Thomas Vanoost: The Ever-Changing World in Multiple Exposure

A few years after we shared his multiple exposure photos, Belgium-based Thomas Vanoost updates us with the latest in the series that has now grown to almost 1,000 photos.

It’s been almost three years since we put a spotlight on the multiple-exposure work of Belgium-based Thomas Vanoost, and he has been busy with this ongoing series since. He recently updated us with the latest additions to the series and shared more about the ideas and motivations behind it. If you’ve want to take a more in-depth look into this body of work, you will definitely find interesting insights and answers here.

Words and photos by Thomas Vanoost. Used with permission.

Over the last three years, I have obviously explored many other dimensions of the photographic art, but the backbone of my work has always been that ongoing series, and I am now close to 1000 photos shot in the style. Much of them aren’t anywhere near good, of course, but I have a few nice ones that I am proud of. So I thought that now may be the time to share an update and bring new photos to your attention.

I was born in Belgium in 1982. I originally studied philosophy and sociology at the university. Later on, I also studied financial risk management. Meanwhile, I was also studying photography and film lab processing (it was in the last days of film photography, and digital was widely thought to be only the new fad back then… how wrong we were!). I worked as a wedding photographer for a period in the 2000s when I was a student, but I wasn’t very good at it. I finally worked in the investment bank industry, where I occupied a lot of different positions over the years. In 2016, I started shooting multiple exposures as part of an ongoing body of work revolving around the concepts of instability and perpetual movement of reality itself.

The central concept, at its heart, remains the same as I explained when I first submitted images in 2016. It is based on the philosophical idea that all reality around us is utterly chaotic and unstable. This vision of the world as an ever-changing place is not exactly new. Heraclitus of Ephesus already stated this very idea in the 5th century BC (“panta rhei”, which means “everything flows”), and it remains more actual than ever today. For better or worse, we live in a world that is evolving at a very rapid pace, and we can all feel it.

However, despite its inherently chaotic nature, we human beings tend to perceive the reality around us as something more or less stable. We need a sense of structure and permanence if we want to remain sane. This is highly paradoxical. On the one hand, reality gives itself to perceive as stable, but on the other hand, we can feel it as intrinsically unstable. Through this project, I try to restore a kind of balance by visually expressing the concepts of chaos, stress, and instability, and to question our way of seeing the world as a stable place. By superimposing several exposures, I try to convey that “panta rhei” feeling that the world is an ever-changing place. I also try to explore our relationship to time, as the several pictures that compose my photographs are always made at different points in time, yet they are parts of the same final image.

Regarding the gear I use, there’s nothing really fancy to mention. I almost only use a Panasonic Lumix GX80, with its incredibly small stock 12-32mm lens. I love this setup because of its extremely small form factor and understated looks. Yet it’s a really capable camera inside. It totally goes unnoticed, and it allows me to take photos in places where I could never shoot with a big DSLR.

My workflow is kind of simple as well. I actually use several different techniques for multiple exposures, both in-camera and in post-production. This depends on the results I want to achieve, the time constraints, the ambient light, and several other parameters. Sometimes, I use the in-camera mode, sometimes not. Sometimes both. My keepers are then sorted and edited in Lightroom for things such as light balance, levels, etc… and then edited in Photoshop.

The photos below are from a sub-series I shot as part of my ongoing multiple exposure project but in panoramic format. The underlying ideas behind this series are the same, but I delved into a less usual format and tried to explore the notions of symmetry and order vs chaos and instability. Technically, the process is quite similar, with the notable exception that images are stitched in panoramic format in post-production.

Don’t forget to visit Thomas Vanoost’s website, Instagram, and Facebook to see more of his work.