World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 4 – Chris Vanden Broeke

Chris Vanden Broeke photographs light. He creates brightly colored lines in various shapes against a pitch black background. The imagination is immediately set to work. The images offer a lot to contemplate. The universe, birth, death. The question arises:  how did the artist make these pictures?

During a few tenths of a second, Vanden Broeke transforms the light emitted by some tiny LED bulbs into thousands of light sources with different shapes and brightness. The photos are unique and a second take will never be the same. The matte finish and the absence of references add a tremendous depth and volume to the images. Is this microphotography or are these objects million miles away?

A woman’s back

I spoke with Chris Vanden Broeke about the origins of his work. ‘It comes from deep within. I could have written a poem or a novel. I am an experienced filmmaker, I admire graphic artists and I am also a photographer. For me, photography is the most obvious choice. But it wasn't an easy one. After thousands of experiments and desperate attempts, I have found my language: the absolute darkness and the power of light, the void and the magic.

I started with one line. Almost a woman’s back. I added a line and I witnessed a birth. A channel with light at the end. After many pictures with different births, light gave me death. A professor of psychiatry once told me: ‘Your pictures remind me of the stories of patients after a near-death experience. They tell me stories about birth and death, and I see the images they talk about in your work.’ Maybe she is right: birth and death, beginning and end. Start and finish, or finish and start?'


Six years ago Vanden Broeke was in a coma during seven weeks after an epileptic seizure with cardiac arrest. Brain surgery followed and took a year of recovery. ‘The surgeon found dried blood traces in the brains, probably as a result of a prenatal injury. He made a hole in my skull and removed several pieces. Maybe I saw images at the time. After that, I started making these pictures.’

He has a large collection of these pictures now and they evoke a strong emotional response from the viewers. When asked about his key work in this collection, Chris says: ‘Each new picture is better than the one before. However, the main photo is the first one.  One night, I saw a line in some LED lights and I made a picture of it. And I knew immediately… That's it. That's what I need. I saw perspective and depth. Especially depth. A lot of depth.’

Light by accident

All pictures are taken at night, in the open air under the dark sky. And that's what makes them so real although their subject is absolutely unrealistic. Vanden Broeke works with LED lights that are commercially available. ‘There is some variation in the lights, one light is older than the other, some got a little dirty, and others are not so powerful anymore.’

Accidents occur. There are pictures with some ‘light by accident’. Light from a nearby house or street light. ‘At first my reaction was:  this is wrong. But then I saw that it added something very peculiar. In this way, the difference of the bulbs provides its own impact. Sometimes I edit the picture a little, make it for example more circular and rotund, but I do this only slightly and not often’.

Everything in one hand

Vanden Broeke loves to work on his own. ‘In the past, as a director of industrial movies, commercials and short feature films, I had to take into account all kinds of things: the scenery, the actors, the music, and often I had to manage a very large budget. Now I have everything in my own hands. I just go outside during the night and I can start right away. Fortunately, I have a patron. We talk a lot and he supports me tremendously. 

Last month, Vanden Broeke exhibited his photographs in his third group show at the LACDA, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. In June and during the rest of the summer, 30 pictures, some of them more than 100", will be shown at a solo exhibit at SONS in Kruishoutem (Belgium). In November, a second exhibition in Strasbourg (France) is planned. 





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