Navigating an age of active wisdom

My Artist Statement

Giving voice to a polyphonic self

Philippe Vandenbroeck


Autumn, 2019 — Picture: Philippe Vandenbroeck

I have been practicing photography for twenty years. However, it took me a long time to genuine feel myself a photographer. In these last few years I have made important strides in embracing my artistic self. I am starting to feel myself an artist through and through.

Which implies that this ethos is becoming the compass for and the impulse behind everything I do: living a daily life, exercising neighborliness and citizenship, building and maintaining relationships, working, running a business, researching, traveling.

In this journey of giving voice to my sensuously creative side I have been generously mentored by other artists. Paris-based curator Valérie Fougeirol encouraged me to write up my artist statement. I took this invitation very seriously and thought and felt deeply about it. I continue to marvel at the depth and sensitivity of what emerged from that process. Time and again I am discovering the power of this tentatively drawn self-portrait to give meaning to what I experience and desire.

The statement is presented in two sections. The Invisible Section feels very private. It fundamentally anchors my craft. The Visible Section reflects a more public side of my work and persona.


One disposition
Open the hand

Pushing the shutter button is physically the result of a slight closing of the hand. However, psychologically and spiritually it constitutes, ideally, an opening of a hand. My aspiration is to let my photography embody this simple gesture, in humbleness and gratitude.

Two motifs
Hymns and Elegies

In my photography I’m driven to compose around two simple motifs. One reflects an ascending movement. Imagine the hand of a conductor sweeping upward while the palm opens. Hymn. The sound blooms and fills with light. The other leitmotif is its polar opposite: decrescendo, morendo. Elegy. The rush subsides. The hand moves downward, with gentleness.

All of my work is carried by these two simple motifs. The hymn praises, celebrates origins, and revels in the birth of something novel, something unthought of. It’s an occasion suffused with light and levity. The elegy laments endings, takes its leave from the loved and cherished. Here the shadows deepen, and the colours flare up for one last time or wash out in the monochromic.

Self-portrait, 2020 — Picture: Philippe Vandenbroeck


Shooting the Rapids

Our times feel like the Paris of the 1780s, or fin-de-siècle Vienna. Something new is announcing itself. We don’t understand it, we don’t know what it is. As a result we tend to project it through the spectre of doom. Our 21st century lives are shot through with ineradicable feelings of discomfort, guilt and pain. Yet, this febrile interval also gleams with beauty. Colours deepen. Each successive autumn penetrates deeper into our veins.

In my photography I want to capture the spirit of this ambivalent juncture. Just that moment of proprioceptive terror when we feel the current pull us irresistibly towards the edge of the waterfall … while our minds and moods are still locked in a sundrenched afternoon. I want to embrace the shock, and celebrate the beauty.


Philippe Vandenbroeck (°1965) is a Belgian photographer, writer and postdisciplinary researcher. He has been academically trained as an engineer, philosopher and urban planner. In three decades of practice as a consultant, coach, researcher and artist he has cultivated a stance of attuned attentiveness to the entanglements of lives and contexts in an era of deep societal transition.

His photographic practice emerged from the experience of documenting many years of travelling through mountain and boreal areas. It assumed existential depth as a result of the co-occurence of two happenings (in 2001–2) — a mysterious dream and a stay in Mongolia.

One of his early photo projects was widely published and exhibited. It offered a snapshot of the European Union in a time of rapid expansion through a visual trajectory that linked the capital cities of all its member states.

Since he has been working discreetly. Lorenzo Castore mentored him artistically for over a decade. His craft was deepened in workshops with Anders Petersen, Carl De Keyser, Mark Power and Claudine Doury.

Recently his photographic explorations have been gradually becoming more enmeshed with writerly projects and academic (artistic and action) research.

Key project he has been working on these past years are:

  • The Coming evokes the panic of eschaton, the End of Times and the attendant Last Judgment, in subliminal reference to Baroque iconography and contemporary imaginaries of catastrophe.
  • Airport Walks revolves around apparently innocent pedestrian experiments (walking from big airport hubs to the centre of the city) but resonates with uneasy questions about the impact and future of human-powered flight.
  • Creaturely Mournfulness is charged with the lyrical and resigned gaze of the German philosopher Walter Benjamin.

Philippe has been part of the roster of photographers of Millennium Images in London since 2007.

He works as a facilitator at shiftN and is affiliated as PhD researcher and fellow with Newrope, the Chair for Architecture and Urban Transformation, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich).



Philippe Vandenbroeck

Facilitator @ shiftN ⎹ Post-disciplinary researcher @ Newrope, ETH Zürich ⎹ How to create spaces were life is able to unfold, and is experienced as life?