design and editing: Titus Simoens
Working closely together with her sister Lieve, who wanted to surprise Brigitte for her seventieth birthday, photographer Titus Simoens created a book out of old photographs and clippings of her college years. Leaving the design partly up to chance, Simoens builds an accidental and surprising narrative. Photo album meets artist’s book in a story at once original and coincidental.
“I have a wish concerning my sister (who was recently struck with cancer), wanted to surprise her with some old photographs and clippings of her college years.” By coincidence this call from a woman named Lieve, who is slowly going blind and therefore unable to do it herself, found its way to photographer Titus Simoens. While listening to Lieve speak of her sister Brigitte, an image of this unknown woman, “the best looking girl in her class”, started to form. Simoens went through the family albums, looking for images that portray her as a woman of the world. A young lady who, even if from a small Belgian village, had the elegant allure of the jet set. Leaving the book design partly up to chance, Simoens builds an accidental and surprising narrative, full of unexpected details and pregnant with potential metaphor. The result is a story at once original and coincidental, where one cannot help but wonder what mystery or melancholy, joy or tragedy might lie behind a woman’s smile. (Stefan Vanthuyne)
Titus Simoens: “I liked the idea of an encounter with a young woman from the past, without really meeting her. I wanted to become involved in her life, by becoming the narrator of her story. The question was how involved I could become, having only heard the stories told by her sister. Without completely taking control of her life. How could I tell this story, but also let Brigitte tell her story? By inviting chance to play a part, the images met me halfway. Having chosen a book format, I decided to import the images randomly and see what arose, as Indesign filled the pages without taking into account what is actually in the photographs. The automatic image crops make you look at them in a very different, unexpected way. By doing this, I let the images decide what they wanted to share. Though Brigitte is present in every picture, we don’t always see her – we see part of her, we see things or people around her. And so the narrative finds its way somewhere in the middle. It’s where Brigitte and I meet.”