Sebastian Steveniers, is a 39-year-old documentary photographer from Antwerp, Belgium, who works as a photojournalist for Belgian newspaper De Standaard, shooting portraits and stories on a daily basis. He also works on several long-term documentary projects.
“I started photography at a late age because I have a history as a professional basketball player. I decided to go back and study after I stopped playing basketball. After a stop at the RITS Drama School in Brussels, I started studying photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent where I got my bachelor’s degree in Photography.”
About Sebastian’s connection to stories, he says:
“I have an undeniable curiosity and hunger for both small and big, known and less known stories. I use my camera as a key to enter a world or make contact. It gives me a fly on the wall feeling, allowing me to briefly experience everyday life from the inside. I always try to approach my subject as objectively as possible and let my eye do the work. Photography helps me understand certain facets of life better.”
The photo in Storybook belongs to a series. What can you say about it?
“My series ” Rusthuis Fabiola” came about during my first year at KASK as a final project. I then followed daily life in the rest home for 3 months from morning to evening because I was left with questions about what it was like to be in a rest home. I had got these questions because I never visited both my paternal grandparents after they went to the rest home. My father then said the image I had of my grandparents from the rest home would be better if I could see them in there. I was 13 at the time and not yet able to make this choice myself. Hence my interest in finding out what life is like in a rest home.
That’s how I ended up at “Rusthuis Fabiola”, the rest home located in a popular entertainment district in the old centre of Antwerp had already caught my attention when I walked past it, it was an old hotel transformed into a rest home. Often, on a sunny day, the residents sat outside on the terrace enjoying the nice weather.
After visiting the retirement home, I got to start my photo project the next day.
The first days were the hardest for me, I was confronted in front of a hitherto unknown world. It was a fairly small rest home that exuded a homely atmosphere. But I struggled at first with the double feeling I got from it every day namely that the residents seemed to be waiting…. waiting for godot?…waiting for their next meal…. waiting for the day to pass. Because I spent so much time there, I got to know the residents better and got to hear their personal and life stories. They blossomed during those conversations and it gave me great stories and anecdotes. As I created a bond with the residents and carers, I became one with the life in there and began to see the beautiful things and moments, the humour and intimate situations rather than the sadness and heavy.
This picture came about on a Sunday afternoon when family came to visit.
The granddaughter was visiting with the dog. The resident in the photo wanted to show me that although it was a robust pit bull, she was not afraid of it.
It was raining that day and the dog was still wearing his Burberry mackintosh. She wanted to give him a kiss and got a lick from the dog. In her attitude, you can still feel a bit of fear that she did have something but did not want to show it. This together gives humour but also warmth, the integrity frail against the robustness of the dog.”