographs, if you want to give it a name.  

What is its starting point and statement?

My work is very personal, it’s about my own interests and obsessions, like architecture. In fact, before deciding to become a photographer, I hesitated to become an architect myself. With my architectural photography I aim to delve into its essence, through compositions and still lives, trying to say as much as possible while showing very little. An aesthetic abstraction of sorts. My approach may be a tad glorifying in this sense, as things are presented as being more attractive than they actually are. Yet this all happens subconsciously. If you give beauty to a subject, it becomes amazing.

That perfect balance between stillness and noise, that’s what I’m after.

Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

I work in a really controlled manner, weighing and balancing everything until my image is in perfect equilibrium. I feel like this singles me out as a photographer, but not as a human being. My mind is often scattered, and this is one of the reasons why I love still life photographs. Stillness helps me work efficiently. That perfect balance between stillness and noise, that’s what I’m after.

What characterises your work?

For me, photography is like graphic design. It’s about orchestrating a line, a dot, a structure, a material, a colour. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a glimpse of what catches my attention. And I like when there’s a lot of space and emptiness in the image, then disrupted by one sole eye-catcher. Painting inspires me, as well. And it frustrates me, too. Which is one of the reasons I try to get close to it in my photography. It comes, once again, down to reaching the essence.

How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?

First there’s the moment of preparation: idea, concept and production. My work is not spontaneous, and depends entirely on how long it takes me to find an equilibrium. It’s about trial and error, especially my still life photographs. It’s kind of designing micro-architecture, and I’m the architect of the image. Then, there’s the post-production process, which is crucial. I always work with the same team, and I supervise it closely.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?

As a child I was obsessed with a small pocket camera I found in my parents’ cupboard. One of those old nifty things, with a flash with bulbs that needed replacement with every picture. When I was 14 I got a second-hand camera and a hefty dose of passion. I didn’t understand the kit at first, but I nonetheless took photos of everything I saw. I was only interested in framing and focussing, the subject matter was incidental. After my studies, architecture became a constant presence in my images. In subject matter and style alike.

How do you see yourself fit into the country’s contemporary art scene?

I try to find a balance between commissioned and personal work, and I always try to work on a project with the same energy, vision and language. Consistent work is important to me.

Which Belgian artists do you follow, look at for inspiration? Either from the past or the present.

As a photography student I was a big fan of Dirk Braeckman’s work, but I don’t really have Belgian heroes, even though there are a lot of good ones around. I’m particularly fond of Belgian painters like Raoul Dekeyser, Roger Raveel and Luc Tuymans.I do envy photographers who do what I don’t do: I’m inspired by Juergen Teller, Vivian Sassen and Saul Leiter because they’re different, because they do things I’d like to do. Some photographers tell the most wonderful stories with portraits. I tend to tell a story about someone by using the setting in which I photograph that person. There has to be abstraction and form, which I get less of from portraits. Saul Leiter, for example, did things I can only dream of.