Vincen Beeckman, activist photographer

You may already know that I am a fan of Belgian photography, but today, I would like to focus on one of them whose work I particularly love, I mean Vincen Beeckman.

The first time I have heard about him was years ago, when he was in charge of Recycl’Art, an art center which was located in the former train station of Bruxelles Chapelle. The center is now closed, but it was a wonderful place with exhibitions, workshops, happening and a very good restaurant.

In 2017, he started a touring exhibition of Belgian photographers in many small boxes which aim was to be representative of the Belgian photography scene, and called it first “Musée de la Photographie”. After a troubled period with a conflict with the already existing museum in Charleroi, the name turned to the “Fusée de la Motographie”.

During the time he worked at Recycl’Art, he took a lot of care and attention the people from minorities, like migrants, homeless, refugees.. and this is this strong empathy for the humankind that we find in all his published books.

Here below, you can find different books he made, from my own shelves.

Claude & Lilly, a true love story between the two characters shot by Vincen from 2015 to 2018. Published in March 2019 by APE in an edition of 500 copies.

Filip – Anneessens. One day, Vincen was given archives photographs from the time when the Father Philippe took in charge teenagers in the Bruxelles area of Anneessens. These photographs show the daily life of those teenagers, through their activities and also travels, like to Ostende, Paris or Spain. Published in December 2019 by Recycl’Art in an edition of 250 copies.

Le Petit Rempart is a small booklet of photographs from February 2019 to February 2020 made in the emergency shelter of “Le Petit Rempart”. With tenderness, we meet all those people who spent some time in the structure. Published by Camille Carbonaro in an edition of 100 copies.

Cracks is one of my absolute favorite. For this project, Vincen gave disposable cameras to homeless people in Bruxelles, more or less around the central Station, to witness their daily life. He then did the editing of the photographs and the book was published in 2019 by VOID in an edition of 250 copies with a specific particularity if you want a copy. The book was not available in bookstores, but only by a direct contact with the homeless people. You need to call them to organize an appointment to meet them and pay the book in cash. It creates a strange, but really true relationship.

Espinho, published in 2021 by Intimate structures, is a piece of work made in the fishing community of Espinho, a borough in the South of Porto. For this work, photography was, for Vincen, a way to communicate with people, as he does not speak Portugese and the local people don’t speak French nor English. From 2016, he returned time after time to finally staged an exhibition, glued on the wall of the borough. From his own word, this book is like a family album.

Les Eternels was published in 500 copies by Ciao Press, in 2021. The photographs were made in different nursing house of elderly people, in collaboration with “A travers les arts”, an association to promote the access to culture for elderly people. The book interweaves photos of the present daily life with archives photos or press clippings creating a very joyful mix.

Birds of a feather, OpStap, the last one in my collection, is a collaborative project between Vincen for the photos, Colin Pantall for the text and Lien Van Leemput for the design, published in 2021 by APE in an edition of 1000 copies. The book focus on the organization and functioning of OpStap, a structure which aim is to help people with drug addictions.

To conclude, I could nothing but recommend you to have a look at those books if you can put your hands on them. Words are powerless to describe the feelings you have when you let Vincen takes you by hand to guide you to meet all those fantastic people. And I must admit that in the ambient gloom, these books give me faith in the future of human beings.


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