Congratulations, for your 80th birthday

August 25, 2021

He is counted among the most outstanding of European colour photographers. The Belgian Magnum photographer is turning eighty today. Congratulations!
“If you work in colour, you have to compose differently. If you shoot in colour, it has to come first.” While these statements, once made by the photographer in an interview, sound simple, the timing that led him to focus entirely on colour was unusual. Born in Antwerp in 1941, Gruyaert can look back over a career spanning many decades. When he began, it was far from evident that colour photography could be used for anything other than advertising, illustration and fashion. Until the 1980s, serious documentary photography, as well as photojournalism, were exclusively black and white. Even though New Color Photography had emerged in the United States in the seventies, Europe still had firm reservations concerning the new colour aesthetic. This was something Gruyaert was confronted with when he applied to the renowned Magnum Photo Agency in 1982. “Some photographers argued that it would be the end of Magnum, if they accepted me,” he remembers. From today's perspective, this is hard to imagine. Magnum has changed; and the path for many next-generation photographers, who confidently work in colour, was paved by Gruyaert and his creative use of colour.

Whether taken in Morocco, India, Egypt, the USA or his home country of Belgium, Gruyaert's pictures are fascinating. It is rare that he uses his images to tell concrete stories. He sees himself as belonging to the street photography genre; yet, in his case, it is less about a spontaneous moment or randomly captured people; and more about the interplay between all the items and objects present in the motifs. Light, shadow, clearly defined shapes and, above all, the rich colour palette, transform each picture into a fine still life. His photographs are impressive, even though they may have been taken decades ago. They appear timeless. They make people feel happy.

Congratulations on the occasion of your birthday, esteemed Harry Gruyaert! (Ulrich Rüter)

The current issue 6/2021 of the LFI magazine is presenting a comprehensive portfolio of Harry Gruyaert's work in the Leica Classic segment.

Congratulations, for your 80th birthday