A romantic soul hides in the photographer. Driven by creative gloom, Vanfleteren often focuses on what is on the verge of disappearing. From the turn of the century onwards, he starts documenting his home country Belgium and its inhabitants. Traveling this land for fifteen years resulted in 2007 in the series ‘Belgicum’ (an accumulation of ‘Belgium’ and ‘Unicum’). In this photo project Vanfleteren visualizes in an unparalleled manner this complex nation, with all its diversity and contradictions. From the damp back of a farm horse and a car wreck in what seems the middle of nowhere, to night owls and deserted high ways in the early hours. From a remarkably constructed pigeon house and ‘La Reine des Fritures’, giving away Belgium’s notorious urban chaos, to the dark power and beauty of the North Sea. Next to the heavy theme of portraits of people living in poverty in cities like Antwerp and Brussels, there is also room for humor. Comic relief can be found for example in the infamous photo of an elderly couple taken on the Koekelberg Basilica in Brussels: a stroke of luck without equal. Sadness and desolation nevertheless play the upper part in ‘Belgicum’, further emphasized by Vanfleteren’s dramatic photographic style. After all, it was not an objective report he was after, but a subjective declaration of love to his complicated motherland, driven by emotions and compassion. To the contemporary viewer the result may be a melancholic trip to a country that for the most part no longer exists.
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