PAUL D'HAESE. BELGOPOLIS
by Dieter Debruyne



© Paul d'Haese from the ongoing series 'Belgopolis'

Paul D’Haese’s photos are inviting, serene and unsettling. They seem to be a hyperrealistic dream from which we won’t wake. Images greet us, as if we’re taking a contemplative stroll through the city with our eyes closed. We collide with blind walls and get lost in dead-end alleyways despite the light of an astoundingshimmer.They make us swerve and focus, but also look towards a different horizon. A blockade of walls. Something that is there but also isn’t, unheimlich. He explores the limitations of the frame, similarly to Dirk Braeckman who experiments with the surface of an image: our gaze is mirrored. Initially one misjudges the tangible, but after a while one starts to feel like a character in a Borremans painting.


© Paul d'Haese from the series 'Escapades', 2013

Paul’s interest in photography started at the age of 16. Later in life he was put in charge of the lay-out and imagery of an alternative regional newspaper which took a critical stance to the ins and outs of city politics. From this established engagement and his studies as an interior designer grew the need to explore the surrounding and constructed world. The end result wasn’t a documentary or a critical reflection. Rather, D’Haese questions if reality can truly be captured. His frontal photography reminds us of the Bechers, John Davies and Shore, but for him personally the significant question is whether this frontal approach, which has a limited amount of graphic elements, can conjure another world.


© Paul d'Haese from the series 'Escapades', 2013

Erik Eelbode suggests that «His photographic project moves in the same direction as in what he does for a living – interior architecture – in which he has deliberately opted for simplicity, austerity, minimalism. He is partly searching for the conceptual and above all visual clarity of the Bechers and their followers, he has learnt a good deal from the open landscapes, the feeling for the totality and the detail of a John Davies, among others, or has eagerly embraced the odes to banality of a Stephen Shore and Dirk Braeckman’s tactile reworkings of apparently ugly sites.»


© Paul d'Haese from the series 'Dagblind', 2008

His first series ‘dagblind’ ended up being published in Yellow Now. It’s a survey of 10 years observing, imagining and reflection on the medium, as Steve Bisson previously wrote «The result is a criticism to the very act of vision, a suggestion to face the failure of photography to represent reality, as essentially invisible, leaving the appearances as the only possible guides when you are as blind and groping in the deep dark of the interpretation of reality» .


© Paul d'Haese from the series 'Escapades', 2013

After this concise series of black and white images a broader view emerges; a more relaxed and colourful play in which D’Haese continues to scrutinize the regulated landscapes. This need to dissect the city’s structure is reflected in the search for knowledge concerning the surroundings and its elements, in the dissection of the hidden, the absent and the dysfunctional, in such a way that is comparable to Democritus who poked his own eyes out to gain a more profound insight. The end result is a fictional city called ‘Belgopolis’. This working title is a reference to the demarcated territory, Belgium, which in the course of time will probably expand to other countries. Paul considers this to be a long-termproject, which will ultimately encompass his mental universe, his own city of the blinds. It’s a personal interpretation of the paradox of photography and deviates from the contemporary approach. It concerns a considerable archive of Magrittean city life, an exhibition of reality, a Hopperesque scene, a coded set of enigmas... The whole series will be eventually combined with other elements and media.


© Paul d'Haese from the ongoing series 'Belgopolis'

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Paul D'Haese 
Belgium