portrait photography

Welcome to my photo studio in Ixelles

I have converted the loft room of our house in Ixelles into a small portrait studio. As far as possible, I use the natural light from two large, north-facing Velux windows. But I am also experimenting with more sophisticated LED and flash set-ups.

The studio has three ‘locations’: a 2.5 metre backdrop rail for fully-body portraiture, a 1.5 metre rail that gives me a bit more distance for seated and horizontal poses, and a plain white wall for headshots. I’ve also installed an excellent music system, and created a nice little waiting/changing area.

The first few sessions have gone extremely well, so this is a side of my business that I will be trying to build up during 2019. I love meeting and photographing people. Give me a call and let me welcome you to my studio!

Sharon How, pianist

Well, it’s a mysterious and wonderful calling to be a photographer, I find. You put yourself out there on Facebook and Instagram, you create a website, you do a little advertising with Google AdWords, and one day you receive a message from a young pianist asking for a one-hour studio session to produce a series of professional portraits. Of course, you say yes.

Sharon arrived straight from the hairdresser, fully made up and in the dress in which she was to give a concert (a Bach solo piece) later in the day. She refused coffee, tea and water in order not to mess up her lipstick. We talked for a while. She is Singaporean, studying in the US. She has beautiful hands and a lovely laugh. She showed me a photograph of her without the hairdo and the makeup.

Then we went downstairs to the little studio set-up I had created in our basement – a simple white drop, plenty of natural light and a couple of LED lamps, and on-camera fill flash. What an incredibly intense and intimate hour – for the photographer, trying to ‘see’ a stranger, and for the subject, trying to reveal herself to a stranger.

But I think we made it. I am proud of the results, and Sharon wrote me a lovely message to thank me for them: “I just managed to look through Sharon_web-best on my phone and they turn out really amazing, so much to the ideal portraits that I have always wanted to have for myself. In addition, I am amazed by the black and white photos (it is incredible some look nicer in black and white), it changed my whole perspective of the artistic potential of black and white art! The black and white photos are so artistic and incredible! I really really love them!”

The photos on this page are outtakes. They are not the ‘professional’ shots, but rather the ones that show Sharon’s playful side. She’s a lovely person, and I hope that we can stay in touch. One day, I’d like to shoot her without makeup and with her own short hair.

Running portraits

This year's Brussels 20km race attracted around 40,000 runners, who completed the circuit through the city's boulevards and parks in sweltering heat. At around its half-way mark the course runs throught the Bois de la Cambre, close to where I live, and I was there as the first contestants arrived. Soon, the road was packed solid with contestants.

Like all the best activities in Brussels, the 20km mixes participants and spectators from Belgium's Flemish-speaking and French-speaking communities with foreign residents and visitors, and it is conducted with universal good humour.

I love photographing people as they run. Their faces are concentrated and intense, expressing aspects of themselves that would often be hidden in posed portraits. But it is technically and emotionally challenging – I only had a second or two to select each face and focus, swinging the camera to track it as the person passed. I tried to acknowledge everyone I photographed, and exchanged smiles and a few words with many of them. At one point, firemen had tapped into the mains water supply to set up a makeshift spray, and I captured some fine expressions of shock as cold water drenched hot bodies.

After a couple of hours, I cycled across town to the Cinquantenaire where the race had started and where many of the people I had photographed were now arriving at the finish. I managed to speak with a few of them. I gave Claude my card and have since sent him the portraits that I took of him.