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LARS CROMMELINCK: “I always want to be close to people and be part of their emotions, whether it’s sadness, or great joy.”

I haven’t told Lars Crommelinck this, but his image capturing minute 93:33 seconds at the Bosuilstadion, where Toby Alderweireld’s stunning stoppage-time winner sent Antwerp into ecstasy is the football equivalent of the Mona Lisa. It is living breathing art.

Minute 93:33 seconds

If anybody ever asks ‘What does sport or football mean to people?’ then his image encapsulates all of that. 66 years of hurt for Royal Antwerp were forgotten forever in an instant, as Alderweireld’s strike secured them their first Belgian Pro League title in over 3 decades. As Delirium swarmed and swallowed the Bosuilstadion, Lars had the calmness and composure to capture a moment in time that for so many will never be forgotten.

When Alderweireld’s shot caressed the back of the net there was an explosion of excitement and you can see it across every face in Lars’s image. Life-long friends and family members grab hold of each other, strangers embrace, and every emotion possible is painted on their faces. Beer and fists are flying, eyes are bulging, and mouths are wide with shock.

Not bad for a person who doesn’t consider themselves to be a football fanatic. But somebody instead who is entranced by the emotion of the beautiful game. Lars portrays all of that here and not even Leonardo di Vici himself could have painted such a masterpiece.

“Don’t ask me about the statistics of Kevin De Bruyne or how many goals Romelu Lukaku has scored, or how many times Barcelona has won the Champions League because I genuinely have no clue.

“My love for football is mainly in the magical atmosphere that can linger in a stadium and the emotions that come with it. The way football can truly shape people’s lives, I find it absolutely beautiful. Tattoos of clubs, the emotions after a lost match… I love it!

“Tattoos of clubs, the emotions after a lost match… I love it!”

23 years old, and born and raised in Knesselare, East Flanders, Belgium, where Lars lived until the age of 18, surrounded as he puts it, by “cows and pigs.” At 18, he moved to Ghent to study, where he has been ever since.

“Ghent is a fantastic city with many historical elements. My workplace, Boldhouse, is right in the centre, just an 8-minute walk from my apartment. Rain or shine, I walk through the centre of Ghent every day, and each time, I fall in love with this city all over again. In fact, if anybody reading this is planning a visit to Belgium, skip Brussels and come to Ghent. They can always contact me, and I’ll gladly show them the most beautiful cafés and order the best beers for them.”

Lars’s interest in photography began at the age of 14, and his talent was evident. Through hard work and perseverance, he was given the opportunity to work for Sporting Lokeren where his presence caused a great deal of controversy within the Jupiler Pro League.

Lars aged 14 honing his craft with Sporting Lokeren

“My love for football is mainly in the magical atmosphere that can linger in a stadium.”

Despite moments of self-doubt Lars’s determination not to give up has seen him carve out an incredibly successful career so far, where his work for Sporting Lokern, Royal Antwerp and PSV has gained him a great deal of admiration. He has also worked across a number of sporting events like the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup and captured images for the biggest festivals in Belgium for Studio Brussel. Each time perfectly capturing the moment and emotion of all that is happening around him

It has now been ten years since Lars first picked up a camera and began working tirelessly to perfect his craft. He’s come a long way since those days, and at the start of the year, he made the decision to go freelance as a photographer and content creator.

“I’ve waited a long time for this moment, I have had my doubts and often heard that, “I’ll never be able to pay for my sandwiches with it.” But his courage to create and the conviction and belief he has in himself to live a life without regrets and do what he loves has seen him set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

“I hesitated for a very, very, very long time to become a freelancer. The uncertainty that comes with it is definitely not easy. I also have to admit that my parents had doubts for a long time about the financial security. I’m not very good with invoices, accounting, and dealing with the bank. But ultimately, I’m very glad that I took the plunge! I’ve been freelancing for about a month now and am having a great time.”

It was an absolute pleasure for us to sit down with Lars as we discussed his work, achievements and dreams for the future. I genuinely hope you all enjoy his work as much as we do.

I secretly take pride in the fact that a new rule came about because of me

My love of photography began when I was fourteen. Bored during the summer, I decided to send emails to all Belgian professional football clubs asking if I could come take photos for them. I was first accepted by Zulte Waregem, where I had the opportunity to photograph the fan day.

Later, Sporting Lokeren, a small but very cosy sports club in East Flanders, came into my life. I photographed the Sporting Lokeren-Moeskroen match for them, having borrowed some photography equipment from a friend of my dad’s, and to my own surprise, I was invited to stay.

A week later, on my birthday, I signed my contract with Sporting Lokeren at the age of 14. It was a fantastic day!

“Sporting Lokeren, a small but very cosy sports club in East Flanders, came into my life.”

I worked there for 3.5 years and had a wonderful time. Lokeren had a strong team at the time, competing at the top of the standings and even winning the Belgian Cup once. Amazing! Unfortunately, not everyone was happy about my presence. Many press photographers deemed me too young, so I occasionally faced shoves or insults.

