Hernie & Plume

Katherine Longly

2013 - 2020

Brussels Capital, Belgium

I met Blieke, Nicole and their little dog 'Plume' (feather) on a December evening, while I was taking pictures of Christmas decorations in a trailer camp in the outskirts of Brussels. A man came out of his cabin, and asked what I was doing there. I apologized, and he said : "Come inside and have a beer with us instead." We became friends, it was in 2013. They invited me to various wacky parties and told me about their amazing life story.

I immediately fell in love with Blieke and Nicole's small wooden cabin. Its decoration is warm, eclectic, cheerful and also a bit messy. The objects laid out here and there are as many relics of moments of conviviality, friendship or love collected over the years. In the centre stands this huge table, always set with a colorful oilcloth which changes according to the seasons and keeps traces of time and feasts. Friends are never far away. Blieke and Nicole are, as we say in Brussels, two 'zwanzeurs' ; they love to laugh, make jokes and party. As when they invited me to the genuine wedding of two small dogs, or when they organized me a birthday party worth the Olympic games.

As we talked, Blieke and Nicole told me about how they met, about their wounds, their moments of pride, the accidents of life they experienced. Their health became fragile, friends stopped gathering in their cabin. But the love between them continued to grow and flourish.

Their story plays with stereotypes that we all tend to have, no matter how much we try to avoid them, and also confronts us with our possible short-sightedness. The viewer will question his own prejudices and discover the true story of Blieke and Nicole, which they share with disconcerting sincerity and generosity. Blieke was actually an elite policeman, and Nicole was one of the first women driving a tramway in Brussels. Blieke died one year ago.

A photo project about social mobility, stereotypes, aging and, most of all, an outstanding love story.

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