'Professor Peeh and de Voesjesmannen', characters by Rony Heirman and backgrounds by Jan Hoet.

Rony Heirman was a Belgian portrait photographer, who took pictures of celebrities from Belgium and abroad, mostly from the world of arts. From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, Heirman was also active as a comic artist for local magazines and the children's publications Zonneland and Zonnekind. He collaborated with future art curator Jan Hoet under the pseudonym Heirhoe. Their 1969 story 'Professor Peeh en de Voesjesmannen' was published in book format by Oogachtend in 2005.

Early life and photography career
Rony Heirman was born in 1936 in Lokeren. Part of his childhood was spent in Congo, back when the country was still a Belgian colony. He studied Plastic Arts at the Rijksnormaalschool in Ghent, where Jan Hoet was one of his classmates. After graduation, Heirman became a professional photographer, while teaching this artform at the Sint-Lukas School of Arts in Brussels until 1999. Nicknamed the "Godfather of Flemish Photography", he took photographs of many famous people from the world of politics and sports, but specialized in making photographs of writers and visual artists. Hilde Braet was his assistant. The finest collection of Rony Heirman's photographic oeuvre can be seen in 'Uit De Kunst' (De Buck, Wetteren, 1987) and 'Ontmoetingen' (Lannoo, Tielt, 2010).

Comics
Between 1969 and 1975, Heirman and his friend Jan Hoet made four humor comics together. 'De Romeintjes', 'Wien en Kwek' and 'De Daverende Blauwe Peren' were written by Karel Verleyen and appeared in Zonneland and Zonnekind, both Catholic children's magazines published by Altoria in Averbode. The madcap fantasy story 'Professor Peeh and de Voesjesmannen' was serialized in De Ronselaar, based on a script by Erik Knaepen. Their art also appeared in De Vooruit. Hoet and Heirman drew everything together under the joint pseudonym Heirhoe, a contamination of their last names. Because of his academic experience in drawing from life, Hoet took care of the backgrounds, while Heirman concentrated on the characters. It led to an odd stylistic clash, where cartoony characters walk around in realistically-rendered backgrounds. Hoet and Heirman merely made their comics for fun. Once Hoet became museum curator, their comic production career came to an end.

Decades later, in 2005, comic journalist Geert De Weyer convinced publishing company Oogachtend to collect the 1969 story 'Professor Peeh en de Voesjesmannen' in a limited book edition. As a curator of that year's Comics Festival of Turnhout, De Weyer organized an exhibition about the comics Hoet and Heirman made together. He also interviewed them about the work. This interview was included in the 2005 book collection. 'Professor Peeh en de Voesjesmannen' is a silly tale about Mr. Peeh and his son Baby. One day they go out looking for cockchafers (maybugs) in the woods. Suddenly they tumble into an underground hallway, where they are imprisoned by a group of gnomes, named the "Voesjesmannen" The idea of the Voesjesmannen story seems to be inspired by the then popular Flemish children's TV series 'Johan en de Alverman' (1965-1966), which also starred a knight and a gnome.


New year's card for 2012.

Mijn Oude Schoolmeester
In 1972, Belgian novelist Louis-Paul Boon, famous for 'De Kapellekesbaan' and 'Daens', wrote a short story titled 'Mijn Oude Schoolmeester'. Written for the 25th anniversary of a local school in Wetteren, it documents Boon's school memories. Since Heirman once taught at this school, he illustrated Boon's story.

Death
Rony Heirman passed away in 2013 in Sint-Martens Latem, at the age of 77. About half a year later, his old friend Jan Hoet died at the same age. Heirman's oldest son, Aldrik Heirman, is a landscape architect, and his second son, Tim Heirman, is also active as a photographer and painter.


Flyer for the exposition 'Fotograaf Rony Heirman. 50 jaar ontmoetingen' in the Kunsthal Sint-Pietersabdij in Ghent in June 2010, curated by Patrick Lateur.

Series and books by Rony Heirman in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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