“Good photo journalists are restless fellows who run from place to place in order to record the drama of the one-off moment”. (Paul Van den Abeele, 1987)
Image journalists have influenced our perception like no one else. Their images are the ones we are confronted with every day in newspapers, weekly magazines and – recently – on our screens.
In this first episode, press photographers talk about the way in which they experienced the spirit of the times, based on iconic events. We are provided with an original view on the change and the acceleration our country has gone through since the Second World War.
For a long time, press photographers did not have any artistic pretention. Press photography first of all meant: a volatile image to support the text. But along the way, the longing for an autonomous image liberating itself from the issues of the day, grew. This is the story of a battle for recognition, a flowering period and an uncertain future.
With: Paul Van den Abeele (+), Raymond Van Der Plassche, Odette Dereze, Christian Carez, Filip Claus, Stephan Vanfleteren, Gert Jochems and Jimmy Kets.
“Photography is preservation. It obviously is a hundred different things, but for most people it’s just preservation. They preserve themselves and each other.” (Cees Noteboom, 1981)
A picture is always past tense. The moment you press the button, the image already belongs to the past. But it serves the future. In this episode, we visit photographers who aim their camera at people and the environment from this perspective.
Because of the industrialisation and modernisation, we have transformed the place we live in, in such a way that nature is almost gone. Expanding agglomerations with kilometres of concrete and asphalt in between that are supposed to bring us to the scarce nature but meanwhile screws it up more and more: these are the ingredients for a view on the Belgian scenery.
It gives our eyewitnesses a feeling of pessimism and sadness, and sometimes – in response thereof – leads to objectifying remoteness. And sometimes nostalgia invitingly lures around the corner. The person starting to deal with the past, has to arm himself against an overdose of romanticism. But at the same time, every picture document increases in value with every year passing.
With: Walter De Mulder, Gilbert d’Haen, Georges Vercheval, Stephan Vanfleteren and Gert Jochems.
“You are only able to strikingly capture your own tribe. It is not a coincidence that many peoples have the notion that taking a picture steals your soul. The person photographing his tribe, or his own social class, keeps the soul in place.” (Nan Goldin, 1991)
In this episode, we look at the human condition of the Belgian people during the most natural moments: when they have time off and relax.
In a few decades time, Belgium evolved from a survival society to a consumer culture. We have transformed extremely quickly from an economical and conservation nation into a hedonistic, post- modern human being. We often still wallow in the setting of tradition in individual consumerism, following the American example. The material wealth also made the need for a God to provide support and guidance disappear. We now believe in ourselves.
In the fascination for this delightful new world, old photographers sometimes look back incomprehensively and young photographers more and more often expose their souls.
With: Herman Selleslags, Carl De Keyzer, Freya Maes, Gert Jochems, Jimmy Kets and Charlotte Lybeer.
“When I had been able to keep enough distance, I returned to Belgium, captured by the love-hatred relationship I felt deep inside of me. The confrontation of surrealism with traditions that were maintained despite of everything. Beautiful and ugly, the beauty of ugliness. Those contradictions are also mine.” (Harry Gruyaert, 1982)
The Belgian soul and identity: suppose it exists, how could you capture it in images? In this episode, we follow photographers who are trying to capture Belgium’s soul based on timeless characteristics.
The search for an identity in an increasingly growing globalised world is more than just a reflex of fear or touchy nationalism. It also means coming home. A journey on fracture lines and along borders. Looking for imaging essays that tell us why we are not French, German or Dutch (nor want to be).
With: Harry Gruyaert, John Vink, Herman Van den Boom, Wouter Van Vaerenbergh and Olivier Bekaert.
Thanks to the Internet, the imagination of our time is never more than one click of the mouse away. Everyone is a photographer and collectors of images are able to search the virtual world without leaving their house. Images can be saved infinitely, and so they can be even better interpreted later.
But without selection there is so much image these days that preservation becomes worthless. It seems as if nothing ever reaches our collective memory anymore. And the classic ‘documentary’ photography has also been shoved into a corner this way.
This final episode focuses on photographers who today approach documentary photography in a conceptual manner. Or show that conceptual photography can also remain a document. A document that keeps on telling about this country, its residents and a world in transformation.
With: Gilbert Fastenaekens, Karin Borghouts, Jan Rosseel, Vincen Beeckman and Michiel De Cleene.
A LAS BELGAS-programme. With the support of CANVAS, The Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and the Belgian measure for Tax Shelter.