For Vincen Beeckman (b. 1973, lives and works in Brussels), collaboration is central. The photographer eschews the one-way photographer-subject relationship that defines so many photographic practices. Instead, he largely collaborates with marginalised and vulnerable individuals and provides visibility for communities otherwise unacknowledged.
Take Les Cracks, a long-term project Vincen Beeckman began in 2014 in Brussels, for which he collaborated with a community of homeless individuals around Brussels’ Central Station. The photographer provided the community with disposable cameras. Instead of attempting to embed, he invited them to picture themselves, and the result is an unmediated record of their lives. The images are candid: documents of the exchanges between Vincen Beeckman ad the community. And the connections between the homeless individuals themselves.
Vincen Beeckman’s creative approach is intense. The people on whom his projects centre are not subjects. Instead, they become long-term collaborators and friends.
The photographer’s work does not slip easily into a photographic genre. It is a constellation of many. Perhaps this is because Vincen Beeckman is a multi-faceted creative: an artist, a curator, and an educator. For instance, between 2014 and 2020, he organized the evenings “Extra Fort” at Recyclart, collectively inviting hunders of speakers to talk about photography across hald a decade of themed evenings. And he also established the Fusée de la Motographie, a travelling museum of Belgian photography composed of 100 wooden boxes, each representing a different practitioner. Indeed, Vincen Beeckman is committed to facilitatin exchanges and fostering creative communities in every element of his practice.
(Hannah Abel-Hirsch, extract, 2021).
Jump the Wall
Vincen Beeckman’s project consists of interaction with prisoners in various Belgian prisons. Initiated with a series of workshops in 2019 in the women’s prison in Brussels and relaunched after COVID in the men’s prison in Tournai, Jump the Wall focuses on photographic encounters and exchanges.
As the introduction of cameras in these prisons is subject to strict prohibitions, Vincen Beeckman came up with the idea of offering photographic workshops based on interviews, during which the inmates define the nature of the images they would like to receive. Among the first requests, one woman expressed the wish to return to her old neighbourhood, which she had not seen for many years. The images that Vincen Beeckman brought back to her aroused great emotion in her. She was then allowed to place them in her cell. The strong impact of this gesture made the artist decide to continue the work.
Following the relaxation of sanitary measures, the process was able to resume in spring 2022. In groups of 5, the inmates have the opportunity to follow a workshop under the supervision of a guard and to commission photographs according to their desires (a place, a person from their family or a particular theme, a concept). Based on this constraint, Vincen Beeckman produces a series of outdoor images, which he submits to the commissioning parties and which they discuss, also collecting texts and reflections during the interviews.
Through photography, this project addresses the notions of the visible and the invisible, working to reclaim territories subject to deprivation. Also, the prisoners have the opportunity to exercise some decision-making power, which is of great importance to them. In the prison environment, they hardly decide on anything. By taking part in a collaborative process, they voluntarily take a leading role in the artistic direction. The aime is to make the extreme conditions they are subjected to on a daily basis, due to the overcrowding of Belgian prisons, more human. The two points of view, theirs and that of the artist, then merge and fade away in favour of a common final object where everyone is given a voice.