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Concept and photography:
Dirk De Wachter
Rob van Hoesel
Sebastiaan Hanekroot (Colour&Books)
Wilco Art Books (NL)
Binding: Patist (NL)
Bond zonder Naam
Het Fonds GavoorGeluk
(Un)expected is a memorable photo project about the coping process of surviving relatives of suicides in West Flanders.
In 2008 the mother of documentary photographer Peter Dekens (BE) took her life and just recently a friend did the same. West Flanders, the region where he grew up, has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe, one and a half times higher than the European average and twice as many as the Netherlands. Every month in West-Flanders 20 people commit suicide.
During his research Dekens came into contact with people who had experienced a suicide of a loved one. For some this happened totally unexpected, for another the traumatic event was not unexpected at all.
(Un)expected contains five stories about the grief of survivors of suicide and the way people cope with their loss in different ways: the sadness, the grieving process, but also the attempts at finding a new way to live.
There is the story of Hanne who takes a daily walk to the woods for months to sit by the tree where Ime took his life. We see how Dekens’ father who continues to perform household tasks on autopilot after his wife’s death. How José repeatedly feels the emotion on the train ride as she passes the spot where Steven left his life. The pain and the fight against depression of Kris who lost her son. And the children of Walter who have to cope with the loss of their mother.
Dekens hopes that the book will play a socially useful role, and that it is seen by caregivers, general practitioners, specialists, nurses and students in psychology, psychiatry and social work. But above all, he would like the book to be a support for survivors and to make the taboo regarding suicide widely debatable.
Peter Dekens graduated in 2012 from the documentary photography department, St. Joost, Breda. His projects fit within a larger research domain in which Dekens is aimed at making accessible socially sensitive themes such as the social consequences of blindness, suicide and the life of a family on the periphery of society. His previous two books (Un)expected, about the grieving process of suicide relatives, and Touch, a portrait of the life of a blind boy, both received international attention and appreciation. Touch was nominated for the DutchDoc-Awards and (Un)expected was, a.o., proclaimed Photobook of the Year (PHotoEspaña), awarded at The Best Dutch Book Designs 2016 and won a Silver Medal at the Best Book Designs from all over the World in Leipzig. His latest project Shaky Ground was recently shown as a preview at BredaPhoto.