Posts Tagged ‘Belgium’

Belgicum

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Can you name a Belgian photographer?

It’s probably a question most would struggle with, though there are quite a few. Dirk Braeckman, Martine Franck, Harry Gruyaert, François Hers, Tomas van Houtryve, Léonard Misonne, are among those who have Wikipedia pages that I’ve heard of – and Agnès Varda though I only know her as a film-maker (who can forget ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ and more.)

I’m not entirely sure why, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Belgium is the rudest word in the Universe, as well as being by some strange coincidence, also the name of a country on Earth.  I’ve only visited it briefly and found it a slightly odd experience, but that may just have been the beer (and there is chocolate too), surprisingly well-ordered for a country with two language groups who at times seem hardly to speak to each other.

But one outstanding omission from Wikipedia’s list is that of Stephan Vanfleteren, born in 1969 and recognised as one of Belgium’s most celebrated photographers whose rather surreal view of his country and its people was published in 2007 in the book Belgicum (the Latin name of the country), “A melancholic trip to a country that for the most part no longer exists.”

I was reminded of this work yesterday by an e-mail from 28 Vignon St, a new curated online art platform, named for the Paris address of the first gallery opened in 1907 by the famous art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884 – 1979) who was one of the early supporters of Picasso, Braque and other modern artists. They have an online show of his work, with a link to a video from FOMU (Fotomuseum Antwerp) where Vanfleteren’s current show ‘Present‘ is now also only virtual. You can watch a series of three videos beginning here on Vimeo where they have English subtitles.

I was given another reminder of Vanfleteren’s work this morning when my day started unexpectedly with digging a small grave in the garden. On his web site you can view his series Nature Morte, (Still Life to Anglophones) with the bodies of dead animals tastefully posed. The body of a fox we found at the bottom of our garden was rather messier, killed in a fight probably with another fox, its stomach opened and flesh and fur missing, not a pretty sight. I didn’t feel like photographing it.


Two Parades

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

I can’t now remember why I was walking up Whitehall on a Saturday morning in July, but I think I must have gone to photograph a protest that had been advertised to take place in Parliament Square that didn’t happen. That would not be too unusual, as it is very easy to create an event on Facebook, but actually getting people to turn up is often harder. And although quite a few people may click to say they are interested or going they may well not actually turn up.

Fortunately in London though some things may not happen, there are others that take place which I’ve not known about beforehand, and if I have any interest in them I will stop and take a few pictures.

Fourteen years earlier, I’d photographed a Belgian commemoration of victims of the Second World War at the Cenotaph, with some veterans and their widows in attendance. Apparently this annual celebration had started before that war, following the death of King Albert I of Belgium, a keen climber who died after falling down a Belgian mountain in February 1934. Albert’s uncle, King George V, decided to grant them the annual ceremony to honour him and the Belgian contribution to the Great War.

Judging from my photographs the event back in 2005 was very much less formal than this year’s more military event, where barriers kept me off the road and behind the curious tourists lining them. This year I hardly stopped to take pictures as I was on my way along the street, a little annoyed that I couldn’t catch a bus instead of walking to Leicester Square.

The parade from Leicester Square that I was hurrying to, the The Vegan For Life Parade, was described as a fun parade through central London to promote a vegan lifestyle. While not wishing to be anti-vegan – and I certainly think eating less meat and other animal products is a good thing – fun is not a word I associate with vegans, who usually seem to be in hectoring mode, so a ‘fun’ protest seemed a good idea, and probably more effective at converting people to the cause.

And while there was just a little of that self-righteous vegan evangelistic zeal many of the posters and placards were rather more humourous and less confrontational than at other vegan events I’ve photographed.

I couldn’t stay for the march, which started late, as I wanted to go back to Extinction Rebellion’s East London Uprising where an event was about to start on Hackney Fields.

Belgians commemorate Second World War victims (scroll down the page)
Belgian Army Cenotaph Parade

Vegan for Life Parade


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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