Van Empel’s works are both realistic and surrealistic, as the images are the results of collages intertwined with photographs he has produced and manipulated with digital tools. Reminiscent of traditional Western portraiture, van Empel’s subjects are familiar, yet eerie, which makes the audience feel a curious uneasiness. The complexity between natural reality and deliberately created artificiality, in the tone of softness of the subjects, as well as the strong colours in the flat non-perspective settings, surprisingly convey a certain tranquility in van Empel’s photographs.
Van Empel’s works are a part of numerous institutions’ collections, such as the French National Foundation for Modern Art, Paris France and George Eastman House Rochester, New York USA. His retrospective toured several museums across the world, starting at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands in 2011 and MOPA (The Museum of Photographic Arts), San Diego in 2012.