Bart Heynen, Belgian portrait photographer behind Dads, dies at 55

New York, January 22, 2024 - The Belgian portrait photographer Bart Heynen died after an illness on Tuesday, January 16, in his New York home. 

Heynen began his career with editorial portraits for the leading Flemish and Dutch media outlets. He is best known, however, for a pioneering monograph, Dads, that captures the vulnerability and tenderness of gay fatherhood. 

Freelance portrait photographer

Bart Heynen was born May 25, 1968 in Leuven, Belgium. He earned a Master of Arts from the Free University Brussels and studied further at the International Center of Photography in New York. He commenced his career as a freelance photographer working for the editorial teams at the reputable press outlets in Belgium and the Netherlands including, De Standaard, De Morgen, De Tijd, Weekend Knack, Elle, De Volkskrant en Vrij Nederland, among others. 

Bart Heynen (1968-2024)
Bart Heynen (1968-2024)

The intimate moments of public figures

Heynen photographed iconic portraits both at home and abroad from top Belgian athletes to American celebrities like Ethan Hawke. Internationally renowned writers such as Paul Auster, James O'Neill and Jonathan Safran Foer and notable entrepreneurs like John W. Thompson, Arianna Huffington, Diane Von Fürstenberg have been on the other side of his lens. Politician and diplomat, Hillary Clinton, and model Hannelore Knuts have posed for him, too.

Bart Heynen was especially curious about the person behind the public figure. His more well-known models were often portrayed expressing an unguarded moment. Through his personal approach, he succeeded in creating moving, human portraits.

Bart Heynen's first two books feature well-known Belgian and Dutch personalities. In the first, Waterlanders, which came out in 2011, he depicts fragile, tearful moments in close up. In Slapers (Sleepers), published in 2016, Bart Heynen caught subjects in the throes of sleep. During the day, they are popular personalities, but by night, ordinary and unaware like everyone else.

Gay fathers in America

Bart Heynen moved with his family in 2011 to New York City, where he began to delve into American social issues. In 2015, marriage became legal in the U.S. for same-sex couples and spawned a baby boom in the gay community. Heynen, himself gay and a father, decided to document the shift in a third book. Dads was released in 2021. It was a poetic exploration of fatherhood among gay men in the United States through photographs of all aspects of parenting. Heynen hoped to show that a family is possible for anyone who dreams of it. "I hope it inspires LGBT people to choose a family someday, if they would like to," he explained in an interview.

Bart Heynen became seriously ill in the fall of 2023, and died on January 16, 2024. 

Heynen leaves behind his life partner, Rob Heyvaert and two children. Private services were held on Saturday, January 20 in New York.

Website Bart Heynen

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