Personal statement by the Belgian photographer, Simon VANSTEENWINCKEL
"For some people, curiosity killed the cat. For others, it is one of the greatest qualities, the very essence of photography.
During lockdown I wondered how to stay curious, to keep traveling, looking and reaching out to others, to carry on advocating openness rather than withdrawal into oneself. While being confined in my living room, I opened a window on the world via Google Street View which is an incredible tool that allows us to travel through almost the entire planet.
The pandemic was the primary focus of all discussions, such as an invisible but omnipresent monster. And it came from somewhere: Wuhan, where it all began, is apparently the place of origin of Covid-19; that former little-known city worldwide has become the receptacle of all rumors, accidentally thrown under the spotlight.
I made the images in the book by directly photographing my computer screen during those virtual wanderings in the city. I used the Washi F film which is a medical x-ray film originally used to diagnose lung diseases. By chance, I noticed that the flash of my camera reflected on the screen had created a luminous halo hovering above the city and its inhabitants like an observing star.
I like the idea of misusing a tool, of shaping a personal and deformed X-ray of one place like a fantasized and poetic version of it, a distorted vision, yet also acting as a certain form of exorcism." (© Simon VANSTEENWINCKEL)
Background information, content
"'Wuhan Radiography' by Belgian photographer Simon VANSTEENWINCKEL is a surprising book about a series of black and white silver images. From the very first pages, doubt hovers... The images seem real, yet ghostly. They are beautiful, overexposed, sometimes radiated. It seems that the photographer has used a particular film. A filter or a glossy film? The illusion is total and indescribable. The scenes of life, the places and the urban characters, are mysterious, as if captured between two universes, frozen between day and night. Here and there, a luminous halo hovers over the city, like an observing star. Through his enigmatic modus operandi, the photographer creates a disturbing dismantling of our preconceptions. We no longer know where we are. The city is indeed that of Wuhan, now known worldwide. But was it before or after the pandemic? When did the photographer get lost there? Did he ever go there?
The text of the French philosopher and poet Johan Grzelczyk, which accompanies the images, makes us slide little by little into this artificial and glittering night. His words are linked, broken, hidden under the shadows, questioning our way of populating a drifting world. The dystopian atmosphere questions our freedom of movement in a land where distance no longer exists, shortened by technology, where the fog is already taking over forgotten landscapes. Like an echo of Chris Marker's 'La Jetée', this photo volume, 'Wuhan Radiography' by Simon VANSTEENWINCKEL, takes us on a journey to discover a distant, strangely familiar city, which holds its breath under the threat of an immense sun. It echoes our resistance, our ability to reinvent ourselves, to find new ways of inhabiting the city." (© Lightmotiv 2022)