Calendar 2018

Starting in 2008, every year I've made a printed wall calendar as a Christmas gift for friends and family. Each calendar features 12 of my photographs (or 13, counting the cover) taken during the previous 12 months.

The exercise of selecting and ordering a dozen images from a whole year's output is always interesting. Each individual image must be capable of giving pleasure over 30 days, but variety is important, too. This year, I shortlisted 24 images and asked artist and photographer friends to pick the 13 they liked best. The results were sometimes surprising, forcing me to evaluate my work from a new perspective. But of course the final selection respects my friends' collective wisdom.

Here are the 'winners', with brief background notes.

Cover, January-March

Cover – This is from the afternoon I spent with Marc Vanoverschelde in July, harvesting his organic wheat and rye crop at the Ferme du Hayon.

January – I took this at an exhibition of Japanese prints in Brussels. I like the very soft light on the faces of the mother and son, and the two diagonal lines, one straight and one wavy.

February – These two young women were walking out in Matonge, the African district of central Brussels. Apart from their obvious chic, I liked the nearly-but-not-quite symmetry of their dresses and hairstyles. The reversed cigrette of the one in blue is a nice detail.

March – This woman was taking part in the annual march against the detention centre for migrants at Vottem, just outside Liège. The orange of her glasses, which picks up one of the colours in her scarf, makes them push forward out of the frame.

April-June

April – This was shot at a Muziekpublique concert. The band, from Zimbabwe, is called Mokoomba. The cymbal and the brim of the hat play nicely together.

May – I spent two days with the magnolias at the botanical gardens at Meise this year. My Nikon D810 with Nikkor 135mm lens and macro extension allows me to get right into these wonderful flowers. This one had already lost half its petals.

June – Another concert at Muziekpublique, this time the 20-year anniversary bash of Brussels band Jaune Toujours. Bart Maris on trumpet.

July-September

July – Brigitte and I spent a week in Corsica at the end of April, and I fell in love with the huge weathered granite bolders which were used as rudimentary shelters by our ancestors in neolithic times. 

August – Street photography in Ixelles. Is the cyclist visiting this vacant shop from the past or from the future?

September – An amazing solo performance at Muziekpublique by the Comorian musician, Nawal.

October-December

October – I shot this couple at a wedding reception I was covering. I like the way her arms emerge into the light.

November – The relationship between this father and son looked excellent to me. The conversation, at an open air concert in Brussels' Parc Royale, was intense but respectful. The light between their faces is lovely.

December – I shot this in the mediaeval part of Poggio Moiano, a hilltop village about 70 kilometres north-east of Rome, on the evening of the annual festival. I spotted this little boy and his grandmother looking down on the celebrations, and she let me take the picture.

Running around Brussels

Last weekend I covered a series of 'pop-up' concerts organised in the Parc Royale as part of the annual car-free Sunday (journée sans voiture). Another photographer was supposed to be there as well, but he didn't show up so in the end I covered all 12 concerts myself. Sometimes I had to run between the four stages, but I had a great time.

I was able to get really close to the musicians, and it was nice to shoot concerts in daylight for a change – for once, I could show musicians and audiences sharing the moment and the space together.

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During the afternoon I ran into a number of old friends as well as meeting plenty of people for the first time. Belgians know how to have a good time, and the atmosphere was friendly, relaxed and open. The beer flowed and there was an occasional whiff of grass, but I didn't notice anyone getting out of order. Between concerts, I especially enjoyed talking to (and taking pictures of) people looking at an exhibition of old black and white photographs of Brussels and Tournai set up across the park.

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Every year I am surprised by how clear the air is, how brilliant the light is, on Brussels' car-free Sunday. It's astonishing how cleanly and sharply one sees everything after just a few hours without the city's usual blanket of exhaust fumes. For a photographer, it is heaven.

 

Walking around Brussels

When you walk around London or New York, and probably any other city of more than 5 million inhabitants, you feel as if you were shrouded in an invisibility cloak. As soon as you leave your own front door, you assume anonymity. When occasionally you do bump into a friend, you fling your arms round each other. "What are you doing here?" you both ask. "How small the world is!"

With a population of just over 1 million, Brussels is a big village. I started recognising faces on the street within a couple of weeks of arriving here in 2004. Now, I very rarely go out without meeting someone I know. Social, cultural, professional and local networks overlap and interconnect. Distances are short. Friends knock on one another's doors in the hope of a cup of coffee, but are not disappointed if there is no one at home.

I walk around the city a lot, and I always have a camera with me. I am not sure if the photographs I make count as street photography, which seems to have strict rules. I take pictures of people, but also of buildings, signs, street art, or anything else that catches my attention. Brussels is strong on whacky charm, so there is no shortage of subject matter.

Chaussée de Wavre, Matonge

Chaussée de Wavre, Matonge

Rue de la Concorde, Ixelles

Rue de la Concorde, Ixelles