News, Reviews and Interviews

Philip Sweeck Talks the Talk with 1stAngel

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Founder of 1stAngel Arts Magazine Social Area Manager on Fine Art America An oil painter by profession, it is actually my digital work which has been exhibited. I enjoy bringing art to non artists and artists to other artists. I have interviews on my magazine from all kinds of artist, writer and musician. I hope you enjoy them and my site as much as I do

When did you first become interested in art, in general?

It’s hard to put a timeframe on it, but I became interested in art when I also first became aware of and started to consciously develop my own creative process.


When did you first become interested in photography, specifically?

That must have been when I had to choose between two courses when studying in the Arts Academy. I was following a course that combined photography and film / video. After that there was the choice to specialize further in either photography or video. I choose photography. After the academy I went through many different jobs until I worked for almost 4 years years at a printing company. Now I work as a freelance photographer. It’s only recently, like in the last 3 years or so that I’ve become to concentrate towards producing a more coherent personal body of work.

In what other forms of art do you also work, if any?

Lately I’ve been working with digital art and different techniques and the many creative possibilities it opens up in making images. I’ve also included a digital work in the examples.

On which style(s) of photography do you specialize?

My own style of photography is more that of the subjective documentary approach. Though I wouldn’t consider myself a street photographer, I like to photograph things spontaneously, as they appear in front of me and my camera while I’m visiting and traveling to new places and cities, or familiar places. I then try to connect all these pictures and memories and place them into a broader narrative of symbols and ideas and. My photographs are often a mix between the pictorial, conceptual and surreal.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

Has your style changed from when you first began? If so, why?

I think my style has become more ambiguous, being more subtle visually and aesthetically. When I first began to consciously make photographs there was the natural tendency to visually overstate a certain idea or feeling or expression which I might wanted a photograph or my photographs as a whole to show and depict. What I mean is in the context of processing, the way an image looks or the way it can have a specific feeling. I’m more aware now of the tension and equilibrium between the form of the image ( the way it looks ) and the content of it ( what is shows ). I still find it hard, and a creative challenge, not to rely too much on the form to tell a narrative or feeling with but also consider the content as being an important or perhaps even the sole carrier of symbols and meanings. That being said, I use all visual techniques available to me and I love experimenting with them, especially in my more commercial photographs and designs. They’re all useful tools to communicate something with. The challenge is how to make a technique the least noticeable without losing its full effect. Of course, an artist has to use and rely on form from beginning to end, when creating a work. Like choosing between black and white or color in photography, which then in turn can be further expressed in different forms.

What kind of equipment do you use?

Though less, I’m still committed to film and for that I’ve been using a Leica MP rangefinder camera with 50mm lens. I also use a Nikon D700 DSLR with a 50mm lens and a 28-200mm zoom. I also have an 8×10 large format camera but which I haven’t used yet.

What made you choose that equipment?

The rangefinder I choose for its simplicity, the dslr for its versatility. In the end, both are tools.

Are you a specialist photographer?

As a freelance photographer I do mostly interior and architecture photography.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

Do you have favourite times of the days to take shots in?

No, not specifically. There are times when the light is better suited for a particular atmosphere or quality, at dusk and dawn for example. It’s great to have that kind of light at the very moment when I would happen to see a picture to be made but most of my photographs or not preplanned like that.

Are you a patient photographer, waiting for the right moment, or do you tend to just shoot and hope for the best?

I can be patient in framing and choosing the right vantage point or composition, and take my time and as much frames that I think are needed to come to the best image. But this is only good for static subjects. When the photograph happens in a fraction of a second, like in the photograph of the raven, another kind of patience is required, the kind that’s needed to be always ready and alert for such moments, even in long periods where nothing seems to present itself for a photograph, while walking around for example.

How often do you go out just to photograph or, do you have your camera ready at all times, even shopping?

