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photo-eye Book Reviews: Dirk Braeckman

Dirk Braeckman. Photographs by Dirk Braeckman.
Published by Roma Publications, 2011.
Dirk Braeckman
Reviewed by Antone Dolezal
Dirk Braeckman Dirk Braeckman
Roma Publications, 2011. Hardbound. 400 pp., Color and black & white illustrations, 11-1/2x10".

There is something secret and sinister lurking in the depths of Dirk Braeckman's photographs. An omen that brings an uncanny atmosphere and uneasy tension I cannot quite put my finger on. It's this tension of unsettled mystery that keeps bringing me back, almost as if I could find myself hiding in one of the photographer's deep shadows or half empty interiors. And maybe this is it. Here I keep finding myself deep within these photographs, on some sort of journey, half lost and aimless.

It's the black that pushes such a strong ambience. A deep black, giving way to a dream-like seduction of a haunted world. It is a world that is surprisingly comfortable. The rich and persistent blacks are at the heart of the artist's secret -- a black that acts as a veil, never intending to fully let the viewer in. Images of empty dance halls, hallways and Victorian rooms are brought together alongside framed paintings that appear slightly overexposed from a hard light. The consistent dark tonalities mixed with this occasional harsh glow blend together a domain of half fiction and half reality. At times I am not sure if it is a vintage painting or one of Braeckman's bewitching mysteries I have wandered in to. Either way I find myself stepping in circles.

Dirk Braeckman, by Dirk Braeckman. Published by Roma Publications, 2011.
Dirk Braeckman, by Dirk Braeckman. Published by Roma Publications, 2011.
Braeckman's female subjects also remain veiled. Rarely do we see their faces. Only their bodies and gestures suggest a glimpse at the photographer's unseen intent. Viewing these subjects is cause for unease and strangely enough carves a path that leads deeper into this hidden place. Their sparse and strange gaze cautions us to step away, but Braeckman's complex puzzle of unease and apprehension has already formed its grasp. And then there are photographs of numerous beds, some untouched and others with crumpled sheets. There is a curious balance of enticing suggestion and an empty longing. It is never quite clear which to lean towards and only builds upon the enigmatic nature of this work.

Dirk Braeckman, by Dirk Braeckman. Published by Roma Publications, 2011.
Dirk Braeckman, by Dirk Braeckman. Published by Roma Publications, 2011.
This illusive work is contained in a hefty volume, consisting of 400 pages and almost as many photographs. Roma Publications has succeeded in the demanding task of representing the artist's subtle color palate. This book would not have worked if not for Roma's exquisite printing. And surprisingly, each one of the plates moves Braeckman's ghostly narrative further, while simultaneously leading the viewer into a series of deceptive turns. Viewing these photographs is like meandering through a labyrinth without an exit, becoming a curious observance in how one reads an ungrounded visual narrative.—ANTONE DOLEZAL

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by Alec Soth and Anouk Kruithof

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ANTONE DOLEZAL is a New Mexico based photographer and writer. He is a member of the media collective Finite Foto and his writing has appeared in photo-eye Magazine and Fraction Magazine. For more on Antone, please visit his site at