Façade Démocratique, by David Nollet

We know, since the last century, that for Belgians, a pipe is not always a pipe ; so why a photobook that is not about Belgium might not be one after all ! Things are not always what they are supposed to be !


So this book is not a photobook about Belgium, once said, then we can move on. Maybe this book is a book about Belgians, but beyond that, it’s mostly a tribute to the joy of living through what might be called a resilient form of happiness. From the cover, things are affirmed: a squat in the dark, shouting in front of the European borough, a status : « façade démocratique » (democratic facade). People shall overcome technocracy, capitalism and « for profit » enacted rules. And the book takes us on a ride, from bars to bars, the Jupiler appearing in watermarks. Jupiler, the famous beer from Liege, is ubiquitous and its mere mention is enough to evoke the warm atmosphere of bars that remain privileged places of meetings. We walk the streets, we come across couples of all ages, we even see a sign that says, to the face of those who still doubt, that love exists! No tourism in these images but shared moments, moments of encounter, feelings, with the highlight of the famous carnival of Binche, popular festival that occurs in the public space of the town and mobilizes the whole population.

The photographs were made before the 2008 crisis, they are its cure. We meet Pier Paolo Pasolini who reminds anyone who will listen that « Isn’t it for Happiness that Revolutions are made ? ». Of course they are ! This is this kind of revolution that David talks about in his book, the need to fight against the consumerism that isolates people more than it gathers. Not the Revolution, but these daily actions, these touches of humanity that we all carry in us and whose it is our duty to reveal to others. The photographs are superb, imbued with humanism and the printing perfectly gives justice to the quality of black and white photographs (tri-X still remains brilliant). And on a more personal way, it tells about the whole Belgium I like (yes, but beware, this is not a photobook about Belgium). It talks of Ostend which I do not know but dream of visiting, we drink Jupiler, it smell chips and sausages with the more than fifty varieties of sauces that any chip shop must offer ; we hear the screams of children following the carnival, and then we pass in front of Peter Van Petegem’s Danscafé Mustang, hero of the Ronde and Paris Roubaix. It throws myself back in time, full of hope young cyclist, on the roads of the Circuit Franco Belge … That was years ago, well long before the crisis!

We also cross the absurd, a naturalized fish, a triple medalist, who knows what for, a frightened cat under the photographers’ spots, an aboveground abandonned boat ! And all along, this carnival atmosphere that comes sprinkle the book.

And then there’s this girl, isolated in a car show, dreamy. She reminds me so much of this photograph by Robert Frank, a young woman in an elevator. I just want to join Jack Kerouac who asked about that girl : « That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what’s her name & address?  » This image condenses all the tenderness and melancholy of David Nollet, his empathy that crosses pages and takes us with a hope constantly renewed. It is not for nothing than his publishing house is called « Cape of Good Hope » (we shall never give up !).

The book ends with a view of a circuit car ride. The kind of same as we were longing for, every year with impatience, when it came to settle on the village square. For a week or two, it was carnival, rides, children’s games, excitation, flirting teenagers, and at the end, hope and expectations, already, that this time shall return the following year. The quality of this work is that David has created a universal story, we can all appropriate it, because we have all experienced those kind of moments. In that meaning, it is not a photobook about Belgium! QED!


Hardcover book, 22,5 x 31,5 cm, 104 pages, 47 black and white photos, design Kaat Flamey, quotes by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Herman Selleslags, Rudy Vandendaele and a Citizen of Brussels.

More info/order : http://www.cape.ag/?page_id=985


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