Harry Gruyaert - Cafe Belgica
In Café Belgica, the photographs were mostly taken in the 70s and 80s. They show the endangered vanishing world. In the span of fifty years, 40,000 cafés in Belgium have closed and no more than about 10,000 remain. “There are much less authentic cafés,” says Harry Gruyaert, who has photographed them a good deal, especially in Brussels, Antwerp and Liège. Only one of his images is not in Belgium; it is located in Bailleul, France, near the Belgian border. The photographer describes it as “a Flemish painting,” and a Flemish painting it is, both in its composition and the colors or the faces photographed.
Billiard games till late at night, older women wrapped in oversized coats with cups of tea or pints of beer before them, steaming parties where young people end up kissing greedily in the middle of the bar, and in the middle of all that, alcohol, flowing freely. There is a certain nostalgia in Harry Gruyaert’s pictures. The nostalgia of a certain carelessness in finding and possibly of his youth is confirmed by the last photo in the book dedicated to his parents, where we see them sitting in a café in Antwerp.