"Many of my good friends who are also queer live in Brussels, that’s why it feels like a safe city to me. I think it’s a shame that things like Pride only take place once a year and that all the big companies are now jumping on that too."
With Faces of AB we take a brief stroll into the life of an AB-goer. Together we muse about Brussels, these strange times and AB. For this edition we went out and about with Michelle Geerardyn.
“I’m Michelle, I study Gender and Diversity at the UGent and am the In-house Photographer at AB. I’m also an editor for Indiestyle and I recently started writing for the photography platform BreedBeeld. I’m currently working for a podcast in which I, together with Kinky Star VZW (and Ange Nsanzineza), question the status quo of the music industry. So we talk about things like the problem of Spotify that doesn’t pay its artists well. The first episode with be out in mid-May.
At first I found it quite strange that they asked me, an introverted West-Fleming, to come work on that podcast but now I think it’s really cool, a real challenge. I would love to learn to play the bass guitar, but I still haven’t gotten around to it. When I hear a song and think: wow this is good, then it’s usually because of the bassline.
I already went to concerts often and then when I started writing for Indiestyle, that only became more frequent. That’s where I also made the transition to concert photography and so I already visited AB often. Two years ago, I was asked to take photos at the BRDCST festival and that year AB was also looking for a new In-house Photographer. I enjoyed the collaboration so much that, with some pushing from friends, I put myself forward as a candidate.
Many people say to me that it’s such a pity that I’m In-house Photographer during this corona period, when I could only experience half of a normal year. But I don’t see it as so negative myself, I’ve been able to photograph many unique projects. The epidemic has provided me with images and opportunities that would never have arisen otherwise. One of the most absurd images I’ve made was when the students came to take their exams there on stage.
My relationship with Brussels is a slowburner, it only began when I started going to concerts a lot. But now with AB and some of my best friends who live here, it’s feeling more and more like a city in which I feel at home. I had a few difficult periods during corona and then I came to Brussels to find peace. Which may sound strange to you but I just found the right people here and you can also disappear into anonymity here.
My relationship with Pride is rather mixed, because my coming out was rather forced. Someone actually did it for me, in a rather dramatic way. Then I had to start telling people, but I wasn’t actually ready to do so yet. After that, I didn’t want to have anything to do with all that Pride business for a while because it couldn’t have been done in my own way. The reaction of everyone I told was super positive, warm and even enthusiastic. And I was able to find my own community, so now I actually feel like being a part of it, I’m really looking forward to it.
This year’s theme for Pride Month is #WeCare, that’s super important. I think the problems in all these areas are the result of increasingly right-wing, liberal and capitalist society. The patriarchal institutions in which we move simply cause people to become fragmented. To heal as a society, I think the revolution lies in making yourself vulnerable, admitting that you need each other, and very actively seeking connection with people. I don’t think we should always be so individualistic and independent. That’s also the reason that I am so glad we’ll be done with the curfew soon and that you are allowed to meet up with ten people, then you have more of a collective group feeling again.
Many of my good friends who are also queer live in Brussels, that’s why it feels like a safe city to me. I think it’s a shame that things like Pride only take place once a year and that all the big companies are now jumping on that too.
I remember Women’s Day in AB last year very well, the building was filled with posters, the message ‘respect each other’ was so present and in your face at the time and I felt so good about it. I finally felt like shouldn’t be on my guard. Then you really feel the contrast with every other day of the year and think: ‘Why can’t it always be like this?’. Everyone has the right to feel at ease in every space and situation. Fundamentally, it should work for everyone and not just a particular group. I actually find it quite strange that this is still the case.”
Interview: Lara Decrae - Pictures: Lien Peters