Dominique Houyet


Consumed by two passions, photography and literature, I was able to fuse the two together the day that I chanced upon a small bookshop in Lille. The staff there and the architectural environment literally floored me.

At the antipodes of conventional bookshops which generally sell just about anything to attain a large sales turnover, the feeling here was one of true respect for the written word, a real love of literature. Every display, every table covered in books seemed to reflect the personality of the booksellers.

Each week writers who came to discuss their latest novels gathered in this bookshop – a big moment every time. And whilst listening to these often rather fascinating writers I began to take photographs of them. I did this for two years.

I limited myself to photographing them from a distance, intervening as little as possible and consciously not wishing to create an image, but simply trying to capture the magic of the moment or the expression that seemed to reflect what I felt about the author or his work.
My refusal to create an image prompted me to narrow the frame in order not to make use of the surroundings. It was futile to make use of an extraneous background when the subjects were so captivating in themselves. Just a hand movement or a look was sufficient for me to obtain a good photo.

That bookstore is no more.
My photos are still there as a kind of tribute to those writers who often moved me deeply.


Before taking a look at my photo reportage in Rhodesia taken between 1977 and 1978, I suggest that you visit the site so as to learn a little more about this country and that period in its history.

I was rather young at the time. Too young, probably, but very much aware of what I was doing. I was setting down on paper a unique moment in history, a type of tribute to a very particular moment for that country. Very few photographers covered those events and those who did only tried to fix what could excite the media through their ideas and read-made thoughts. I became interested in the black and white communities by moving from one to the other. Often the two were intertwined.

I photographed civilian life by frequenting the various communities and by navigating through the various social structures. I also became interested in the life of the military by following them in their anti-guerilla operations.


Why these photos? To tell the truth, I don’t really know anymore.
Perhaps it was a kind of voyage!
A trip through time, a trip through diverse ways of taking nude photographs within a studio : a location I don’t like very much because it is like a factory, a photo factory.
I tried every known style of approach without finding my own. Did I perhaps damage myself? Who knows! I nevertheless gained much enjoyment from those often absurd moments.

Perhaps there is a hidden reason behind these photos, a pretext, an alibi ? No, rest assured, nothing perverse.
The pretext was probably simply to come to Xavier’s studio every Friday afternoon to show him my work for the week and to talk about my photographs : to talk about PHOTOGRAPHY over a glass of wine. I had never tasted wine before meeting Xavier. But it wasn’t the intoxication supplied by the drink that made me vibrate, that made me soar when I entered his gallery, but the richness of his personality, his sensitivity, his knowledge of photography and his vision.
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