My photographer's year

I’ve had an incredible 2019, with over 50 paid photographic assignments (so far), a bunch of fascinating voluntary projects, and personal trips to Japan, France, Italy and Spain.

I’ve done a lot of portrait work in the studio and on location, including sessions around Europe for a major prostate cancer awareness campaign. There have been weddings, baptisms and confirmations, conferences and corporate events, music and dance performances, documentary projects and street photography. It’s been a blast. Overall, the year’s work amounts to more than 30,000 clicks of my various shutters.

But now October’s here, and it’s time to pick 13 images for the wall calendar that I make each year as a gift for clients, friends and family. I can’t afford to print one for everybody, so I’m going to share the images here with brief notes on the subjects and some explanations of why I chose them.

Cover, January

CoverShot for a corporate client at their ‘lucky number’ stand in a Brussels street party. This guy wasn’t so lucky!

January Harpist Alejandra Paniagua from the fabulous Mexican folk band La Calandria playing at Muziekpublique.

February-March

February Over a few weeks in the summer I participated in the Bouwen aan de Zomer summer project organised for local kids by community origanisations in Saint-Josse.

March – This is from a personal project documenting the rather faded charms of Brussels commercial galleries. I like the way the plant is imitating the posture of the statue.

April-May

April – Another of the kids from the community project in Saint-Josse. She just posed for me like that.

May – A museum of modern art in Japan. I like the way the woman’s face is tipped up towards the skylight.

June-July

June – This is one of the prostate cancer sufferers I photographed for the awareness-raising project. They have all been hugely impressive in their determination to break through the taboo surrounding the subject.

July – I loved the session with this young Congolese doctor, currently working to combat malaria in Madagascar. She was 35 the day of the shoot.

August-September

August – The end-of-course performance by students of traditional Congolese dance. I just went with the colour of the stage lighting.

September – This is the back of the Lycée Émile Jacqmain in Brussels’ Parc Léopold. The reflections in the window are of the European Parliament building.

October-December

October – Mother and child. I love the way her hand cradles his head, and her glance into the camera.

November – Belgian Pride parade 2019. I captured this moment of passion through the glass of a bus-stop. I like the way the shapes of the tagging play against the shapes of their faces.

December – The trumpet player of the Cape Verdian band Rabasa which played a hot gig in the recycling centre of Les Petits Riens as part of Muziekpublique’s Hide & Seek festival 2019.

Making prostate cancer visible through portraits

Specifically male cancers – prostate and testicular – are still subject to the same kind of taboo that until recently hid the extent, and the human cost, of breast and cervical cancers in women. Most men shy away from discussion of illness and death, let alone incontinence and sexual dysfunction. But their silence reinforces the taboo.

Having lost a close friend to the disease more than 10 years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to shoot a series of portraits of men with advanced prostate cancer for an awareness-raising campaign. (The campaign is being mounted by the pharmaceutical company Astellas but has no direct commercial objective.) The idea is to show that, far from being passive victims of a shameful condition, cancer sufferers can be proud, passionate and fully engaged in life.

I’ve already completed three of a planned 12 shoots – two in England and one in France. All three guys were fantastic: open, generous and actively committed to the cause of bringing prostate cancer into the open. More shoots are planned in Italy, Germany, Spain and Belgium.

The aim is to capture one portrait in each session, together with one full-body shot of the subject with a person or an object, or in a place or engaged in an activity, that means a lot to him. My client is going to create a travelling exhibition which will be presented for the first time in November of this year, in Brussels.