Photographing for a corporate website

I am working with Brussels-based communication agency ESN to create images for its new website, which should be online by the end of 2018. It’s a work in progress — I probably have another day of shooting and editing still to do. But it’s already been a great learning experience and I wanted to record my impressions while they were still fresh.

The brief was to shoot three sets of images to give the website a real flavour of the agency’s human side — full portraits of key people and group shots, as well as simple headshots of the whole team of 50. We decided to shoot most of the portraits and groups at a handful of well-known locations in central Brussels.

For the group shots, we set up loose scenarios in which the subjects discussed an actual project. I found that if I could get them talking about something that really interested them we could avoid the kind of acting that always looks exaggerated and false in the photos.

I planned to crop these group images to the ‘cinematic’ 16:9 aspect ratio, since they will probably be used for page headers, so I tried to shoot for this format. But it still isn’t clear whether the agency is going to use them in colour or in black and white. In the end, I have delivered both versions of each image. Which do you think works best?

I’m doing the headshots in an empty office with simple LED lighting to balance natural light from the window. It’s a fascinating challenge to try and capture each individual’s personality in just a few minutes. As usual, a number tell me that they are not photogenic or don’t like having their picture taken, but I’ve gently insisted on making at least 20 or 30 images of everyone, and so far I think we have succeeded in avoiding the classic photobooth look. Some subjects gave me a little longer and were willing to play in front of the camera.

Glamourous!

Glamour is probably not the first word my friends associate with me. When I was asked to take photographs for a birthday, I assumed that it would be a party. In fact, the birthday girl had gathered her closest friends in a hotel room in central Brussels to dress up together.

When I arrived, a makeup artist was already hard at work, and I was supposed to record the finished products in the corridors of the fifth floor. Apparently, this is a thing that people now do on their eighteenth birthdays.

The eyelashes, fingernails and hair were false, but the girls were very genuine and rather sweet with me. I hope they had a fantastic evening after I left.

Street art in Brussels

Soon after I first came to live in Brussels in 2004 the great street artist Bonom burst onto the city. His enormous creations bloomed regularly on the sides of buildings all over the centre ville — elephants, a human foetus, dinosaurs… If you know where to look, you can still find a few of these artworks, but most have at least been preserved in photographs.

Apart from the town council’s flaccid tributes to Tintin, Spirou and other Belgian comic book heroes, and Pencil Man’s ubiquitous outings, Brussels’ streets have remained relatively artless since Bonom was shut down by an extraordinary and aggressive legal action in 2010.

In September this year a disused Delhaize supermarket on the Chausée de Waterloo was taken over by Strokar, a collective of street artists from all over Europe, to create Strokar Inside, a magnificent collection of works, still in progress, which will premably survive only until the building is torn down or renovated. It’s open from 11.00 to 18.30, Wednesday to Sunday, and entrance is €8,00.

I had a fantastic time. The individual works themselves are impressive, but what I specially enjoyed was the interaction between them and the carcass of the supermarket that they inhabit. If I was the CEO of Delhaize, I would be trying to commission the artists to decorate all my stores.