Cultural Studies Leuven

Photo-Lit – The Belgian photo novel

By Clarissa Colangelo and Jan Baetens

In May, “PHOTO-LIT – The Belgian photo novel: local reuse of a European cultural practice“, a research project funded by the BRAIN-be framework, has started; today its website is online: www.photolit-brain.com.

The photo novel is a form of visual narrative with staged photographs, generally printed in magazine format, and was the dominant popular form in postwar pre-television Europe.

At the crossroads of film-novel, comics, melodrama, and serialized romance, the presence and impact of photo novels were unequalled, and its adaptations and re-appropriations in later periods remain an exceptional example of the dynamics of creativity and heritage, where they instantiate the visual turn in the transformations of reading and writing today.

The Belgian contribution to the photo novel, important and very diverse, has been completely overlooked by the existing scholarship. In a joint effort, professors and PhD students of KU Leuven (Jan Baetens, Fred Truyen and Clarissa Colangelo) and of ULg (Michel Delville, Luciano Curreri and Valentina Duminuco) together with professionals from KBR (among which head of digitization Frédéric Lemmers) will study the Belgian photo novel and disclose its form, meaning, relevance and history as an exemplary case of modern heritage in the era of mass media culture and technological modernization.

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