For Sine Van Menxel, photography is the art of manipulating light and shadow. Since she works exclusively with black-and-white analogue photography, Van Menxel encounters the problem of light and shadow twice: first, in the moment of shooting and secondly when printing the final image in the darkroom. In both cases, she is fascinated by the possibilities and the limits of photographic technique in terms of manipulation and reproduction. While the moment of shooting mainly concerns the receiving and measuring of light, the work in the darkroom is a far more engaging moment: it is the phase where the photographer manipulates the projected light to create the final image. Although Van Menxel sometimes intervenes before taking a shot – for example, by staging the scene – the real challenges only arise in the second phase of the photographic process. For her, the darkroom is first and foremost an experimental environment where fortuitous discoveries occur and playful ideas are tried out. The tools that surround her (such as the magnets used for keeping the photographic paper flat against the wall) can transform from mere accessories to active agents in the creation of new and surprising images. Van Menxel often chooses not to retouch the prints, instead accepting the traces (specks of dust, stains, etc.) left behind on the image by the labour in the darkroom. The lucky coincidences created by a “failing” system alert the viewer to the image’s technological origin, thereby allowing Van Menxel to question the transparency of the medium. As such, her work is less about the subjects immediately visible in her images than about the visual possibilities created by exploiting and /or subverting the photographic method. Her work ensues from a sensitive alternation of action and surrender, of control and the loss of it. The result is a set of witty images made by a mischievous eye that is able to extract visual surprises from the most mundane situations.
Text by Steven Humblet