Brussel / Bruxelles
Project info

These images are rooted in a film project and although I see the resulting photographical work as a separate project to the film, it is impossible to talk about one without the other.

In 2013 I started working on a feature film called Etangs Noirs, in collaboration with Timeau De Keyser. Even though it is a fiction film, with a clear dramatic narrative, we executed it using documentary strategies.

In making this film we wanted to be influenced by the world where this narrative took place, namely Brussels. Our goal was to incorporate the world as a subject character in the film, instead of simply the background which provides texture and orientation. So as part of the writing process we started exploring and observing the streets of Brussels. Certain scenes that we encountered we wrote into the the screenplay. Interesting places we found, we used as inspiration for new scenes.

As part of this proces I also started photographing. When walking around in the city I react in physical way to everything that surrounds me, not only visually but also sonically. The images that I make are a result of this effect the city has on me. Sometimes overwhelming, sometimes stripped down. I shape my images, never assuming that I am in some way capturing this complex city. These are textures and shapes, fragments of my interactions as a photographer. In this way I try to work without a predetermined position or intention.

A major part of the film is situated in the metro, which is where I spent most of my time photographing. It is a place that always attracts me, as do all places of transport in a city. Stations, busses, trams, ... They move in a dynamic of constantly pumping and breathing. These are places where everything is almost always most unexpected.

The metro of Brussels is a very eclectic mix of color and architectural styles. This station is blue, that station is bright yellow, another one dense and all metal. Show someone that knows nothing of Brussels this series of images and it is likely to be impossible to place it in the world. Even by using a concrete form the image becomes an abstraction. It can only be form.

In my images as well as the film we are not trying to convey a prejudiced reality. This is also our main reason for making fiction. Our fictional narrative is a vehicle to look at the world but at the same time stay as far away as possible from a (romanticized empathic) documentary template.

More and more in all media, and also - very dangerously - in art forms such as film and photography, there is a prejudiced and therefore restricted form to look at our world: there is a documentary template, a fiction template, a street photography template, ... It is a way of looking without really looking. Because it is more about imposing clichés through which we are wanting to see our predefined idea confirmed.

In our film and in my photographical work we try, instead of imposing such a template, an identity, to search for this identity. How it shapes this world, how it shapes the different social worlds of the people that live here. This results in constant crisis because in this way everything is valuable, but it is impossible to 'make' everything. We give ourselves structure in the form of a fictional narrative. A narrative that gives us the necessary coherence but at the same time keeps pushing us to go on exploring.