Living-room live

Imagine having a group of world-class musicians playing in your living-room for a whole Sunday afternoon.

Each year, Brussels-based world music promoter Muziekpublique takes ten acts 'on the road' in a different city district. This year, it was the turn of the Solvay quarter of Ixelles, my own commune. I managed to catch half-hour concerts by five acts, three of which included a dancer.

The gigs I saw included classical Indian song and dance, a Syrian whirling dervish, Brazilian 'choro', flamenco guitar, and traditional Congolese dance. Each would have been spell-binding in a theatre. But in an ordinary living-room, with the artists literally within touching distance, they were extraordinary. 

Photographing the concerts, I tried to capture the atmosphere of the different homes that provided their settings, and the interactions between the performers and the audiences. 

Manual focus

I was recently asked to shoot the rehearsal of a dance performance at La Raffinerie in Molenbeek (Brussels). The studio was windowless and the piece is choreographed – for three dancers, a musician and a reader – with almost no lighting except low spotlights of varying intensity on three sides. The Nikon D810's autofocus is supposed to be miraculous in low light, but in light that low it really didn't work at all. The dancers were in contuous movement and I couldn't afford to wait while my lens hunted up and down for something it could get a grip on, so I switched to manual.

I found it strangely liberating. Often, there was not even enough light for me to judge the focus in the viewfinder. But I was making choices, and sometimes I deliberately chose to soften the focus on what would normally be considered the subject.