There was even one older photographer who strongly disagreed with a 14-year-old taking photos of a professional club and being allowed on the field. He filed a complaint with the Jupiler Pro League, leading to a new rule that requires a club photographer must be 18 years old.

I secretly take pride in the fact that a new rule came about because of me, but my fellow photographers certainly opposed me when I was very young. I find that incredibly unfortunate!

“Unfortunately, not everyone was happy about my presence.”

It was only then that I realised I might actually make a career out of this.

For a long time, I also doubted that this could ever become my profession. Many people told me it’s not sustainable to work as a photographer, and that it wouldn’t bring in enough money, and I believed them for a long time.

However, last year, after getting the chance to take photos for PSV and later having a photo sale with frame sales of the picture that I took of Antwerp, both reports gained a bit of international attention. It was only then that I realised I might actually make a career out of this.

I have doubted myself a lot and considered it a hobby rather than my job for a long time. I never thought I could make a living out of it. As a young guy (14-16 years old) with little experience, I worked a lot for free. You gain experience, and especially when you’re so young, I would recommend it to many people.

Gaining experience or photographing for a very low budget often outweighs receiving a large budget for your work. It is and will always be a challenging balance.

“It is and will always be a challenging balance.”

I vividly remember the period from 2020 to 2022 when I had little work due to COVID-19, and I wanted to improve but couldn’t find the right connections and was rarely booked. During that time, I thought for a long while that maybe I should look for another hobby.

I always want to be close to people and be part of their emotions

I believe that only in the past year I have truly started to develop a specific style in my work. In the past, I was also studying in conjunction with my job, which meant I had very little time to explore my own style.

However, in the last year, I’ve noticed that I’ve unconsciously started to work towards that. I think the easiest way to describe my style is ’emotions.’ I recently sold my 70-200 2.8 lens because I hardly use it anymore.

I always want to be close to people and be part of their emotions, whether it’s sadness, great joy, or anything in between. I just always want to be emotionally involved in what I photograph. I believe that’s the strength of my images. Hence why I practically shoot everything with a 35mm 1.4 & 85mm 1.4.

Anything where I am emotionally involved. It can range from weddings to football matches. But events where emotions are really high, I absolutely love!

A simple match between two clubs where there’s no rivalry doesn’t interest me much. Give me the derbies or the title matches; I find the atmosphere and tension in the stadium truly phenomenal!

continue doing what you love

My advice to anybody looking to get into photography is to keep trying and never give up. I think that’s the advice many would give, and it’s genuinely the standpoint I endorse.

When you’re young, ensure you always get paid for your work, but don’t focus too much on those budgets. You’ll have assignments where you earn a significant amount, and there will be others where you earn less.

“Above all, continue doing what you love.”

Above all, continue doing what you love. I’ve now forced myself to shoot corporate events only sparingly. I find little inspiration and joy in them, but I used to do it often for the substantial money it can bring in, much more than in sports. It’s often a challenging search, but I try to make the best of it!

THE Fan experience, when it doesn’t escalate, is the most beautiful thing.

I believe that the photo series I created for PSV has changed a lot for me. It was one of the first times I took photos of the supporters during a match.

On such a day, I usually take around 2,000 photos, and I think I captured only about a hundred images of the players on the field. My focus was solely on the supporters.

Afterwards, through all the positive reactions I received, I realised that photographing supporters is something that almost nobody does. Many told me that supporters, especially hooligans, are not to be photographed. They might attack me, and people in the stands don’t want to be photographed.

However, I am convinced that it’s entirely the opposite. Fan experience, when it doesn’t escalate, is the most beautiful thing. I often find it more enjoyable than photographing a dull football match. So, the photo series I created for PSV is something I am really proud of! 

Additionally, I also recently had the opportunity to take photos for the first time at the biggest festivals in our country for Studio Brussel. Studio Brussel has been my favourite radio station since I was very young. The presenters were my big heroes! I was genuinely a little proud of myself when I could take photos for them at Tomorrowland, Pukkelpop, and Graspop. Love Studio Brussel!



I dream of taking photos at the Olympic Games

I’m not at all a morning person. I only come alive from 10:00 in the morning onwards. I’m also a true nerd who still reads newspapers, so give me a Saturday where I can wake up with a coffee and my girlfriend. Then, spend a couple of hours reading the newspaper, and in the afternoon, go to a football match, preferably a derby or a match where a club can become champion.

Once again, the atmosphere in a stadium during those moments is delightful. If I can then meet up with my family and friends in the evening, it’s been a wonderfully beautiful day.

I’ve stopped making bucket lists. Often, I put unrealistic things on them and end up disappointed when I can’t fulfil them later on. 2024 will be the year in which I am a full-time freelancer for the first time, so I find it really challenging to predict where I’ll end up this year. January was already wonderfully beautiful!

I mainly hope to take on a lot of foreign projects, and very secretly, I dream of taking photos at the Olympic Games, but it’s still hard to estimate if I can make that happen. We’ll see!

All our thanks to the gentleman that is Lars Crommelinck.

To follow Lars on social media, please visit here

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