Interview #17: Koen Vanacker (2021)⁠

“Broken” by Koen Vanacker/Gasthuisbossen, Ieper, Belgium (2020)

Koen Vanacker is a structural engineer fascinated by photography, which he explores purely by feeling with an eye for details. Observing the inconspicuous abstract beauty of our world, he searches for images as a pause button for this passing life where you can relax for a moment. His images are characterized by their simplicity, their natural or artificial lines, their contrast and their depth.

Here’s our interview with him.

CDC/Tell us about your background in photography and what role it plays in your life. Are you formally trained, or self-taught? Is photography a creative outlet or a vocation? How does it shape your daily, monthly and annual activities?

KV/I didn’t get an education, but one booklet, ‘Read this if you want to take top photos’ of Henry Carroll, helped me on my way. A thin booklet with inspiring photos and very useful tips. I also got an interest in art from home. I was always fascinated by painting and drawing. During the annual trip during the summer, I was photographed, but I didn’t get further because of lack of time. During the first lockdown in Belgium (March 2020) that interest grew back and photos were taken on walks and posted on Instagram. Photography is rather a creative outlet, a way to clear my head and go exploring.

“Floating green” by Koen Vanacker/De Blankaart, Diksmuide, Belgium (2020)
“Wisping beauty” by Koen Vanacker/Gasthuisbossen, Ieper, Belgium (2020)

CDC/Who or what are the major influences in your work? Who or what to do you look to for inspiration and how have those people and things shaped your identity as a photographer?

MR/My main influences are not exactly people or subjects but rather my feelings. The busy life already absorbs so much energy that I like to keep it simple in my head. My photos also radiate peace and simplicity, no unnecessary ballast. The minimalistic grew out of that train of thought. I like to keep it pure and sober. Monochrome images reinforce this feeling even more.

CDC/What drew you to abstract photography initially, and what it is about abstract photography that keeps you engaged, creative and producing?

KV/At the moment I’m still searching and I keep experimenting but abstract and monochrome are my preference. Intrigued by lines and shapes, I am always looking for images. It is the small details that make the big picture even more beautiful. Searching for details or interesting images, making the pictures works therapeutically on me. It helps to clear my head. But it also helps to enjoy the little things on this planet or to rediscover forgotten places.

“Stringed” by Koen Vanacker/Noordbrug, Kortrijk, Belgium (2020)
“Somewhere along the way” by Koen Vanacker/Lendelede, Belgium (2020)

CDC/What type of photography equipment do you use and how does it shape your work? Do you feel you are limited by your equipment, or do the restrictions it imposes contribute to your style and encourage creativity?

KV/I own a Fujifilm X-T10 with standard lens 18–55mm. This way I am limited in zooming in and out on subjects and I am not able to photograph details any closer. At the moment I am still enjoying myself very much this way but in time an extra lens will be necessary. Since a few months I’m experimenting with an old analog camera, found at my parents’ house. The analog data is even more exciting since post-processing is no longer possible. I still have a lot to learn but it remains interesting and challenging.

“Transition” by Koen Vanacker/Cap Blanc-Nez, France (2018)

CDC/Tell us more about your photographic process “in the field”. How do you like to work? Do you plan your images meticulously, or do they happen organically?

KV/Most of the pictures were taken during the last 9 months during the many walks with my family. Sometimes their patience was put to the test. The nearby nature areas or cities were frequently crossed. Other photos were taken during a lonely search for details. Sometimes you have to go out alone to notice all the details, to find the right composition. The most beautiful images are usually shot in the most unexpected places. Keeping your eyes open and searching is the message.

CDC/Tell us more about your photographic process “in the studio”. What role does processing play in your work? Do you print and exhibit your work, or do you only publish electronically? How do you feel the final medium informs your studio process?

KV/Without education, without background but with a lot of interest and passion, the first images were shot and placed on Instagram. The reactions were so positive and the followers kept on flowing, giving my passion a boost. Never thought to offer or exhibit my photos for sale but that will change, from 2021 on some photos will be offered for sale through Bunker Gallery (@bunker.gallery), an online gallery for Belgian black and white. A totally new world is opening up for me but I’m very happy to get this opportunity.⠀

“Test of time” by Koen Vanacker/Xhoffraix, Belgium (2020)

CDC/The majority of your work is monochrome. Why have you chosen this style, and what is it about monochrome images that you find interesting?

KV/Monochrome images have always been my preference because they are pure. Colors can disturb, can draw attention away from the subject. I prefer to play with depth and contrast in order to put the subject in the picture. Monochromatic images are very powerful.

“Wavy” by Koen Vanacker/De Panne, Belgium (2020)

CDC/Your Instagram feed features a mix of natural and architectural abstracts, subjects which would appear to be at opposition. Can you tell us more about your choice of subjects and their relationship to each other?

KV/These two subjects seem contradictory but in my head they are inseparable. We live in a busy world where natural elements change into artificial, sometimes abrupt but sometimes fluid. The interest in nature was always present, being fascinated by architectural subjects grew through my education and job as a structural engineer. Beauty is everywhere you look.

Portrait of Koen Vanacker.

Koen Vanacker is a structural engineer fascinated by photography, which he explores purely by feeling with an eye for details. Observing the inconspicuous abstract beauty of our world, he searches for images as a pause button for this passing life where you can relax for a moment. His images are characterized by their simplicity, their natural or artificial lines, their contrast and their depth.

Interview by
Charles David Corbin.

Additional pictures from Koen Vanacker curated by Charles David Corbin.

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Hintology

Hintology

New digital magazine that seeks to portray the abstract photography scene and the human-beings behind the pictures in all their depth and diversity.