If God Were a Photographer ... - OZY | A Modern Media Company

If God Were a Photographer ...

If God Were a Photographer ...

By Eugene S. Robinson

Brussels by night.
SourcePhoto courtesy of Mathias Mattéo


Because getting high never felt so good.

By Eugene S. Robinson

Mathias Mattéo, Brussels

My English is not so fluent. But between your bad French and my rough English, I think this will be fine. I’m from Belgium, I live in Brussels, I’m 29 and I call what I do urban photography. Urban or street. I call it that because my father was a photographer and it seemed somehow that what I was doing was different. Starting with this bit of information: I am not trained as a photographer. In fact, what I do for a job has nothing to do with photography. I am a recruiter.

I’ve been taking photos for two years now, and the taking of photos came after I realized I was obsessed with heights. I spent a lot of time on rooftops all over Brussels, mostly for the views they offer. I found these moments magical, so magical that it was then I started thinking I should capture them. I’m mostly known for the rooftop photos, but I call it urban because lots of what I like to photograph — underground stations and tunnels — couldn’t be photographed from above. 

Having a camera is very different from having a can of spray paint with me. I’m taking something ephemeral, not leaving something tangible.

The Belgian weather doesn’t always agree with me and my efforts, but, in general, I’m trying to go as high as I can humanly get,  and I’m usually trying to do this at a time of day like sunrise or sunset when the colors look their best. It’s not always entirely legal, and sometimes I have trouble with the police for being on prohibited buildings — but nothing serious. Having a camera is very different from having a can of spray paint with me. I’m taking something ephemeral, not leaving something tangible. 

At an exhibition of my photos I met a man who said that he was in constant need of an adrenaline rush. So I took him up a tower in Brussels right across from Magasin 4. It’s across the canal, but the entrance is hidden. Getting to the top of it? Breathtaking. A really different way to see and of seeing the things that we live in and on and around all of the time. I don’t think of the danger so much as I do capturing the essence of what I am seeing when I am lining up a shot.

But outside of taking these photos, my main activities are traveling, where I also take photos, my family and my friends.

In my dream world I’d like to travel a lot more, to see more. And to take advantage of being able to photograph more of the places that, to my eye, only seem halfway discovered. 

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