I met Blieke, Nicole and their little dog ‘Plume’ (feather) on a December evening, while I was taking pictures of Christmas decorations in a trailer camp in the outskirts of Brussels. A man came out of his cabin, and asked what I was doing there. I apologized, and he said : ‘Come inside and have a beer with us instead.’ We became friends, it was in 2013. They invited me to various wacky parties and told me about their amazing life story.
I immediately fell in love with Blieke and Nicole’s small wooden cabin. Its decoration is warm, eclectic, cheerful and also a bit messy. The objects laid out here and there are as many relics of moments of conviviality, friendship or love collected over the years. In the centre stands this huge table, always set with a colorful oilcloth which changes according to the seasons and keeps traces of time and feasts. Friends are never far away. Blieke and Nicole are, as we say in Brussels, two ‘zwanzeurs’ ; they love to laugh, make jokes and party. As when they invited me to the genuine wedding of two small dogs, or when they organized me a birthday party worth the Olympic games.
Blieke often told me, when I went to see them, that I had again missed an exceptional evening. So I gave them disposable black and white cameras to record themselves all those moments that I could not capture.
As we talked, Blieke and Nicole told me about how they met, about their wounds, their moments of pride, the accidents of life they experienced. Their health became fragile, friends stopped gathering in their cabin. But the love between them continued to grow and flourish.
Their story plays with stereotypes that we all tend to have, no matter how much we try to avoid them, and also confronts us with our possible short-sightedness. While reading, various criminal facts are evoked. What is the couple’s involvement in these events? Are Blieke and Nicole Brussels versions of Bonnie and Clyde?
From the personal archives that the couple entrusted to me, the reader will question his own prejudices and discover the true story of Blieke and Nicole, which they share with disconcerting sincerity and generosity.
Katherine Longly is a visual artist and photographer, She lives in Brussels (Belgium). ‘Hernie et Plume’ is her second book.
She graduated in photography, communications and anthropology. Her personal work is often photographic, but this is not an exclusive relationship.
On the basis of her projects, there is very often an (anthropological) question: How do the campers manage the nearness with their peers (Hidden Living)? Why do some Chinese prefer to live in a false Parisian avenue rather than in a traditional hutong (Abroad is too far)? What is the counterpart that urges a person to gulp down mass amounts of food enough to hurt their body (Rotten Potato)? Where is our relationship with food and our body rooted (To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermint)? Behind these questions lies a desire to understand a social phenomenon. And humor is not excluded. She also pays very special attention to actively involve people she works with in the construction of the projects.
Her work has been awarded with various prizes, publications and exhibitions in Belgium and abroad. She also took part in artistic residencies (China, France, Japan). Her first book, “To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit” was very well welcomed by international critics and was selected for various prizes. It is now sold out.