Posts Tagged ‘Present’


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.