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Tom Calemin


Tom Calemin, "River", "Man with child", "Model III", "Examination", "Freefall", "12 times falling".

Q: Is the medium you use important in portraying identity?

A: Photography is a very complex medium when it comes to depicting a body. Because the image is directly related to a real person in a specific time and space, the perception of that body is completely different from, for example, in painting and sculpture, where it is a form of fiction. Photography makes the model more vulnerable because the image is directly linked to the reality of the depicted body. That makes the medium very interesting for me. In my work, I always try to investigate what a camera can make visible and how it relates to visual reality. A camera can reveal things but can just as well mislead our eyes.

Q: Is a portrait a performance?

A: At best, a portrait is a true image of a person. If that person sets up a role, and the photographer/artist can also show this role, then a true image of that person can still be made.

Q: If you as a maker look at the portrait you made, do you see a reflection of yourself despite there being another person in the image?

A: I think that an image, made by myself or by someone else, only appeals to me if I recognize something of myself in it. If it can describe something I am looking for myself. What looking at a portrait can do is blur the border between yourself and the other.

Q: When is a portrait image interesting for you?

A: If the image tells something about the imagery itself, or about looking at the image in itself.

Q: By making or seeing/experiencing, which portrait or text might have made you think differently about portrait art?

A: "The object stares back" by James Elkins. The book is based on the idea that the subject in a photo affects the viewer. The comparison is made with a soldier who shoots an enemy but automatically bears the blame for the death himself. Likewise, it is not only the viewer's gaze that focuses on the image, but a photo is always a reflection of that gaze. A photo is often a question about looking itself.

Q: Do you use a (recurring) conscious strategy to arrive at an image?

A: My images invariably start from a question about looking, about our relationship to our body, about the image itself. Then I look for a way to translate that question into an image. This involves countless sketches and failures until I arrive at the exact image that can pose this question most clearly. This often creates a very controlled setting where I can let chance happen again by way of experiment.


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