Willy Kessels, French speaker of Flanders, is one of the main representatives of modernist photography in Belgium in the 30s. His nudes, tight centered and with a so particular light, are doubtless the most well-known aspects of his work. It is a subject that he studied all through his career. The exhibition presents some but also approaches other aspects of his work. As many European photographers of this period, Kessels declines possible uses of the new medium. He shows of course portraits, but also industrial shots, architectural views, advertising images and answers to publishing orders. In the artistic field, he will never stop, between objectivity and subjectivity, questioning the medium by making photograms, photo collages, and photomontages till the end of the 50s.
Biography of Willy Kessels (1898-1974)
Willy Kessels starts photography at the beginning of the 20s, in parallel to his activity of draftsman and interior designer for the firm of furniture Het Binnenhuis. During the International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925, he stays four months in the French capital and makes contacts with the artistic avant-garde. At the end of the 20s, the photography becomes his only profession. He appears in the two major international exhibitions of photography organized at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels in 1932 and 1933, which aim to be the replica of the exhibition ” Movie und Foto ” organized in Stuttgart in 1929. Rare photographer making a living from his profession in his country, Kessels becomes soon famous in the 30s, addressing all genres and all subjects within his studio. His photographs from the set of the movie “Misery in Borinage” in 1933 (directed by Joris Ivens and Henry Storck) are actively going to participate in his legend. His personal researches remain nevertheless partially unknown from his contemporaries. Arrested and judged after the war for collaboration, Kessels resumes, after a few months, his activities, favoring his creative photography and tries to get closer to the current of Otto Steinert “subjective Photography”.