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Between 1916 and 1918 Willy Kessels studied moulding and architectural drawing. In 1925 he participated in Paris at the Exposition internationale des Arts Décoratifs where he was awarded a gold medal. During this period he collaborated with the Belgian artistic avant-garde including Marcel Baugniet, Victor Bourgeois and Henry van de Velde. Personal research in photography attracted his attention from 1926 onwards with his images being published in books, magazines and used by publicity agencies. From 1931 on he was exclusivly devoted to photography and in 1932 he exhibited his prints along with Germaine Krull, André Kertész, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray at the Brussels’ Exposition Internationale de la Photographie.
In 1933 Willy Kessels documented the filming of Misère au Borinage by Henri Storck and Joris Ivens. By this time his prints were being shown at many international exhibitions. Apart from the many portraits taken in the years 1930 between 1962 he continued until his death to experiment with photograms and multiples images.
As the most modern of Belgian photographers, Willy Kessels has been the object of a publication by Christine De Naeyer of the Musée de la Photographie at Charleroi. He emerges as a prolific photographer but also that from around 1940 he was sensitive to the call of nationalism and after the Second World War he was reproached for collaboration with the occupying forces.
(Contributed by the Musée de la Photographie – Charleroi)
Andries, Pool & Gonzales, François 1998 Willy Kessels (Paris:Trans Photographic Press)
Avermaete, Roger & Kessels, Willy 1932 Synthèse d’Anvers (Bruxelles: Ed. l’Eglantine)
De Naeyer, Christine 1996 Willy Kessels (Charleroi: Musée de la Photographie)
Guislain, Albert & Kessels, Willy 1930 Découverte de Bruxelles (Bruxelles: Ed. l’Eglantine)
Leplus, Françoise & Paviot, Alain 1990 Willy Kessels Photographies (Paris: Galerie A. Paviot)
Samoy, Albert 1974 Kunstfotograaf Willy Kessels, een levensschets (Anon publisher)
Willy Kessels, photographe. Amnesie 1997 (Bruxelles: Palais des Beaux-Arts)
Willy Kessels (1898-1974) Photographe au pays de Verhaeren 1988 (Sint-Amands: Provinciaal Museum Emile Verhaeren)