Lieven Lefere (b. 1978, Roeselare, BE) is an artist who plays with the complex relationship between reality and the photographic image.

Lefere is extremely meticulous in his work and his process is remarkably slow. With great care, he manipulates all the parameters that make a photograph what it is. His process often starts months before the picture is taken. The first step is to conduct extensive research, drawing on myriad points of reference. Sometimes he builds his own sets and scenery based either on his research or on his memories. He constructs his images with a certain scale and framing in mind, models the space, makes maquettes, decides how he wants the light to fall on the scene. After shooting, if the sets are not incorporated into the artwork as a spatial element, then they are either destroyed or put into storage.

It is not uncommon for Lefere to draw inspiration from existing (re)constructions of reality, actively seeking out collaborations with scientists. He produced one such series of works based on the research of Dr. Martin Smith, Professor of Forensic and Biological Anthropology at Bournemouth University. For a number of works inspired by Van Eyck, Lefere drew on architect Patrick Seurinck’s doctoral research on perspective in art. In this way Lefere stretches the limits of photography. His work can be alienating at first glance: are we looking at a painting, a photograph or perhaps a simulation?

Lefere creates a unique atmosphere in his images, which far transcend photography of the purely documentary kind, depicting reality in a similar way to how it appears in painting or architecture. The absence of human figures and his fascination with impermanence reinforce that atmosphere. In Lefere’s work, time seems manipulated: delayed, frozen or even absent.

Due to his approach, Lefere’s images are always developed over an extended period of time. This protracted process yields highly layered images that are charged with meaning and require patience to decipher. They are the antithesis of what we usually associate with photography: more a constructed intention than a slice of life, more monument than snapshot. Cryptic, evocative and alienating all at once.

Text by Tim Vanheers, 2022