Painters can just pick up their paintbrushes and let loose on a canvas. Photographers, on the other hand, need a whole microsystem of specialists – printers, framers, air brushers – to get to the final result. In a bid to shine a light on those professions essential to the photographic process, we profile four artisans without whom none of this would be possible.
The reseller: Campion
Michel Campion’s second hand camera shop, nestled in the heart of Brussels’ Matonge district, has something of a museum feel to it: The small space is filled with countless cameras, focal lenses and vintage leather bags of all kinds and shapes. The 69 year old, who took the business over from his mother in 1973, has built what could be considered a true shrine to the photography of the past, with a large and varied selection of analogue models. “Children and grandchildren come here to sell the cameras they inherited from their parents and grandparents, mostly trading them in for new digital cameras in our first hand shop across the street,” Campion explains. Amongst the plethora of archaic equipment, a gold-plated Swedish Hasselblad (€5,000) stands out, as well as the rare cameras dating back to the 19th century. On the way advances in technology have affected his business, Campion is unequivocal: “There will always be a niche for it, just as for vinyls.”
The framer: Mertens
When artist Peter Mertens couldn’t find anyone building frames to his liking, he decided to give it a shot himself. Soon he was making frames for his friends too and as the demand grew he started his own framing studio in Amsterdam in 1988. Since then the business has grown immensely, including the opening of a second studio in Brussels 12 years ago. Eppo Dehaes, who was taught all about framing by Mertens himself, has managed the Brussels branch for quite some time now and keeps up the tradition and high-quality practice, which is reputed for not using any standard production items. Having developed its own framing system, Mertens has a proper wood workshop where every frame is assembled and painted by hand. “Patience, attention to detail and precision are crucial,” says Dehaes, who studied painting at St Luc in Brussels. Specialising in contemporary art and especially photography, Mertens’ roaster of clients include art galleries Xavier Hufkens and Catherine Bastide as well as prominent painters such as Luc Tuymans.
The printer: Jazz Colorlab
André Jasinski (53) started out as a photographer himself, having studied photography at Brussels’ St Luc school. After years of developing his own black and white photographs, he switched to colour photography, but was never quite satisfied with the prints he received from the various labs he tried. Finally Jasinski, who also worked for Brussels’ center for photography Contretype, decided to learn the craft himself in a laboratory in Canada. When he came back to Belgium 12 years ago he founded his own print shop and today Jazz Colorlab is one of the very few places remaining that still employs the rare method of handmade chemical photo processing from analogue films. “After the overwhelming success of digital photography I think I might actually be the only one in Belgium,” he tells us. His clients, professional artists for the most part, come from as far a place as Finland, as photographer Elina Brotherus for example.
The printer: Atelier KZG
What Jazz Colorlab does for analogue cameras, Atelier KZG does for its digital counterparts. Founder Gaëtan Massaut (36) and his associate David Marlé (37), who studied photography themselves, are dedicated to continuing the photographic printing tradition whilst at the same time bringing it in line with the requirements of today’s digital photographers. Massaut opened the studio in 2004, at the time of the switch from analogue to digital photography with the goal of providing a high-quality service for a new need. “Our job is not just about the process of printing an image,” Marlé, who is also a teacher at La Cambre, explains. “We have long discussions with the artists, always trying to find the best possible version of the image and bringing out its utmost potential by adjusting the vibrance of colours or strength of contrasts.” Today Atelier KZG is the place to go for some of Belgium’s most reputed photographers such as Stephan Vanfleteren or French man Vincent Fournier.