Photographs by Charlotte Hooij
Charlotte Hooij took many of these photographs in Brussels, depicting the inner life of a historic, bureaucratic city. With brilliant colors and a refreshing candid formalism, her photographs of men and women in uncomfortable habitats are reminiscent of Georges Simenon’s portrayals of existentially lost northern Europeans.
From Pedigree, by Georges Simenon, translated by Robert Baldick (available from NYRB):
Now the street was empty, with just a thin drizzle to give it a touch of life. The shop-windows had disappeared one after another behind their iron curtains. The men with frozen noses who distributed coloured prospectuses at the doors of the dress shops had vanished into the darkness. The trams were rarer and made more din; the monotonous noise that could be distinguished in the background was that of the muddy waves of the Meuse breaking against the piers of the Pont des Arches.
In the streets all around, there were plenty of little cafés with frosted-glass windows and cream curtains, but Désiré never set foot in a café except on Sunday morning, at eleven o’clock, and then always at the Renaissance.
He was already scanning the windows inquiringly. He did not think about eating. He kept taking his watch out of his pocket and now and then he would start talking to himself.
At ten o’clock, he was the only person left on the pavement. He had scarcely so much as frowned on seeing some gendarmes’ helmets over in the direction of the Place Saint-Lambert.
Twice he had climbed the stairs, and strained his ears to catch some noise; twice he had fled, frightened, sick at heart.
The policeman at the corner of the street, standing underneath a big dummy clock with its hands fixed, had nothing to do.
“Could you tell me the right time?”
Then with a strained, apologetic smile:
“Time seems to go so slowly when one’s waiting…”