Winter Review

I arrived in Austin at midnight on the 23rd, after having been in Europe long enough to see Fall’s leaves shed their way into Winter. Returning to Texas after having previously departed in August bookends this trip nicely. Austen and I have lacked last Spring’s volume of travel opportunities—in retrospect, we replaced day trips with a single great time in Prague, and the occasional event in Brussels and Antwerp. This created a unique problem and opportunity: Leuven now truly feels like home, and that creates a burgeoning complacency that I must offset. Otherwise, the longer I’m somewhere, the more I find my creativity and motivation diminished.

Traveling more and further would be too easy of a solution, so I’ve turned this problem inward. How can I regularly see Leuven with fresh eyes, rather than allowing them to glaze over with routine? I started addressing this with weekly photo walks around town, and going further on foot than I had previously. The following photos come from a few different purposeful walks in September and October, as well as regular errands around time where, of course, I always carry my camera.

I took this opportunity a step further. I’d previously found my shooting limited by fear of subjects’ reaction. Now, with little to lose, why not snap folks more obviously? In taking social photos, the photographer assumes and asserts an intimacy with their subjects—and if I want to document the lives around me, I need to make that leap.

Reviewing this third of a year’s shots, I’ve expanded my own area of comfort in a number of ways beyond those aforementioned. A number of these shots integrate bodies in ways not just as subjects, but often structural. Others show an interaction between bodies and their environment in a way that becomes more documentary than journal.

Despite the period of time over which this set was taken, and my evolving personal goals in the process, I see a palette emerge through my compilation. Leuven is made Leuven by red brick, steel, limestone, blue-hued concrete, amber light, and—of course—bicycles. The palette changes as we enter Winter’s diminished sunlight, and then again in late November as Christmas lights began climbing upwards around town—contrasting glowing amber drops against the blue post-sunset sky.

Despite sharing a common base palette, the town West of the train station invokes an industrial vibe absent from the rest of the residential, University town. I hadn’t been there previously—not beyond passing through by train—but was taken there looking for a replacement for my laptop’s battery.

The failure of that trip then took me to Brussels consistently for two weeks, but those photos won’t be published for another week. I was able to capture a series of shots that landed somewhere between these two different sets experienced in Leuven, and I’m looking forward to sharing them.

The following photos were taken in my last couple of weeks before leaving. At this point, sun rises around 8h30 and sets around 16h30, and the change in palette and decoration is clear in most.