When mentioning the name Willem Frederik Hermans, any Dutch person will reply to you “The darkroom of Damocles”, his most famous literary work, taking place during WWII and just afterwards. A bit of existentialism, cynicism, a reflection of human condition dressed up like a thriller. What most people don’t know however is that Willem Frederik Hermans was also an avid photographer with his own darkroom. Taking as a pretext his 100th birth anniversary, Fotomuseum Den Haag presents his photographic work on a small scale with several vintage and new prints. The name of this exhibit, chosen by WFH himself, as indicated on a box he left behind “Quite Important Photos”. It is at the time of “The Darkroom of Damocles” publication in 1957 that WFH purchased a camera and started to learn about how to use it with his friend Nico Jesse. He spent some time taking pictures, first in his immediate surroundings around Groningen, then in Amsterdam and Paris. He left behind some 15,000 negatives  under which some interesting pictures of the cities, focusing a bit on the less glamorous details, buildings, posters. He also tried to take portraits but was always limited by his shyness. It is in his archives that WFH had a binder titled “quite important pictures” that was used as a title for the exhibit. Although far less developed than the oeuvre of other Dutch photographers active in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the pictures of Hermans serve as a witness of a world that is no more. For that reason alone, they are quite important indeed.

Self-portrait in Headlight, Santander, Spain, 1957 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Posters, Paris, 1957 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Self-portrait, Paris, 1978 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Posters and stairs, Paris, 1957 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Newsstand, Paris, 1956 Paris, 1978 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Newspaper-sellers in Pontevedra, Spain, 1957 Paris, 1978 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Wall with lettering near Dinant, Belgium, 1958 Paris, 1978 ©Willem Frederik Hermans
Backlit street, Paris, 1958 Paris, 1978 ©Willem Frederik Hermans