Michel Petillo

Photographer
      
In search of the invisible enemy.
Location: Brussels
Nationality: Belgian
Biography: Michel is a Brussels-based freelance fine art and documentary photographer  (°1971). He is half Italian, half Dutch.He began photography with the Berlin School of Photography (Bettina Von Kameke) in 2009. In 2014, Michel attended a... read on
Public Story
In search of the invisible enemy.
Copyright michel petillo 2021
Updated 06/01/20

A visual diary of the Covid-19 lockdown of Brussels


Belgium has been in the grip of lockdown since midday, March 18th ,2020. Public life came to a stand-still, while the invisible enemy exponentially claimed more victims every day. What was initially called the great equalizer, a “very smart” virus, that would not differentiate between the haves and haves not, turned out to be nothing less than an eye-opener, for some at least, of structural socio-economic inequalities. On the one hand we heard about underequipped hospitals, underpaid health workers, the furloughing of employees, our forgotten elderly who represent two-thirds of the mortality statistics, the lack of shelter, food and protection for the homeless and refugees, the rise in domestic violence and the potential mental health fall-out post-confinement. On the other hand, some were seeing the dawn of a more equitable, post-Trumpian world, with more humility towards the natural environment, respect for our care workers, elders, and mental well-being.  New remote ways of working would bring about a better work-life balance and reduced CO2 emissions. Greater social cohesion and a sense of community would make us gentler towards one another. As a photographer this historic event is visually, anthropologically, historically a very interesting one. At the same time, as a psychologist, I am worried and perhaps less hopeful when I observe group behaviour and politics in times of a pandemic. Last minute lock-down parties, neighbourhood barbecues, street violence and politicians trying to find an equitable balance between the numbers in hospitals and those on the balance sheet of the national treasury while blaming the rest of the world for things that went wrong.

Being confined to quarters, the artist in me engages in the necessary struggle of producing “interesting and visually appealing” work around a topic that has both a sense of urgency and relevance. As for so many, the cultural sector is also crippled by the economic impact of COVID-19. Making “good” use of my time on the bench, I hit the streets – always with an eye on social distancing - aiming to capture, that which we cannot see.
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