Running portraits

This year's Brussels 20km race attracted around 40,000 runners, who completed the circuit through the city's boulevards and parks in sweltering heat. At around its half-way mark the course runs throught the Bois de la Cambre, close to where I live, and I was there as the first contestants arrived. Soon, the road was packed solid with contestants.

Like all the best activities in Brussels, the 20km mixes participants and spectators from Belgium's Flemish-speaking and French-speaking communities with foreign residents and visitors, and it is conducted with universal good humour.

I love photographing people as they run. Their faces are concentrated and intense, expressing aspects of themselves that would often be hidden in posed portraits. But it is technically and emotionally challenging – I only had a second or two to select each face and focus, swinging the camera to track it as the person passed. I tried to acknowledge everyone I photographed, and exchanged smiles and a few words with many of them. At one point, firemen had tapped into the mains water supply to set up a makeshift spray, and I captured some fine expressions of shock as cold water drenched hot bodies.

After a couple of hours, I cycled across town to the Cinquantenaire where the race had started and where many of the people I had photographed were now arriving at the finish. I managed to speak with a few of them. I gave Claude my card and have since sent him the portraits that I took of him.

An inspiring group of young Belgians

I spent the day of the Zinneke Parade with around 20 pupils from the Institut Sainte-Marie, a secondary-level art school in Saint Gilles. Gently encouraged by their teacher Roxane Carlier, the young people had thrown themselves into this entirely voluntary project with enthusiasm, designing and producing their own costumes.

I didn't know that the group would be so young, and they certainly hadn't expected to be accompanied by a photographer. A few were immediately keen to pose for the camera, but many were reticent at the start. But they soon got used to me, especially when we left the dressing-room and got out onto the streets of central Brussels.

I was impressed and moved by their energy and good humour, and especially by the confidence with which they interacted with the crowds of spectators. I enjoyed their company a lot, and was very happy to hear from Roxane that they had appreciated the photographs that I sent her.

Living-room live

Imagine having a group of world-class musicians playing in your living-room for a whole Sunday afternoon.

Each year, Brussels-based world music promoter Muziekpublique takes ten acts 'on the road' in a different city district. This year, it was the turn of the Solvay quarter of Ixelles, my own commune. I managed to catch half-hour concerts by five acts, three of which included a dancer.

The gigs I saw included classical Indian song and dance, a Syrian whirling dervish, Brazilian 'choro', flamenco guitar, and traditional Congolese dance. Each would have been spell-binding in a theatre. But in an ordinary living-room, with the artists literally within touching distance, they were extraordinary. 

Photographing the concerts, I tried to capture the atmosphere of the different homes that provided their settings, and the interactions between the performers and the audiences.