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Jef Van den Bossche : On a soif


Jef Van den Bossche presents his book On a soif.

As a child, my father used to take me to small pubs all across Belgium. In 2001 he wrote a book about the last so-called volkscafés, or people’s pubs in the province of Antwerp. Nearly two decades later I returned the favor and dragged my father on a quest for Belgium’s last remaining volkscafés.

​Although no strict definition applies to all volkscafés, there are some recurring elements. The price boards often show little mercantile aspirations and are merely a bare necessity to keep things running. Therefore few owners were able or willing to keep up with the latest interior trends and remained true to the original design in their pubs were once established. They may not have intended it as such, but that is what makes volkscafés an aesthetic document of time, in addition to the family legacies that they often are.

​What intrigues me about these places, is that they incite an increasingly rare social interaction. Volkscafés are meeting places for a cross section of society where customers simply get to be themselves. So when lawyers, construction workers, know-it-alls and philosophers no longer get to solve world problems at their local bar, the communal life fades away. Under the wake of globalization small businesses make way for contemporary competitors with an international appeal. Nowadays traditional meeting points such as these are rather seldom.

This series is an attempt to keep their spirit alive.

Jef Van den Bossche


Jef Van den Bossche (Wilrijk 1993) is a Belgian documentary photographer working and living in Brussels. In 2021 he received his Master’s in Photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. Besides his work as an interior and architectural photographer, he maintains a diverse personal practice, having documented communal spaces emptied by the pandemic and spent two years portraying Belgium’s vanishing café culture. In addition, Jef freelances for various newspapers and magazines such as De Standaard, Wilfried Mag, and a.o.


Jef Van den Bossche : On a soif

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