People tend to see a bit of mystery in my photos. Or, they call them atmospheric. I probably look for that when I take pictures. A spark of mystery, a little atmosphere, unexpected beauty. I say probably, because I don’t think too much about what I do, or why I do it. Fact is, I like to go out on the streets, with my camera. A camera is a great tool to appease the unrest in my head, and to forget yourself.
I rarely go outside with a well-defined plan. It’s not really necessary. When your viewfinder takes over your eyes, you see more than you think. You start asking yourself questions. Where do the people you meet go to? What are their hopes and fears? And why is there an envelope half hanging out from this mailbox and a spider web in front of the window?
Many questions. Yet you don’t want to know the answers. Chances are that they are banal, and then the dream ends. I photograph. That’s why I’m on the street. I leave people to be bit players in their own cinematic environment full of color, light and shadow. This way, the mystery remains intact.
Photography can be beautiful, dark, threatening, mysterious, pretty, sweet. For no reason. Or for any reason that you imagine.
Street photography has kept me busy since I lost both my parents in the space of seven months, saw my marriage crash, lost a brand new job, and fell completely without income in a country where I hardly knew anyone at the time. To say that’s why I take photos might be too simple, but it was time for change, something new.
As a tribute to my father, who was a hobby photographer, I bought a new camera. I had photographed before, quite a lot actually, and sometimes I was even paid for it, but I had never taken photography seriously.
It all changed when I went out with my new camera. There, in this huge heap of bricks and concrete that is internationally known as Belgium, I recognized myself in men that spent their time on street corners and benches, and saw women playing to be somewhere else without knowing it. They got lost in shopping malls, ate, drank, laughed, hid from the rain, and waited for trains, taxis, and coincidence that never came. Sometimes together, often alone. Nobody cared about what the media wrote. They all lived their lives in the here and now, with their own private problems and personal joys.
As a street photographer you have to cope with the limitations of reality. It’s like in journalism, which was my field for a long time. However, unlike press photography, the pressure of current events is non-existent in street photography and you determine which elements are put together in the frame. You manipulate reality to show it like you see it.
Belgian street photographer Marc Pennartz was born in the Netherlands, lived in Sweden and is now based in the Antwerp region in Belgium.
A journalist by profession, he initially picked up a camera to illustrate his articles. In recent years, street photography has become somewhat of an obsession for him. Most of his work is shot in Antwerp, Brussels and other Belgian cities.
Marc runs a Dutch-language blog on street photography: straatfotograaf.be
He is a member of the World Street Photography Community, was chosen Photographer of the Month by Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen, and regularly gives lectures and workshops on street photography.
Portrait above shot by Valerie de Jong.