Let’s Meet The Neighbours

· 4.May.2020

On April 8, I started the project MY STREET, an idea that has been in the back of my mind for several years. We are all connected to the whole world but do you know your neighbours?

With our street we have a Facebook page and a WhatsApp group but to my surprise there were often messages from people I did not know are living in my street. There are over 200 house and a few apartments, so it is not a short street, but still I wanted to be able to put a face at the different facades.

Of course with the day-to-day routine, work, familythis didnt came to life, its not easy to arrange to get all the neighbours in front of the lens. But now as everybody has to stay at home and I had some time which came available, there was no excuses anymore. With a message on the Facebook page of our street the neighbours were informed about the project, contacted me and I could start shooting right away. Sometimes you should not think about things too long, or it will not happen at all. Everything just came together and it  was the ideal opportunity to put my recently purchased Fujifilm GFX50R in to use.

Stefanie, Nina & Matteo the first neighbours I photographed on April 8.

Stefanie, Nina & Matteo the first neighbours I photographed on April 8.

So first maybe a little background about myself. I am a freelance product designer / photographer, living and working since 2014 in the Stationsdreef in Roeselare (Belgium). As a photographer I am mainly interested in documentary and portrait photography. My relationship with Fujifilm started in 2015 when I got a second hand X100T in to my hands and after the launch of the X-Pro2 in 2016, I completely switched to Fujifilm. The past years I have had and tried different bodies but I prefer the rangefinder style design. And speaking of testing cameras, in 2018 I had the possibility to shoot with the GFX 50S and the GF110mmF2 lens for a week.

Portrait of my daughter Mona, testshot with the GFX50S and the GF100mmF2 in 2018.

Portrait of my son Daan, testshot with the GFX50S and the GF100mmF2 in 2018.

Large prints of these portraits of my daughter Mona and son Daan are still on the wall in our house. I was straight away sold on the image quality but not on the body design. So with the launch of the R version of GFX series it was on my wish list but it’s only now with the Fujifilm deal from March that I have actually taken the plunge. I bought 2 lenses with the camera, the GF110mmF2 for portrait photography, for which I will use the camera the most. And considering the price and the size of the GF50mmF3.5, I also bought this lens without much expectations.

But back to today and the project. For this I wanted to limit myself to one camera and one lens, with the GF50mmF3.5 on the GFX50R it remains a compact setup to take on the street. Even the settings for taking these images are always the same: 1/250 sec, F4 and ISO between100~200.

Since I wanted to capture not only the people but also their house, I also decided to make 2 pictures as a pair, as you can see.

Bjorn, Flore, Ruben & Jente.

Bjorn, Flore, Ruben & Jente.

The photos are always taken fairly frontally / centrally. This may be due to the fact that I am a designer and looking for straight lines. By using their facade (environment) I wanted to frame the residents in it.

Pixel & Carl.

Pixel & Carl.

There were some practical things, to start I wanted no cars in front of the houses. To my surprise, I didn’t have to do an effort to convince people to take care of this. To avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, the pictures of the even house number are scheduled in the morning and the odd numbers in the afternoon. Everyone was so willing to cooperate, which made the process a joy.

Fien, Lisa, Veronique & Ellen.

Fien, Lisa, Veronique & Ellen.

Taking the images took only a few minutes and I usually made 15 to 30 photos in total. This to make sure I had 2 good images. It is not always evident with groups, children and dogs as you can see below 🙂

Maarten, Tine and their recently adopted daughter Tati, she really had no desire to sit still.

Everywhere where I went, I had a conversation of 15 minutes or more. Of course about the current situation in the world, but also about the everyday little things in life. This is an ideal way to know what is going on in you street. So I already know that in August we can welcome 2 new born residents in our street 🙂

We often travel the world to take pictures, as we think that our environment is not interesting to capture.

Detail of the Lotus Temple roof in New Delhi, India. Image shot with the Fujifilm X100F.

This project is a simple idea that exists for as long as photography I think. It is the way / form in which you make the images that can be different. Here the images are graphical by photographing the facades as geometric as is possible with these old house. So that they become as a frame for their residents.

I hope this may still be inspiring to search for images and visual language in your own backyard and getting to know the people around you. Besides the pleasure of making the images, it was also great to see how enthusiastic the neighbours were to participate in this. A few times I’ve already been contacted by grandparents after seeing the pictures on my website, asking me if they can get the images of their children with grandchildren. Because they still do not have a nice family photo of them, even nowadays where everyone takes photos all the time.

The interaction, reactions and the fact that people ask for prints afterwards, makes the process more worth will.

You can follow the project on www.alainmonnes.be/my-street. The series is a work in progress, be sure to come back to see the new added images in the near future. And if you want to give me feedback, do not hold back.