by Dieter Debruyne

Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?

Thomas Vandenberghe (TV): An old camera from my father and the act of remembering.

© Thomas Vandenberghe from the series 'Traces' 

How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?

TV: I worked at a 1hour photo service. I discovered the value of this personal form of diaristic photography. I love “snapshot” photography, because it records everyday life but it is a very personal form of photography.  An image is often produced to support the act of remembering. Images become significant; they are a material trace of the past preserved for “posterity”. Regardless of the subject matter, the images are traces of loved ones, cherished moments… The act of remembering is the very core of my photography.

© Thomas Vandenberghe from the series 'Can't pay you to disappear' 

What do you think about photography in the era of digital and social networking?

TV: Digital images loose value. Printed images don’t. The dark room is a very important part of my process: the printed image is more tangible than a digital one. A print can be touched, passed around, looked at, and written on. There is a connection between my self-awareness, my photographs and the printed image.

On the other hand, photography is for everyone, it’s a visual language. So I support social media to connect people with the same interest, and I see the digital world as a platform to reach more viewers.

About your work now. How would you describe your personal research in general?

TV: Diaristic, and an investigation into the value of images, as well as self awareness. 


© Thomas Vandenberghe from the series 'Black Diary' 

Do you have any preferences in terms of cameras and format?

TV: Compact-cameras, and film. I prefer the invisibility and straightforwardness of a compact camera.

Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

TV: Leight Ledare ‘Double bind’. Last year I was very impressed by the exhibition of Leigh Ledare at Wiels, Brussels. I had the opportunity to meet the man behind the work during a tour at the exhibition. His work is a great inspiration for my diaristic point of view. A document of an intimate life at a higher level. For his latest project, Double Bind (2010), American artist Leigh Ledare arranged a trip to a remote country house where he spent four days photographing his ex-wife, Meghan Ledare, whom he had divorced five years before. Two months later, his ex-wife returned to the same location, this time with her current husband, Adam Fedderly, a photographer. He also documented her for four days. This results in this doubled process of about thousand images in total, both strangely intimate and strangely similar, sharing a certain erotic ambiguity and encompassing voyeurism. Working with photography, archives, film and text, the focus of Leigh Ledare’s practice lies in an investigation of how we live, not merely at the level of identity but at the level of our projected desires, motivations and aspirations. His famous photographic essay 'Pretend You’re Actually Alive’ already pushed photography to its limit.

© Thomas Vandenberghe from the series 'Black Diary' 

Three books of photography that you recommend?

TV: 'Snapshot photography: The lives of Images’ by Catherine Zuromskis; 'On Photography’ by Susan Sontag; 'Camera Lucida’ by Roland Barthes.


Thomas Vandenberghe