Exhibition: The new face of St. Sebastian

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Patron saint of archers, athletes and soldiers, venerated by both Catholic and Orthodox churches, the religious appeal to St Sebastian for protection against plagues.

French photographer Robin’s dramatic black and white pictures depicting the martyr’s suffering draw parallels between St Sebastian’s work as a healer and the challenges of AIDS in contemporary society. Visiting the exhibition is akin to being in a gallery, museum or church rather than the Brussels hotel lobby where Robin’s photos are currently exhibited.

A shy and reserved man in his forties, Robin – it is the only name he goes by – started out taking photos of artists and musicians onstage and backstage. For the past 20 years he has worked with top names in the worlds of music, fashion and cinema, among them David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Gérard Depardieu, Jean Paul Gaultier, Agnès B. Yet what makes his heart beat is the light of the Baie de Somme, the nature preserve and bird sanctuary on the coast of the English channel, halfway between Bolougne and Le Havre, where he spent his childhood photographing birds with a Nikon FE that he still cherishes.

The St Sebastian series questions the concepts of beauty and death, with the photographer’s powerful use of light bringing out the strength of living bodies. Robin prefers not to influence his models, barely giving them instructions for fear of influencing the outcome, observing and waiting to capture the moment he feels is right. Among the models for this series, Robin persuaded fashion designer Jean-Paul Lespagnard and milliner Elvis Pompilio to pose for him.

The pictures, in limited editions of 15, are on sale for €900 with 20% of the profit donated to the Belgian association Ex Aequo in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.

The exhibition is at Brussels Sofitel Hotel Le Louise, 50 Ave de la Toison d’Or, 1050 Brussels, until March 12.