June 22: Rainbow

#22June 22: Quality and quantity of light is the very stuff of photography, but how many pay it as close attention as does one who makes it their subject?

Living and working in Antwerp, Dries Segers presents Hits of Sunshine continuing until 23 July at Le Botanique, Centre Culturel de la Fédération Wallonie- Bruxelles, Rue Royale, 236, 1210 Bruxelles, Belgique.

As the title of the show implies, it is about the force and energy of sunlight and today being the summer solstice, the longest day in the northern hemisphere (and correspondingly the shortest day here), this is an appropriate time for the show to begin.

Through a series of exhibitions Segers (*1990, Turnhout, Belgium) reveals the magic and mystery of light, each time inventing new means of splitting the spectrum, to which anyone with a love of this medium, and particularly of film, will respond.

This exhibition is more alchemy than physics, since it poetically combines a number of images resulting from different technical approaches. They form a quasi-narrative sequence. It begins with time exposures of what appears to be the play of sunlight on water through the roof of an indoor pool (though it is so abstract that it may be something else entirely).

hands (sun pressure), 2017, 50x60, inkjet print on japanese paper, wooden frame. series ‘Hits of Sunshine_, Dries Segers
Dries Segers (2107) hands (sun pressure), 50×60, inkjet print on japanese paper from the series ‘Hits of Sunshine’.

The triptych is followed with a straight photograph of a pair of hands grasping a mirror which reflects the sun into the lens. The striped clothing of the holder of the mirror gives the impression that we are able to see the very vibration of the strong light emanating from the mirror.

An image pair intriguingly entitled atmospheric render (blue) and (pink) are less easy to interpret, but I have seen similar results in transparency film from a large format film holder which had been accidentally opened very slightly allowing light to leak in across the film’s shiny emulsion and to rebound from the shiny black plastic dark slide against it; hence the ‘ripple’ effect and the white strip at the bottom, and also the spot of dust that projects its shadow away from the exposed end of the sheet.

The bright spots are most likely images of the sun which had been earlier exposed onto the film in the camera, but how the images’ production is deciphered hardly matters; they are ethereal spectral emanations from the sun, physical phenomena with a transcendent aura.

This pair relates to another series black body () that Segers made in 2016 about which he writes:

By its nature photography is an abstracting art, involving a gap between what is seen and what is shown, regardless of the level of documentary fidelity. In ‘black body’ the idea of photography get expanded as a transmutation of energy directly onto the celluloid. The images appear to be purely the record of a photochemical process, evidence of an action of emulsion itself.

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Dries Segers (2016) installation of black body (), two Kodak Carousel projectors and projected image.
black body (friction, scan, kodak 200-7), 2016 no size
Dries Segers (2016) black body (friction, scan, kodak 200-7), dimensions variable.
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Dries Segers (2016) black body (friction, scan, kodak 200-7), dimensions variable.
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Dries Segers (2016) black body (friction, scan, kodak 200-7), dimensions variable.
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Dries Segers (2016) black body (friction, scan, kodak 200-7), dimensions variable.
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Dries Segers (2016) black body (friction, scan, kodak 200-7), dimensions variable.

The images are achieved by brute force; by cutting into a roll of undeveloped colour transparency film with a saw, an angle grinder and a drill) and then illuminating it with lights of different colour temperatures so that the passage of light into the depth of the roll is registered on its layers, diminishing in size toward its core. As Segeres asserts;

These abstract photographs may record or register but do not bear witness except to their own presentness.

There is still a photogram element; the debris from the cuts is shown to have scattered away from the incision between the layers, to be recorded as points that, like comets around the sun, project ‘tails’ of shadow away from the light source, which is both a physical intrusion and an illuminant. It is an authentic representation of film as a form of ‘machine vision’ as unseeing yet recording.

stagnation (green), 2017, 40x60 : 60x90, digital inkjet print mounted on dibond, unframed. series ‘Hits of Sunshine_, Dries Segers
Dries Segers (2107) stagnation (green), 40×60 : 60×90, digital inkjet print from the series ‘Hits of Sunshine.

stagnation (green) is another take on this automatic vision; the sun’s trail is broken by foliage in its path behind a tree. The heavy green filter shifts the foliage into a green-grey to flatten its contrast with the tree trunks and branches; the whole image is made green. In such process-generated work Segers the photographer reigns in his agency and allows himself to become spectator of the results.

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Dries Segers camera set to photograph through deeply coloured filters

This can be understood in context of a previous work, seeing a rainbow (through a window that isn’t there) of 2015, that discovers unexpected prismatic rainbows in faded rugs, bruised skin, car sun shades, computer screens or iridescent puddles. A heightened level of awareness as he hunts for such colour in the ordinary environment is what has produced this series from what at first glance appears to be a series of random, unrelated imagery, yet there is a confidence in the framing and control of exposure that make it clear that this is an intentional quest.

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Dries Segers (2015) from seeing a rainbow (through a window that isn’t there)

A photobook of Seeing a rainbow was released by De Warande in 2015.

It is the level of experimentation and innovation in exploiting what is the essence of the photographic medium that makes Segers’ work exciting. At 27 there is no sign of this energy flagging, and he is young enough to be inventive for some time to come.

Just as a rainbow is the result of the action of light in the internal optics of raindrops, so Seger’s more recent work ventures into the realm of automatic, ‘uncontrolled’ self-generated image-making and contingent aesthetics takes it beyond the earlier theme-driven Rainbow series, but does not abandon poetry and alchemy and a fascination with colour epiphanies.

Dries Segers studied at The Icelandic Academy of the Arts and the Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussel, where he obtained a Master of Fine Arts in 2013. He exhibited in BOZAR, Fotomuseum Antwerpen, KMSKA, De Warande, Brakke Grond (NL), Listahaskoli (Iceland), Fotoğraf Vakfı Festival, Istanbul, Warte für Kunst and Kasseland Neue Galerie in Höhmannhaus Augsburg (Germany). Since 2008, he has worked as a professional photographer on De Standaard, Weekend Knack, De Morgen, Monopol Magazine, Canvas, Zonzo Comagnie, Het GEVOLG, De Warande, and Villanella.

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