The summer before the virus

Belgium is not known for its sunny climate. It’s not that uncommon to have weeks upon weeks of rain and grayness. But when the sun finally comes out, it transforms everything. The streets, the buildings, the people.

In September 2019 I went out for a weekend walk with my camera and I stumbled upon this brocante (flea market) extending across several streets. Most of the sellers were locals, people who had just impovised a selling stand right outside their home.

There is a special warmth to moments like these, when people gather not to protest, strike, demand things or try to convince others, but rather to enjoy each other’s company. There are no expectations. You can sell valuable artwork or used shoes. You can come on a high budget or lose half a day reading old books on display and leave without buying anything. Nobody gets upset.

There’s a lot of street artwork in central Brussels, some of it based on cartoon characters. Sometimes you cannot miss it, as it takes an entire side wall of a building, on a popular street. Some other times you need to know where to look, as it’s been carefully hidden.

That day, in the crowd of the flea market, I felt like I was meeting some of these characters in real life. As if they’ve descended off the walls and mingled with the people. Trying to pass unnoticed but still having something cartoonish and slightly off about them.

The black dog of depression

Photos from inside the tunnel, Dec 2019 – Jan 2020.

“Being anxious at this extreme level is bizarre. You feel all the time that you want to do something, that there is some affect that is unavailable to you, that there’s a physical need of impossible urgency and discomfort for which there is no relief, as though you were constantly vomiting from your stomach but had no mouth. With the depression, your vision narrows and begins to close down; it is like trying to watch TV through terrible static, where you can sort of see the picture but not really; where you cannot ever see people’s faces, except almost if there is a close-up; where nothing has edges. The air seems thick and resistant, as though it were full of mushed-up bread.” (Andrew Solomon – The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression)

The life of trees

You don’t need to be a tree-hugger to understand that trees lead their own lives, in silence and without making a bit deal out of it. And that this life is linked to ours in different ways.