Probably not as often as I should. I have periods that I take my camera with me all the time, and it has resulted in some good photographs that I otherwise would have missed. Lately I just let it happen serendipitously, without trying to force it, and if I know that I will be in a place or situation that has a potential for photographs, I’ll take the camera with me.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

Do you edit in photoshop or another programme?  Or do you outsource to someone else?

I use Aperture for basic editing and cataloguing. In Aperture I use many more specialized image editing plugins for further editing and processing.

How much time (on average) does it take to edit a work?

When I know what I want out of a photograph, it can go fairly quick, from 20 minutes to an hour. But before that to happen, there’s a slower creative gestation period in which I live with the image and its potential and in which way I want to direct it in. Many pictures that I select come only to their final form after weeks or months of looking or browsing through them in their ‘raw’ form. I try to leave some time over the moment the picture is taken and the moment I start to work on it to see if there’s something in it. If I process an image too soon, there’s still the bias and  emotions or feelings from the moment the picture was taken, and this bias doesn’t always lead to the best creative idea.

How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it easy to walk away?

Sometimes I know, sometimes I’m not so sure. A work may come back to me, and tell me to throw it in the rejection bin after all, or to change it in one way or another. I would be more productive if I could move on to the next new work once an old one is finished. But the old ones are never finished when looking at them with new eyes, long after they were made and taken, and it’s possible that I sometimes reinterpret a work in how I think it should look.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?

I try to flow through them. I think creative blocks are an integral part to the creative process. Work somehow seems to get more interesting right after and perhaps because of a creative block.

How well do you take criticism and how do you make use of it?

It’s helpful to know what people see or don’t see and feel emotionally in a given work or body of work that I’ve made, how they respond to it, how it makes someone feel or what it makes them think about.

Who is your favourite photographer?

There are many, but the one whose work I somehow always keep going back to is Eugne Atget.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

Which one of your photographs is your favourite?

There’s a photograph taken in Chicago of a plastic bag caught in a tree that I like because of the memories attached to it. But also without that personal connection I find it interesting, it resonates like a visual haiku poem. But the favourite photograph is always the one I’ve yet or am about to make.

Have you exhibited any of your work in galleries?

Not lately. I’ve been is some group exhibitions in the past.

Will your work be included at any upcoming contests or galleries?

I have no immediate plans for an upcoming gallery show. First I’d like to concentrate more on the photo art book as a way to show my work and get it out there. I like the book format as a physical object of art in itself and in which a conceptual narrative can be expressed that’s more permanent, compared to a gallery show setting.  It would be great to be represented by a gallery of course.

What are your plans for the future?

To further develop and refine my own artistic language and to stay creative in all expressive forms and ways. Also from a commercial point of view, to market my work more, to get it out there. I also want to get back to making prints through a combination of digital techniques and alternative processes. I have many ideas for future series.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

What advice do you have for budding photographers?

The advise that I still give myself, to learn as much as possible about photography, both its history and the way it is continuously redefined. To learn about the masters, old and new, not to copy them but to know how ones own work relates to what came or exists next to it. Also, to learn about art in general and artists in other mediums than photography. And lastly, to create work firstly for oneself.

Have you done any courses to help you?

Though I probably didn’t think so at the time, my years at the academy for arts were very helpful for initially learning and getting to know about photography and art, not only from a practical point of view but also from a theoretical point of view. Later when I knew more what I wanted out of my work I also followed evening classes to see what other photographers were doing artistically.

What do you do to market your work?

I haven’t done much marketing yet. There are a few photography and art websites that accept submissions to showcase ones work in and which I’m planning to submit to.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

 Do you enter your work in contests?

Occasionally. The last contest I entered was on Saatchi Online, for their Surreal Showdown. I entered a photograph that I took in Palermo and with which I finished among the finalists.

Do you use social networking in your day to day life?

Not yet, or at least not enough.

 Are you available for work (commissions)?


©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

Have you got hobbies?

To be creative is my hobby. For inspiration I also like to travel and see new places and sponge up new experiences.

Where are you based?

Currently I work and live in Limburg, Belgium.

©Philip Sweeck
©Philip Sweeck

© 2013, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.

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