being a photographer

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.

Windows ate my Lightroom catalogue

On Thursday my PC got the latest Windows 10 update. On Friday, my external hard drive had disappeared. Lightroom still showed my photographs using its previews, but it couldn't find the originals. Every single folder displayed a question mark. Hundreds of thousands of image files had gone missing.

The more I researched the problem online the more worried I became. Neither the online help systems nor the user forums of either Microsoft or Western Digital turned up the simple, clear, recent advice I wanted: “It's a well-known issue, just do x and y.” Instead, the articles and threads were long and confusing, with multiple options and many comments of the “I tried that, but it didn’t work” type. Many suggested reformatting the hard drive as the best solution.

WTF!

I told myself to stay calm. It was true that everything was backed up in the cloud. But still, downloading terabytes of data and rebuilding my Lightroom catalogue was not the way I had planned to spend my weekend.

I turned off the PC.

I unplugged the hard drive from the USB port and powered it down.

I turned on the PC.

I powered up the hard drive and plugged it back into a different USB port.

Reader, it worked! Everything is back to normal. Windows sees the drive again, even on wake from sleep or hard reboot. Lightroom knows where to find each photograph.

Birds: singing. Sun: shining.

Microsoft: 0. Simon: 1

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.