Sophie Lenoir is a Brussels-based photographer. Since march 2020, Sophie captured around 500 portraits of Brussels residents and gathered the testimonies related to the lockdown of the people on the photos. Along with Bart she is also the person behind the travel blog “Everything Brussels”.
1. How did it come about/ where did you get the idea from?
I took the leap and became a freelance photographer just before the first lockdown began. At that time I focused mainly on weddings and large events like conferences. When all those events got canceled, I found myself without work, but with a lot of free time on my hands and a great deal of motivation to keep on boosting my newly-launched photography business. So when I went for walks/bike rides in my neighborhood, I offered my neighbors a free door portrait. I didn’t see it as a big project in the beginning, but the demand was much larger than I had anticipated and so I ended up going all around Brussels to photograph inhabitants from all over the city.
As time went by, I realized that I was actually documenting a unique period in our history. I plan to keep on working on this project until the end of the lockdown. In the end, I will publish a book containing the photos along with the testimonials from the people portrayed. As the photos will be presented in chronological order, you’ll see the evolution of the seasons through the colors, the outfits worn, and the testimonials.
2. How many people did you photograph? and where
Since March last year, I made around 500 lockdown portraits in the 19 different communes of Brussels.
3. Did you encounter any resistance from the public?
On the contrary, people were very enthusiast to participate. Anyone interested can register freely through my online form and then I contact them by email when I plan a visit to their neighborhood.
4. What was the general reaction?
Reactions varied throughout the year. In the beginning of the lockdown, the vibe was truly exceptional. I was welcomed with a lot enthusiasm and many people even gave me small gifts like home-made cake or a bottle of wine. The feeling of solidarity was also very present. Over time, that exceptional enthusiasm kinda faded, probably because we all grow tired of the lockdown. But people have always been friendly with me and I’ve enjoyed many beautiful encounters.
5. If the idea was to raise moral do you think this work?
When people visited my exhibition, one of the common reactions was that they appreciated seeing the photos and reading the generally optimistic testimonials from the people portrayed. They’ve had enough bad news related to Covid-19, and this approach offered a fresh, positive take on this exceptional period we’re going through.