Carl De Keyzer, “Moments Before the Flood” and other journeys

Speaker: Carl De Keyzer

In the Moments Before the Flood’ project, traveling along several thousand kilometers long European coastline, De Keyzer examines how Europe copes with hard to predict threat that is rising the sea level. Due to the climate change this phenomenon may have dramatic impact on the Old Continent. The photographer not only focuses on the possible future consequences of this situation, but also studies different forms of protection of the coastline over the centuries and investigates how Europe copes with flows and floods today. According to him, the protection over past few years was provided aimlessly (huge investments in materials and work constituted a big part of that) because “the enemy” had not appeared or even if it had appeared, the constructions turned out to be obsolete. Is Europe ready for the possible dramatic sea level rise? This photographic project, called ‘research program’ by De Keyzer, shows, first of all, the tension resulting from the unawareness of how real is the threat and how insufficient is our protection.

De Keyzer will also select those of his projects which are related to the travel theme to  present them during HIT THE ROAD panel discussion. One of them is ‘EVROPA’. This project is an example of how a photographer can make us rediscover reality. His photos form part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Charles V. Carl De Keyzer travelled round Europe in Charles’ footsteps, following the emperor’s itinerarium. What he wanted to reveal in his photos was the history. “We live in the midst of history: its remains are present all around us. The past lives in our memory, in habits, in customs and rituals. And yet we barely notice it”. De Keyzer makes visible once again the past in whose midst we live.

Carl De Keyzer (Belgium) started his career in 1982 as a freelancer, he was also a professor at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and a coauthor of the ‘XYZ’ gallery of photography at that time. Since 1994, he has been a member of ‘Magnum’ Photo Agency. His projects are not composed of single, separate photos, he prefers collecting pictures which are compatible with text (often fragments of his personal travel diaries) instead. He is the author of the photographic series published in the following albums: India (1987), Homo Sovieticus (1989), God, Inc. (1992), East of Eden (1996), EVROPA (2000), ZONA (2003), Trinity (2007), Congo (Belge) (2010) and Moments Before the Flood (2012).

Carl De Keyser’s photographs are regularly exhibited in European galleries and museums; they also form a part of various important collections as in: Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, Fnac Collection in Paris, Centro de Arte in Salamanca or Magnum Photo Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas w Austin. Carl de Keyser won many awards, including: Les Rencontres d’Arles Book Award, Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1986), W. Eugene Smith Award (1990) and Prix de la Critique Kodak (1992).

De Keyzer likes to tackle large-scale projects and general themes. A basic premise in much of his work is that, in overpopulated communities everywhere, disaster has already struck and infrastructures are on the verge of collapse. His style is not dependent on isolated images; instead, he prefers an accumulation of images which interact with text (often taken from his own travel diaries). In a series of large tableaux, he has covered India, the collapse of the Soviet Union and – more recently – modern-day power and politics.