Cédric Gerbehaye’s Belgium: A Country in Search of Itself
After experiencing first hand the horrors of sectarian wars in Africa, Belgian photographer Cédric Gerbehaye decided it was time to go home and photograph his own people. As tiny as Belgium is it is never the less a country divided in half. One side is French speaking and the other Flemish and they rarely mix even though they share the same government and flag. Both sections of the country have their own specific traditions and rituals, many that have been celebrated for centuries. Recently the parlimentarian system of government suffered a fractous dissolution of authority when neither ethnic side could find a majority in order to establish a new government. The stand off went on for 541 days before a new Prime Minister was appointed in December 2011. It was a period of immense political and social tension for the people of Belgium.
“The idea of a separation of the country was more present than ever,” Gerbehaye said. “Belgium is a state assembling two people which initially have nothing in common—they speak different languages, they do not have the same economy and vote in opposite ways.”
“The Flemish-speaking north and French-speaking south largely keep to their separate sides, differentiated by a linguistic border that slices the country from east to west. Weaving together images of workers on the brink of losing their jobs with countrymen engaged in religious traditions, Gerbehaye sought to convey the social and political dynamics within the small nation’s borders. But Belgium also serves as an exploration of physical space, and the photographer zig-zagged the country in order to document steelworkers in the French-speaking region and fishermen in the Flemish-speaking north. For work grappling with what it means to be Belgian, viewing the country from its outer limits was key. “For the fishermen, it was a way of speaking of a job that is disappearing now, but it’s also a way to give some limits to the work, to give a border,” Gerbehaye said. “They are in the sea, at the border of the country, on the coast of the country.”
1970’s Chevrolet El Camino makes a “burn” during a US cars’ gathering. Via Time Lightbox