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September 4, 2016

50 Stunning Color Photographs That Capture Street Scenes of Belgium During the 1980s

Harry Gruyaert tackles his conflicting emotions towards his homeland of Belgium with his trademark use of color.

Born in Antwerp in 1941, Gruyaert took up photography against his father’s aspirations, relocating to Paris in his early 20s to work as an assistant to William Klein. After a short-lived fascination with fashion photography, Gruyaert’s journey through color began with a visit to Morocco in 1966. Along with Joel Meyerovitz, Stephen Shore and Saul Leiter, Gruyaert was one of the first to exploit the creative power of color film. Constructed around bold graphics and suggestive lighting and inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni’s aesthetically complex cinematography, Gruyaert’s saturated, non-narrative images forged new ground in the photographic scene of the time.

Perceiving color as a means to awake the senses and stimulate physical experiences, Gruyaert travelled extensively across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, living out of his Volkswagen Kombi for the most part. “I move around a lot, I like to be excited and discover things. It’s about freedom. If you stay in the same place for too long you’ll start to think it’s normal, but nothing is normal. One shouldn’t get used to things; it’s really important to me to see things with fresh eyes”, Gruyaert said of his need to explore the world.

While in New York, he was introduced to pop art, which became a strong influence in his later work, and inspired his renowned series TV Shots (1972). While he admitted that it took him time to discover color in his own country due to a sense of sadness and hostility that his homeland evoked in him, Gruyaert returned to Belgium in the early 1980s – shot over a decade, Made In Belgium is possibly one of his most powerful works. Now in his 70s and a member of the elite Magnum photo agency, Gruyaert has no desire to put down his camera, his biggest irk being the shots he isn’t able to capture, “the only thing that bothers me are the pictures that I miss.”

Flanders region. Town of Antwerp. 1988.

Brussels. 1981. "Palais des Beaux Art" Museum, Magritte painting.

Brussels. 1981.

Flanders region. Town of Antwerpen. 1988.

Brussels. 1981. "Gare du Nord" train station district.

Brussels. 1981. "Neuve" street.

Flanders region. Town of Antwerpen. 1988. Launderette.

Blankenberg. Art Gallery. 1988.

Town of Liège. 1981.

Town of Ostende. 1988.

Brussels. 1981. "Place de la Bourse" square. Coffee.

Car sales shop. 1988.

Waterloo. Museum. Painting of the battle of Waterloo.

Flanders region. Town of Boom. 1988. Industrial area.

Wavre. Walibi amusement park. 1981.

Wavre. Walibi amusement park. 1981.

Brussels. 1981. New Year's eve in a café.

Flanders region. Wièze. Beer festival. 1988.

Brussels. 1981. Night Club.

Brussels. 1981. "Foire Du Midi" annual fairground.

Brussels. 1981. "Foire Du Midi" annual fairground.

Brussels. 1981. 

Coastline. 1988, Blankenberge.

Town of Ostende. 1988. Night Club.

Town of Ostende. 1988. "Bal du Rat mort" carnival at the casino. Annual event, on the beginning of the month of March. In aid of charity, this fancy dress ball is one of the most important and prestigious of Europe.

Brussels. Night Club. 1981.

Brussels. 1981. Annual car show.

De Panne. Night Club. 1988.

Flanders region. Antwerpen. Gas station. 1988.

Ostende. Night Club. 1988.

West Flander region. French border. 1988.

Brussels. 1981. Zaventem / International airport.

Boom. Fair. 1981.

Brussels. 1981.

Brussels. 1981. "Midi" train station district.

1981. International exhibition of purebred dogs.

Brussels. 1981. Rue Royale.

Trans-Europe-Express. 1981.

Province of Brabant, near the town of Wavre. 1981.

Wallonia region. 1981. Village in the Province of Brabant.

Flanders region. West Flander. 1988. Painter in a field.

Flanders. Village of Rutten. 1988. Pilgrimmage of Saint "Evermare".

Town of Waterloo. 1981. Statue of NAPOLEON BONAPARTE.

Flanders region. Town of Hofstade. 1988.

Village in the Province of Brabant. 1981. Commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo.

Province of Hainaut. Town of La Louvière. 1981. "Gilles" carnival.

Flanders region. Bruges. "Saint-Sang" Catholic procession. Annual religious event, during the month of May, based on the legend of Christ's blood relic, brought from Jerusalem by the Crusades. Participants in backstage. 1988.

Bruxelles. Gare du Midi (Midi train station). 1981.

Province of Hainaut. Town of Binche. 1981. "Gilles" carnival.

Flanders region. Ypres. Cats festival. Since the 10th century, on the second Sunday of the month of May, people celebrate cats to be fortunate for the rest of the year. 1988.

(Images © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos, via AnOther)


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