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The faces of a diverse Luxembourg over the years
Cercle Cité exhibition

The faces of a diverse Luxembourg over the years

by Natalia PIKNA 2 min. 27.05.2022
A photography exhibition captures teenagers, pensioners, children and factory workers going about their everyday business
One of the photos in the exhibition shows a baby on a supermarket trolley
One of the photos in the exhibition shows a baby on a supermarket trolley
Photo credit: Natalia Pikna

A small photography exhibition nested in the Cercle Cité in Luxembourg’s capital displays the faces of Luxembourg – from factory workers, farmers, teenagers and pensioners to children.

Photo Studio of Life is an illuminating glimpse into Luxembourg society through portrait photographs by Luxembourger Norbert Ketter and Sophie Feyder, who was born to a Luxembourgish father and a Peruvian mother and grew up between New York and the Grand Duchy.

Visitors enter a room full of faces for Ketter’s part of the exhibition – the faces of a changing Luxembourg, and through these portraits, it becomes clear that diversity has long been part of the fabric of Luxembourgish society. Some people are seemingly uninterested in the photograph, others look straight into the camera, and there is also the rare posing.

All are caught in the actions of their daily life. Factory workers, farmers, teenagers, pensioners, children, all of various ethnicities, caught in the streets, pubs, windows, and cafes – everyday people going about their everyday business. The pictures capture a society busy existing, simultaneously still and in movement. One man’s eyes transpierce the viewer, as he looks above from his beer, with an “end racism” poster in the background.

Ketter, a Luxembourger born in Dudelange in 1942 and who died in 1997,  was influenced by humanist photography, a mid-century movement that focused on documenting society in a realistic way, but equally with an interest in landscape photography.

A man sitting on a chair in Feyder's part of the exhibition
A man sitting on a chair in Feyder's part of the exhibition
Natalia Pikna

The landscape aspect becomes apparent through objects in the background, often displaying Luxembourg’s multiculturalism – a poster advertising a festive event in Portuguese, a business called ‘Tapis d’Orient’ next to a ‘salon de coiffure’ - summoning memories of a distant land and the struggles of making a new land a home.

They can be subtle, and sometimes the lack of landscape is also revelatory. As the author Guy Rewenig described Ketter’s photography: “To characterise his work on this multicultural society, we could inverse the formula: it’s a series of faces - landscapes”. The people captured in the photos are landscapes in their own right. 

The exhibition is split into two parts, one presenting Ketter’s photographs that span the second part of the 20th century and another part displaying photographs by Feyder, providing a perspective from the 21st century.

All of Feyder’s exhibited works are posed portraits, a conscious gesture presenting what is lost and gained in leaving one’s country for another. Titled ‘And They Lived Happily Ever After’, the series focuses on what happens after a move towards a foreign country.

Each person is photographed outdoors, with Luxembourg or Belgium as a backdrop, with two chairs, a chessboard, and whatever objects they have chosen to represent their exile - a coffee grinder, a flag, and books in their native language. 

The exhibition includes testimonials from people in the photos, who have moved either to Belgium or Luxembourg, as well as from a Cuban exile who comments that she feels neither from “here nor there”. Staying and adapting is a struggle, she says, but leaving is becoming impossible. 

One of the testimonials, by an Albanian Luxembourger, summarises the feel of the exhibition, when he says that Luxembourg is about living with others.

The exhibition is at the Cercle Cité on Place d'Armes until 26 June.

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