Jacques Sonck Biography

Jacques Sonck (1949, Belgium) studied photography at Narafi in Brussels (1969-70) and belongs to one of the first generations of photographers who received formal training. Besides his professional activities (until his retirement he was a photographer at the Culture Department of the Province of Antwerp), he has devoted himself since the mid-1970s to personal projects. He makes penetrating street and studio portraits of outstanding figures from all walks of life. In his analogue black-and-white pictures he looks for archetypes; classical portraits in a style that hovers somewhere between Diane Arbus and August Sander. Sonck meets his models in the street, photographing them on the spot or in his studio. These contacts are short and volatile: the photographer does not ask any names. The titles of his street works only indicate a place (most often Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent) and a year.

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Without judging Jacques Sonck confronts the viewer with charming and peculiar individuals looking straight into the camera: loners, eccentrics, drop-outs and deformed. In his own words: "Somehow I try to document the people living in this era and in this part of the world I am living in. It is the diversity that is interesting. We are all different and yet equal. Maybe through my work spectators learn to see differently, full of empathic curiosity for my subjects. That we are all different is the leitmotiv, and that we are proud of it is the message."

Sonck’s refined images contain a surprising, often anachronistic or timeless aesthetic. Diversity in all its shapes within the human species is depicted against a neutral background (to exclude as much contextual reference as possible) and in an understated, documentary way; without melancholy, compassion or the intent to ridicule. In 2005 Sonck’s photographs were exhibited in the group show 13 Women and a Dog – Photographic Intimacy at Bozar in Brussels, Belgium. In 2011 a selection of his work was included in the group show Insight at the Fotomuseum in Antwerp, Belgium. He also appeared in the group show In the Margin at the Museum Dr Guislain in Ghent, Belgium.

In 2012 and 2014 his work was included in group shows at Gallery FIFTY ONE. In the summer of 2014 under the title Encounters, Sonck had a solo show in the historical monument Fort Napoleon, at the Belgian sea coast in Ostend. This show was conducted by the City of Ostend together with Gallery FIFTY ONE. The eponymous catalogue of this exhibition was published by the latter.

Jacques Sonck is the Laureate of the Prize of Photography of the Province of Antwerp (1980). He obtained a Special Mention for the prize Photographie Ouverte, Charleroi (1984) and a Nomination for the ICI Photography Awards (1992).

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