Belgian Architectural Photography in Paris

L’alibi documentaire, on show at the Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles opposite the Pompidou Centre in Paris until Feb 1, 2009 is a show of Belgian architectural photography and related imagery.  It has three strands, the first showing vintage architectural work, the second contemporary architectural photography and the third ‘photographic’ imagery of imaginary buildings.

Architecture is of course an area where the ability to create images of buildings that do not exist has long been important. Every project proposal needs its artists representations of how it will look, and now these are more readily (and believably) produced using computer-generated methods, which can mimic photographs to the last pixel. At least some of the images in this section of the show are more genuinely photographic, produced by merging photographic images using Photoshop or similar software, and produced solely as art.

Early work is represented by Edmond Fierlants (1819-1869), an apprentice in Paris to the pioneering Hippolyte Bayard and one of the founders of the Société française de photographie in 1854. He returned to his native Belgium in 1858, and was commissioned by the state to photograph architecture in Anvers (better known to us as Antwerp), Brussels and Louvain (Leuven.) For the last two years of his life he devoted himself to portraiture in his Brussels studio.

Of more interest to me was the work from the modernist period, particularly that of Willy Kessels (1898-1974) one of the great architectural photographers of the 1930s. The show was certainly worth a visit just to see his work. Other photographers from the 20th century were Marcel Lefrancq (1916-1974) and Gilbert de Keyser (1925-2001) whose architectural details are also interesting.

Willy Kessels: Houses. Photomontage for the Book ‘atmosphere Brussels’, 1932
Credit: Museum of Photography in Charleroi, Inv. MPC 97/83

Although the contemporary architectural photography was uniformly of a high standard, I found little to particularly inspire me. Perhaps the most interesting piece was a grid of 35 images by Marie-Francoise Plissart showing the successive stages of demolition of the Tour Martini in 2001.  Gilbert Fastenaekens‘s side walls of buildings were too bland even for my taste, and the images of Marc Wendelski too severely geometrical to really appeal – I longed to have some lines at odd angles to relieve the horizontal and vertical. I quite liked the dusk images of internally lit building by Marie-Noëlle Dailly, which had a strange lighting quality which made them seem rather less real than some of the fictive images in the third section of work.

Marie-Noëlle Dailly

The final section of invented images included some pictures that seemed more real than the actual architectural photography, but quite a few of them left me wondering why anyone had bothered to produce them. For me the work of Simon Boudvin (click on the minute artists name at top left, then select ‘already made‘) and Filip Dujardin stood out in this section, both for the actual quality of the work and the wit their work embodies. I also enjoyed the ‘Villa Malaparte’ by Martin Vierin, but this needs to be seen projected – a pity it isn’t on YouTube!.

3 Responses to “Belgian Architectural Photography in Paris”

  1. mart3pop says:


    I just uploaded my fiction about Malaparte’s Villa over here.

    I thought i would mention it here since you seemed to enjoy the video

    thank you very much for your comments !


  2. Good to hear from you Martin, and thanks for the URL – people can now see what I meant.

    The clip looks pretty good if you click on the HQ button below the image.


  3. mart3pop says:

    indeed, it’s pointless without HQ turned on.

    thanks !

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