Antwerp through the lens of Matthijs Van Mierlo
Antwerp is absolutely stunning, we all know that. Just check #thisisantwerp on Instagram if you want proof of that. Amongst all those photos, you might notice Matthijs Van Mierlo’s pictures of Antwerp’s architectural splendor. For This is Antwerp he will share for a whole month the most intriguing architecture from four Antwerp neighborhoods. That's why we asked him to shoot some pics of his favorite Antwerp hoods, which we'll publish during the next four weeks. But first, we sat down with him to have a chat on this beautiful city.
Get to know the photographer
Matthijs Van Mierlo ended up in Antwerp for his studies in Linguistics and Literature at the University of Antwerp. Now 33 years old, he is a digital creative for the Flemish public service broadcaster VRT. In his free time, however, he is more handy with his digital reflex camera.
“Photography has been a hobby for me ever since I was young. When the first digital cameras started to become popular, I needed one too. I even contemplated studying photography when I was eighteen,” Matthijs says. “When I bought an iPhone, I could take photos all the time but ironically the interest simmered down a bit. Well a year ago I decided to invest in a reflex camera and now the motivation is back, also thanks to the positive response on Instagram.”
Matthijs has found his niche in architecture photography. Antwerp’s architectural versatility offers a rewarding subject. “Antwerp has so many faces. When you go from north to south, you pass through ten different neighborhoods that all have their own characteristics because of the architecture and the people who live there. Antwerp Zuid is incomparable to the Schipperskwartier or ‘t Eilandje.”
Get to know the hoods
The first two neighborhoods Matthijs has chosen to cover are Luchtbal and Ringland, not exactly tourist hotspots. Luchtbal mostly consists of social housing projects and high-rises (though it also has Kinepolis, the largest cinema in Antwerp). Matthijs explains his choice: “For a magazine called ‘This Is Antwerp’ it is important to also show the areas where most people only come because they live there. These areas are Antwerp just as much. I visited Luchtbal for the first time only recently myself, while I had seen the apartment blocks so often from the highway. Out-of-towners will probably never come here, so that is why I will show them.” But what makes Luchtbal photogenic? “At Luchtbal a great number of people live together in a small area, so people and architecture come together here quite intensely. The inhabitants live in these big, tall buildings that offer quite the challenge to photograph.”
Ringland is not yet a neighborhood but the ring road around Antwerp that will be (partly) covered in the future, will be making room for more green and living space. “This part of Antwerp already possesses so much hope for the future,” Matthijs clarifies.
The other two neighborhoods, Zurenborg and Borgerhout, are in contrast very much worth a visit as a tourist. “Zurenborg’s epicentre is Dageraadplaats, where always something is happening because of its many bars and restaurants. If you love architecture, you obviously have to walk through the Cogels-Osylei because every house you pass there seems to be more elegant than the one before.” Matthijs also reveals his favourite spot at Zurenborg: “I love having a coffee at Café Gitanes at the Draakplaats, where the trains thunders passed just next to the bar. Some might find the noise of the trains a bit too intense, though. The arcs of the bridge over which the trains ride is another great sight to photograph.”
“Borgerhout does not have as much grandiose architecture as Zurenborg, but it makes up for it thanks to the people and its liveliness. The Turnhoutsebaan is a good example of that. It is an essential part of Antwerp that you should really see if you want to have a fully-formed idea of the city. The enormous diversity of nationalities is mostly centred in this neighborhood.”
You can check Matthijs' first series for This is Antwerp (on the hood 'De Luchtbal') on our Facebook page, or right here.
Text by Tine Van den Poel De Clippeleire
Pics by Matthijs Van Mierlo