Share article:
Share article:

In search of the invisible enemy: Brussels under lockdown

© Michel Petillo

Belgium went into lockdown on 18 March 2020. For over two months, and in an unprecedented manner, public life came to a near standstill from one day to the other, while the invisible enemy exponentially claimed more victims every day.

The Covid-19 virus, which has not differentiated between the haves and have nots, has become nothing less than an eye-opener, at least for some, of structural socio-economic inequalities.

© MP

On the one hand, we have 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 fallout post-confinement.

© MP

On the other hand, some have spotted an opportunity for a more equitable, post-Trumpian world, with more humility towards the natural environment, respect for our care workers, elders, and mental well-being.

© MP

New remote ways of working may bring about a better work-life balance and reduced CO2 emissions. And greater social cohesion and a sense of community can make us gentler towards one another.

© MP

As a photographer, this historic event is visually, anthropologically, and historically a very interesting one. At the same time, as a psychologist, I am worried and perhaps less hopeful when observing group behaviour and politics in times of a pandemic.

© MP

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.

© MP

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.

© MP

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.

Michel Petillo is a Brussels-based freelance fine art photographer and photojournalist. His work can best be described as driven by close personal contact and socially relevant themes. Besides a photographer, Michel is also a practicing psychologist. 

Latest news

Masks reintroduced indoors, teleworking encouraged
Masks will again be mandatory inside shops and other indoor public spaces, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference on ...
Belgium intends to activate the pandemic law, says Health Minister
"We intend to activate the pandemic law," Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed on Tuesday in the House committee, ahead of Tuesday's ...
Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media. ...
EU auditors: More worried about the future budget than about pervasive errors in the 2020 budget
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) have signed off the 2020 EU accounts as giving a true and fair view of the union’s financial position but like ...
Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video ...
Duvel celebrates 150th anniversary with special brew in commemorative bottle
Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the release of a special brew in a commemorative bottle shaped like its ...
Pollution scandal: 3M to show emissions don’t pose risk or halt production
Flanders has ordered American company 3M, involved in a pollution scandal in Antwerp, to prove that emissions linked to its production activities do ...
The Netherlands fears a greater rise in sea levels than forecast
Sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 on the Dutch coastline – far more than previously forecast – according to an announcement from the ...
The Smurfs return to Belgian TV with the first new show since 1989
A new Smurfs show is bringing the characters of Belgium's second-most-famous comic franchise back to the small screen with their first new series, 30 ...
On this day in Brussels: An entrepreneurial journey begins
The Rue Dansaert was just beginning to become trendy when Alain Coumont opened his first bakery here on 26 October 1990. He started by baking big ...
Almost half of Belgian subsidies from EU left unused
Belgium left almost half (49%) of its subsidies allocated by the European Union between 2013 and 2020 unused, the equivalent of around €1.375 ...
Visitors to embark on Orient Express adventure at Brussels exhibition
An exhibition dedicated to the Orient Express – the train that was the scene for many novels, including Agatha Christie's – allows visitors to ...