We are pleased to present this newly revised and updated "beta" version of the Directory of Belgian Photographers. It consists of a comprehensive database of photographers active in Belgium and of Belgian nationality active abroad between the introduction of photography in 1839 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

There are some 8 400 entries, including 350 cross-references, covering professional and amateur photographers as well as firms and individuals active in connected trades (for instance, platemaking, photomechanical printing, postcard publishing). For further explanations on the content and structure, please consult the section Directory: structure of entries.

This database is a revised and expanded version of the Directory of Photographers in Belgium 1839-1905 by Steven F. Joseph, Tristan Schwilden and Marie-Christine Claes, published by the Museum of Photography, Antwerp in 1997. The same authors have been active in creating this online version, once again with the enthusiastic support of FOMU. English is used throughout, in order to make the database accessible to a broad audience of international scholars and researchers. An exception is made for locations and Place Names in Belgium, which have been faithfully transcribed from the original sources used by the photographers themselves.

The contents of the 1997 Directory have been thoroughly updated. Around 4 000 of the original 5 200 substantive entries have been revised to take full account of recent scholarship and in particular the new knowledge that online resources have made available in the twenty-five years since the Directory was first published. Some 3 000 new entries have enabled the historical record of Belgian photography to be extended until 1914 when the outbreak of the First World War marked a caesura in photographic activity from an economic as well as the creative point of view. The Exhibitions record has also been completed, covering more than 260 individual exhibitions that span the whole era of photography from September 1839 (Salon des beaux-arts, Brussels) to August 1914 (Photo-Club d'Anvers).

To supplement the main printed sources listed for the 1997 printed version, we have made and continue to make extensive use of many online resources, in particular the two genealogical sites Geneanet and FamilySearch, the "persons" database in the State Archives of Belgium as well as the BelgicaPress digitized newspaper archive hosted by the Royal Library of Belgium. This version of our database has also been enriched by harvesting an ancient physical database, the original card file of the Association belge de Photographie, enabling us to review and revise the entries for some 2 000 individuals who formed the club’s pre-WWI membership. We have made an especial effort to retrace the lives and careers of the 287 men and two women who joined the ABP from its foundation in 1874 until the end of 1879, the vast majority of whom have now been identified with their life-dates transcribed. All these revisions and additions can be browsed chronologically in "Recent changes".

The software used for creating this database is Atomis for ICA-AtoM, an open-source web application for archive description and management. The basic structure of the Directory is alphabetical in both printed and digital versions but with some specificities inherent in the electronic environment used. Thus, when searching the database, which is space-sensitive as well as accent-sensitive, it may be necessary to use alternative forms of names (for instance, Van der Straeten / Vander Straeten / Vanderstraeten or Ghémar / Ghemar). Likewise, forenames for the same individual may be encountered in up to three forms - Latin, French or Dutch - with corresponding variations in initials (for instance, Georgius / Georges / Joris or Carolus / Charles / Karel).

We would like to emphasise that this version of our database is experimental and not in its final form. It is exclusively text-based so that, for relevant images, visitors are able to search the Museum's collection online at https://collection.fotomuseum.be/ The authorial and technical team remains active in expanding the database, improving its contents and enhancing its search capability. Furthermore we are planning to add forms to facilitate searching the Locations and Exhibitions fields.

Finally, we would like to thank those visitors who have given their feedback and generously allowed us to incorporate their own research into many individual entries since the initial version of this Directory of Belgian Photographers was placed online in December 2016. We welcome further queries or comments, in Dutch, French, German or English, via the dedicated mailbox directory[at]fomu.be

© The Authors, June 2024

The Directory is dedicated to the memory of Tristan Schwilden (1943-2021), antiquarian bookseller and scholar, who originated the concept of this reference work nearly 40 years ago, in an era of pen, paper and archival dust.