being a photographer

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.

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.

The world is beautiful

I like people. Amost every day, I strike up conversations with strangers on buses or on the street. I like hearing about people's lives and interests, and if they ask I don't mind telling them about mine.

And it's mainly people that I photograph – portraits, street shots, and especially people working or playing together. I look for the glances and facial gestures that people use as much as words to communicate intention and meaning to one another. As individuals, I find people fascinating and beautiful.

As a species, on the other hand, we are ugly and stupid. But when our collective cruelty and wastefulness get me down, I can almost always find new inspiration by looking at the natural world. From cloud-shadows racing over hills to dewdrops caught on the micro-fibres of a leaf surface, there is astonishing beauty everywhere.

 Courgette flower

Courgette flower

 Moors above Hebden Bridge

Moors above Hebden Bridge