1808 Je te cherche depuis hier4 Suzanne

Leafing through your 93-year-old neighbour's life: 'Photography is a way of connecting'

Tom Zonderman

Through the medium of an intimate photo exhibition, the Brussels-based photographer Renée Lorie invites us to dive into the life of Suzanne Verbeustel, her 93-year-old upstairs neighbour.

“Renée, I've been looking for you since yesterday. I'm not here this weekend, I'm going to Paris tomorrow, until Sunday night.” Thus read the message on a note that Renée Lorie's upstairs neighbour Suzanne Verbeustel slipped under the door of Renée's flat in Vorst/Forest and which she then used that as the inspiration for a photo exhibition with the Local Fototek Foundation under the title “Je te cherche depuis hier.”

“One day, when Vincen Beeckman from Fototek came around for a visit, he said: 'I have been in this building before.' He turned out to know Suzanne and told me about her photos. She has captured her whole life on film and has stacks of albums. Once, when she had me over for dinner, she showed us those albums and over time, the two of us developed a deep friendship. I wanted to do something with that.”

Lorie took photos of Suzanne, and Suzanne of Lorie. Lorie also scanned the photos from Suzanne's albums. During a weekend in August, you will be able to walk through Suzanne's life, her flat and Lorie's, on the basis of these photos. Suzanne will also leaf through her photo albums and telling about her life.

“There will be pictures in the lift, but also in the rooms of our flats,” Lorie explains. “There will also be pictures of Suzanne on the ceiling in my bedroom. It's interactive, because you have to lie on my bed to look at them.” That sounds very intimate. “Definitely. Artists must constantly make themselves vulnerable. But it's also kind of funny, and it fits with the Chambres d'amis concept that the Ghent museum S.M.A.K. once organised.”

Elderly people are often relegated to the background in our society, their lives have been lived. That's why Suzanne makes this exhibition so beautiful. “Suzanne is 93, but a very strong, healthy woman full of joie de vivre,” says Lorie. “She is passionate about art. She goes to operas, travels to Paris. She made me go with her to the Arts et Marges Museum. She has always remained curious and she is very social.”

The other as a mirror
For Lorie, there is a lot of “Je est un autre” content in this exhibition, by analogy with the French writer Rimbaud. “Everyone you meet in life is in some way a mirror. That is what people do almost automatically, look for landmarks. Suzanne has travelled a lot in her life, often to islands. Almost all my projects have a link to islands. You always find authenticity there. People are often alone, but there is a sense of community. In the end, you go through life alone.”

“Je te cherche depuis hier” is first and foremost also a social project. During her performance Suzanne will be interviewed by Andrine, another neighbour, and another one, Erien, does the recordings of the conversation. “The connection with the neighbourhood is important to Fototek. Photography is a great way to connect with people. I have worked in the social sector for many years and have also worked on some social-artistic projects, like Recyclart and Park Poetik.”

For Lorie, photography is a means to show a bigger idea, rather than being a photographer in the classic sense of the word. “Photography is about capturing moments, anchoring the fleetingness of life. That's why this project with Suzanne is so great. She sees her whole life passing by. But it is not an end point, it is a celebration.”

13 & 14/8, 14 > 18.00, Monnikenstraat 1 rue des Monies, Vorst/Forest
Facebook: Local Fototek Foundation

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