Brussels – Take a different view!

The Grand Place, Brussels

The Grand Place, Brussels

Most die-hard travel photographers make a beeline for far-flung, exotic and cuturally diverse locations where nobody else would dare venture. So do I head for Burma? No, not a good idea, a little bit unstable. Kabul? Hmmm, perhaps not. No lets head for Brussels and as it so happened I did bump into a Burmese political prisoner whilst there, well kind of….

Brussels has a number of famous features such as the Atonium, Grand Place, Manneken Pis, Chocolate, Waffles, ok the last two aren’t places as such but they do count! I certainly photographed many of these but it is also worth your while taking a look at the not so obvious things too…

[image title=”The cartoon trail Brussels” size=”thumbnail” id=”1458″ align=”left” linkto=”viewer” ]The Cartoon Trail is worth following around the City, as it leads you through various aspects of Brussels that you may have never realised existed before. This shot was taken along one of the streets that was just a stone’s throw from the most famous landmark in Brussels – Manneken Pis (which is the size of my foot but worth a look). This image recently sold through Alamy for use in a guide book to be published in the Czech Republic. We are all familiar with the works of famous Belgian artist and animator, Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi) who created Tin tin in 1929 and the comic character has become epitimous of Belgium ever since. Ask people what they associate with Belgium and their reply will either be chips (the Belgians invented them) and Tin Tin!

[image title=”Brussels nightscape (always carry a hardback book)” size=”thumbnail” id=”1456″ align=”left” alt=”Brussels nightscape” linkto=”viewer” ]I hate scaffholding and most people avoid it but I often think to myself that perhaps its not such a bad thing. Always shoot stuff that other photographers are not likely to shoot. Is that a good idea? I think so! Sounds a bit radical but we like that kind of thing here.

The Palais du Justice in Brussels is a stunning building and at the time a restoration project was taking place to restore the roof to its former glory. The gilded gold was starting to show signs of some serious pollution damage (as is much of the city to be honest) and their efforts were looking fantastic and one of the reasons I would like to go back in the next two years or so.

This skyline was taken from our Hotel, 18th floor using nothing more than a couple of hardback books as a makeshift tripod perched on the windowsill. I had to press the lens right up to the glass and closed the curtains behind the camera and myself to eliminate reflections. I composed, metered for a long exposure and set the timer. I took a dozen shots and chose this one as the final image.

[image title=”Aung San Suu Kyi” size=”thumbnail” id=”1455″ align=”left” alt=”Aung San Suu Kyi” linkto=”viewer” ]Aung San Suu Kyi has led an incredible life, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and currently a political prisoner of the Burmese Junta (military police). We came across this enormous poster in the Governmental area of Brussels and a woman did approach us and spoke to us in a language that we guessed was Flemish. We sadly had no idea what she was trying to tell us but we certainly had a good idea what the poster was all about.

I wouldn’t say that the photo I took here is one of my best nor one of my most artistic but that is not the point. Documentary photography is all about getting a simple point across or just to share images of importance. This poster is campaigning for the release of Aung San from house arrest. I often look out for this kind of thing and it is important to look in all directions and not to just go for the pretty pictures.

[image title=”Undercover market, St Gery, Brussels” size=”thumbnail” id=”1454″ align=”left” alt=”Undercover market, St Gery, Brussels” linkto=”viewer” ]Throw away the guide book and take a look at local information leaflets instead or just take a random path around the city. That is exactly what we did on this day and especially as the weather was terrible outside. Time to head inside. We ended up in St Gery a very smart part of Brussels and found this wonderful old indoor market that had been converted to a trendy exhibition space whih incidentally was displaying the works of local photographers. I was taken by the interior architecture and how the ceiling had been restored to work so well in the building’s new context. I had never come across this location in any of the guide books and we spent quite a nice legth of time there, relaxing, enjoying the atmosphere as I turned my eyes to the ceiling….

[image title=”Le Cinquantenaire, Arc de Triomphe, Brussels” size=”thumbnail” id=”1453″ align=”left” alt=”Le Cinquantenaire, Arc de Triomphe, Brussels” linkto=”viewer” ]The Cinquentenaire is home to one of Brussel’s biggest landmarks, the Arc du Triomphe and this marvellous piece of architecture features quite often in the guide books, magazines and websites that offer the tourist guidance of this great city. I on the other hand wanted something a little more unusual so chose to stand directly beneath the Arc du Triomphe to take this particular shot. The flag added an extra sprinkle of spice to the recipe, as it helps give the viewer a little clue to where this shot was taken. It’s not obvious that this is them Arc but it may sell in the future as someone may be seeking an alternative take on a this well known monument.

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