Laetitia Bica, the subversive elegance of chance

Catherine Colard
20181023 Bb Laetitia Bica© P Schyns Sofam

Discover our new series of portraits of famous readers who are living or have lived in Brussels!

Behind her fringe and her big glasses, (portrait) photographer Laetitia Bica has the frank gaze of someone who has no time for tall stories. And yet this explorer of the contemporary image has lots of stories to tell. Stories in which beauty exerts its fascination, stumbled across by chance.

Not in the least negative, the Liège-born artist, who moved to Brussels 12 years ago, loves to leave her comfort zone so as to shake up codes and build up a visual world in which the model is also an actor of the creative process. Her photos are the fruit of artistic and emotional encounters. For instance, her initial encounter with fashion designer Jean-Paul Lespagnard soon turned the spotlight on this tandem of enfants terribles. Spotted as soon as she left school by the fashion press and a whole new generation of Belgian creators, Laetitia Bica doesn’t need to shoot up to get high, just to shoot. Her addiction to photography now contaminates the front pages of glossies, chic and choc editorials, album covers, clips, but also the most prestigious galleries and festivals (Festival international d’Hyères, Unseen Amsterdam, etc.)

Portrait of an outsized portrait photographer-reader.

- A place in Brussels in which to read?

I live close to Parc Josaphat. I like to lie down there with a book. Otherwise I love reading on trains, trams, buses. The buzz of public transport is interesting. The surrounding noise disturbs the reading but also adds something else. I’ve tried reading with music in my earphones, but that just doesn’t work. I prefer to read with what I hear around me and just make do with it. But quiet places can also be nice to spend time reading – for instance, waiting for someone in a museum, a gallery, etc.

- A favourite place in which to buy books in Brussels?

I really like Tropismes. For art books I go to Peinture Fraîche and Tipi. Bozar recently opened a bookshop and that thrilled me because they have a super diverse range, from essays on art to philosophy and sociology. I love it. I read too few novels, even though I’m a firm believer in fiction. But I’m going to catch up!

Obviously, when I go and see exhibitions, the cornershop is unavoidable. Some galleries really think about what they are going to put on sale there to go with what they are exhibiting. Not only catalogues, postcards or magnets. That’s how I discovered books that go deeper into what I saw. The latest book that really moved me* is one I found at the exhibition by Camille Henrot at the Palais de Tokyo. She proposed a selection of books that inspired her and I thought that was a wonderful idea.

I can also come across books on journeys, or walking down a street, or by chance – if there is such a thing as chance. Why is my eye drawn to a book among a hundred others? Sometimes simply because it fell off a table …

- A place in which to experience literature in Brussels?

You don’t always find partners with who you can engage in a dialogue. At parties, you don’t always talk about books. And yet I remember the opening of a bar. I was on the verge of boredom. As I love provoking encounters and I quite like controversy, I went over to a group of strangers to talk to them. We ended up sharing our favourite books, the books that changed the way we see things. Meeting people and sharing with them is definitely essential.

photo © pascal schyns

* Emanuele Coccia, Sensible Life. Trans. by Scott Alan Stuart. Fordham UP, 2016.

Catherine Colard