Isn’t it just a book with pictures? PHOTO-LIT: Photonovel Culture in Belgium

Interested in photography and stories? Ever heard of photonovels?

We are eleven Cultural Studies Master’s students at KU Leuven and we are proud to invite you to a special exhibition on the topic of Belgian photonovels.

“This collection is an absolute novelty, never been described nor disclosed before.” -Clarissa Colangelo

That’s right, from March 19th to May 8th, the PHOTO-LIT exhibition is the place to be! So, come join us Monday through Friday, from 10h to 17h, and Saturdays from 11h to 16h, at the KU Leuven University Library, then take a peek into the past through a carefully curated collection of photonovels.

You can admire it for only 2 euros, or for no price at all if you show your KU Leuven card. At the library, if time allows, there is other heritage to see, such as the old reading room.

Sure… but, what is a photonovel?

Basically, a photonovel is usually a romantic story  told with the use of successive photographs depicting scenes and situations in the order in which they occur. The photographs portray actors that make use of speech bubbles as they need to talk to each other, or to show what they are thinking. Sometimes there is a textual narrator to complement the ideas that cannot be conveyed by the dialogue and thoughts.

The beginning has a closure.

The project PHOTO-LIT which aims to put the photonovel genre back in the spotlight, originated in 2017 with the participation of KU Leuven, the University of Liege, BELSPO and the Royal Library (KBR). Nevertheless, it is very current right now because it is being incorporated into an exhibition due to Clarissa Colangelo’s doctoral dissertation which has been submitted this spring 2021.

Then, is there a lot to learn?

Of course, the exhibition revolves around the Belgian photonovel, showcasing the results of the research with examples of photonovels that were published in Belgium in the 1950s and 60s. There are many answers waiting to be discovered by people, about photonovels: When and where were they published? Who created them? How were they made? And who were their readers?

Visitors to the exhibition will be taken back in time to the beginnings of the photonovel, where its origins and evolution are revisited, uncovering its most famous and prolific creators in Belgium, and explaining their behind-the-scenes photos.

Cultural Studies Master’s students at KU Leuven take you to a place where past and present are linked together through a photonovel reenactment especially created for the exhibition. The photonovel not only uses modern technologies, but also defies the difficulties posed by the pandemic, and modernizes themes and poses of the past. This photonovel reenactment covers topics such as gender and sexuality; showing that photonovels do not have to remain in the forgotten pit of oblivion but can certainly be a hit in our days.

Besides, there is an interactive exhibition where people get souvenirs and a copy of the photonovel to take home.

Not convinced yet?

Keep in mind that the exhibition is the perfect opportunity to discover, with your parents and/or grandparents, or just your friends, in a corona-safe space, a piece of lost Belgian culture.

Do you need more reasons to assist?

There are magazines, photonovels, photographs and preparatory material that has never before been exhibited; partly digitized, with the aim of acquainting visitors with the masterfully digitized collection of photonovels resulting from the efforts of the KBR within the project.The exhibition is also trilingual (Dutch, French and English) so many of you will enjoy it in your own language.

Remember that we want to share our work with you…

The exhibition is curated by Clarissa Colangelo under supervision of project coordinator Jan Baetens. It is organized in collaboration with a group of students following the MA Cultural Studies at the KU Leuven, and the University Library of Leuven. Divided in groups, the students took care of Project Assistant ((Iza Moreno Reyes), Scenography (Elise Peeters, Felien Vandermotten, Stephanie Silva Chaparro, Xinyi Jiang, and Xiuyi Huang), Policy and Publicity (Lisa Albornoz Muñoz, and Liujun Shang), and reenactment (Jenske Verhamme, Jiaqi Li, and Lia Herbots).


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Facebook: / @photolitbrain 

Instagram: / @photo_lit_belgium



KU Leuven University Library, Leuven

21 Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Dates & Opening Hours;

March 19th to May 8th

Monday-Friday: 10h to 17h

Saturdays: 11h to 16h

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