We asked six greats of Belgian photography to nominate one emerging Belgian photographer that got their stamp of approval. There’s nothing like getting anointed by those that paved the way for you.

Dirk Braeckman nominates Max Pinckers

One of the most prominent photographers of his generation, Dirk Braeckman is known for his grey-scaled works that owe as much to his acute sense of composition as to his restrained approach (he sometimes doesn’t develop his rolls years after having shot them). A teacher at Ghent’s Academy for Fine Arts (Kask), Dirk picked Max Pinckers as his nomination.

What attracted you to Max’s work?

What strikes me most in Max’s work is that he developed a new approach, something I haven’t seen before. He works within a docu- mentary context yet leans towards staged photography, always express- ing a form of theatricality. This grey area in between is where Max’s images find themselves.

What would you like to see him develop?

What I would like to see more of in Max’s work has just arrived with his new series, “The Fourth Wall.” His first series “Lotus,” based on transsexuals in Thailand, had a very sensational edge to it. The new work is moving away from this and achieving a more mysterious feel.

What would you advise him in terms of his work and career?

Don’t be put off of by gallerists and keep doing your own thing.


Gilbert Fastenaekens nominates Clément Montagne

His sombre, mysterious and slightly haunting nocturnal studies are what made Belgian photographer Gilbert Fastenaekens famous. Living and working in Brussels, he focuses especially on urban land- scapes, industrial structures and city views, referencing the German and French schools of landscape photography and promoting a documentary style. His nomination: Clément Montagne.

What attracted you to Clément’s work?

What I really like about Clément’s photographs is the atmosphere they reveal. I like the spirit of the images. And Clément doesn’t just take photographs: He also creates his own, personal hand-crafted books with the images he takes.

How did you discover Clément?

Actually in a rather incestuous way: He was my student at Brussels’ ERG school. At the time I met him he was already well-educated by another former student of mine: Fréderic Barthes. That made it much easier for me!

What advice would you have for him?

What’s most important is to have confidence in yourself and what you do. And he should not pay too much attention to the rapidly changing nature of photography and contemporary art – the developments are just too fast. There’s no point in trying to keep up with that.

Stephan Vanfleteren nominates Thomas Sweertvaegher

Kortrijk-born photographer Stephan Vanfleteren started his career at De Morgen, going on to make a name for himself beyond Belgian borders with his striking portraits fraught with social commentary of individuals living on the fringes of society. The winner of the World Press Photo award and the prestigious Henri Nannen prize, he is known for his powerful black and white photography, as radical as it is sensitive. Besides a well-documented love affair with his home country, he also aims his lens on conflict zones in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Stephan’s pick: Ghent-based Thomas Sweertvaegher.

Why did you choose Thomas?

I am fascinated by his series on skateboarders. He shows a whole different world from its very inside. And I find the liberty, the slightly anarchic, hippie life of the people shown in these photos very appealing.

What is it that you like about his work?

He is part of this sociotope and you can see the trust and intimacy in Thomas’ images. That’s why, even though I have a lot of experience, I would never be able to take the same pictures. I really like that he exposes a part of society in a way that’s rarely seen – not from the outside, but from within.


Harry Gruyaert nominates Bieke Depoorter

With a special focus on the subtleties of light and the power of colour, Gruyaert’s work has for the last 30 years stayed clear of any clichés. A member of legendary photo agency Magnum since 1981, the Antwerp-born photographer is especially famous for his portrayal of Morocco, a country that has continued to fascinate him throughout the years. Harry Gruyaert picked Bieke Depoorter as his nomination.

What attracted you to Bieke’s work?

I really like her personal approach. Her images are very intimate, very personal. She builds a relationship with the people she photographs and sleeps over at their houses for example. And her photographs are always well-composed, also colour-wise.

What would you like to see her develop?

I’ll leave that completely up to her.

What would you advise her in terms of her work and career?

The only advice I have for Bieke is to be herself.


Marie-Françoise Plissart nominates David De Beyter

Living and working in Brussels, Marie-Françoise Plissart is the author of a number of books, many originating from the collaboration with her former partner Benoît Peeters. In 2001 she started a second career as a filmmaker with her first documentary, “L’occupation des sols”, and in 2004 she received the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale of Architecture for her captivating images of Congo’s capital Kinshasa. But most of the time Plissart directs her lense on her home country, as in a series entirely shot from Brussels’ rooftops or in her works on the renovation of the Atomium. Her nomination: David De Beyter.

What attracted you to David’s work?

What I like in his work is his adventurous, exploratory side. There is this sense of freedom about what he does. David is someone who organises his vision of the world without hesitation and feels completely at ease jumping into a collective memory. My favourite image is the one with the light-painted house. It is obviously staged and this staging is intrinsically photographic. It would not make sense in another medium.

What advice would you have for him?

I know that he’s already done staging with several people (for example a group of friends sitting in a tree). That image was full of promise regarding his capacity of uniting people, arranging them in a certain way and composing a situation. I’d really like to see more of that.

Serge Leblon nominates Laetitia Jeurissen

Belgian-born photographer Serge Leblon’s distinctive visual nar- rative has been shaped through years of shooting for some of the world’s most important fashion publications, from Another Magazine and Dazed & Confused to Purple and Self Service. With countless exhibitions paying tribute to his work and a new monography about to be launched, Serge is without a doubt one of the great fashion photographers of his time. He currently is based in Brussels, and picked Laetitia Jeurissen as his nomination.

What attracted you to Laetitia’s work?

Her capacity to decentralise and bring a critical and human eye on our society. Her refusal to give in to technology and her attachment to the essence of photography’s history. Her use of analogue photography which is rare nowadays and requires a more consistent preparation of the subject.

Why did you select her?

I had noticed her work at one of La Cambre’s end of year shows.

What would you like to see her develop?

I’d like to see her fine-tune her narrative as well as her technique and find the tone that suits her best.