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With the recent publication of new photography magazines, here in The Netherlands and in France, it seems that Christmas is everyday. At least, it is a renewed feast for the eyes. From the avant-gardist Fisheye, to the homage to photo reporters in Like, to the posh Pf fotografie and to an air of Polka.
Another weird exhibit at the Fotomuseum Den Haag. This time, it is an exhibit of photographs literally dug out of nowhere. A photographer, Ernst Lalleman, found a box full of large-format negatives in a squatted building in The Hague in 1984. These photographs were taken by a studio, well known to the locals in the past “Foto Americain”. This is a bizarre encounter with past inhabitants of The Hague, most of which are total strangers, photographed in the 1960’s. Lalleman had the idea, through his project “Who are we”, to give a name to these people. So far, he was able to trace back 48 of them. Beyond the documentary aspect, those photographs show a world that is no longer. Nostalgia for the 60’s? I don’t think so, but these people, young and old, staring straight back at us, are disarming and endearing, and yet, strange and weird.
I knew Roger Ballen from his series of photographs and portraits taken in South Africa, collected in his work “Platteland” and depicting a forsaken white population. The portrait of this policeman (shown below) was priceless. I saw him exhibited in Ottawa, Canada, and found it already quite scary and shocking. He is a famous photographer, widely recognised as one of the best of his generation. He was born in New York City in 1950, but lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, since 1980. After studying psychology at the University of California, he started to work as a photographer. Over the past two or three decades, Roger Ballen has mixed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques around his photographs, to create enigmatic, mysterious (weird?) scenes. The Fotomuseum in Den Haag pays a tribute to his creativity by presenting a wide range of his photographs and pieces and invites us to discover “the world according to Roger Ballen”. A weird world for sure, populated by humans at the margin of society, dead animals displayed, revealing the darker sides of the human spirit. Highly disturbing images, staring into the eyes of cruel boys, playing with (or torturing) cats. An esoteric world that we don’t necessarily want to know, to be honest. So in short, I decided that this time, I did not want to play ball with Ballen.
I discovered Randy Fokke on a famous Dutch television game program. A woman with a quiet strength and determination. Fokke is also an artist. Apart from acting, which she does professionally, she is also a photographer. Her website, titled “Listen to your eyes” is also an ode to listening to one’s heart. The message of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in “Le petit prince” comes to the mind “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. Randy manages through her photographs to beat that quote, or else, she tells us another story… your eyes is a direct conduit to your heart. In any case, she is my coup de ❤️ today. I particularly enjoyed her Random Beauty series and her capturing of loneliness in the busy streets of Amsterdam. I hope that Randy continues, alongside a successful acting career, to develop her true talent for images and that she is presented in exhibits and published.
The pictures of New York by Alain Keler are simply exceptional! Somewhere between “The Americans” by Robert Frank and “America in Passing” by Henri Cartier-Bresson. He took his photographs in the early 1970’s while being down and out in NYC and trying to earn a living as a waiter, before eventually being expelled as illegal alien towards Mexico… Beautiful black and whites, a grain to dream of, a profound sense of composition, an intimate encounter with the real Newyorkers hanging out on Washington Square or elsewhere. A very humane look at and a declaration of love to the city that never sleeps. A definite coup de ♥️ for this incredible photographer. Les Editions de Juillet made a remarkable work creating a beautiful object and revealing a wonderful artist. Alain Keler quotes Walker Evans in this book, and it definitely applies to him “Photography is an Art when the photographer is an artist”: chapeau l’artiste! Looking forward to the publication of his works in Latin America in 2022 by the same incredible publisher.
On the side of the Vincent Mentzel exhibition, a few photographs of Marieke van der Velden were shown. The self-professed storyteller spent a Monday in Kabul in 2013 and shows us the life of the ordinary Afghani living their life, without that Talibans. With nothing big going on, we see people enjoying being together for a picnic, a walk in a park or a gathering near the mosque. Refreshing pictures of people laughing and profiting of the mild weather. In 2021, these pictures give of course another insight, as one cannot forget to draw a parrallel with the current situation in Afghanistan.
On the side of the Mentzel exhibit, the curator had the great idea to present young talents. Joris van Gennip is one of them. He works for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant and covered the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Paris in June 2020. Gripping contrast between this female demonstrator on the ground, hands tied in the back, and the boots of the law enforcement personnel. Graphic views against the blue skies above Paris, and phantasmagorical shadows… a photographer to follow. The future of photojournalism is not dead!
It is never too late to be exposed to new or unknown (by me) artists. I did not know of the existence of Vincent Mentzel, although he had a rich career as photojournalist since the early 1970s. His work was published mainly in the major Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad but also in Newsweek, Time, Life, and The New York Times. The gorgeous museum of Hilversum, now a familiar place, presents his oeuvre under the title “Photographer of the Power”. I don’t like this title, as it has limited bearings to his talent. Yes, he did photograph extensively the Dutch political arena and class, but not only. He also documented the social and political fights of the average Dutch citizens (they seem long forgotten now), made extraordinary portraits of all sorts of people, like Vaclav Havel or Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam (whom he managed to render almost sympathetic), travelled to various parts of the world including China, Iran or Suriname, and brought back compelling images of the ordinary men and women in their day-to-day existence. The man, now 75, enjoys the fame he deserves. I truly hope someone will make a book of his masterpieces. `
While at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, I came across a small-scale exhibit of the work of Julie Cockburn. Curious and eager as I am, I investigated further… Julie Cockburn takes old found photographs, portraits and landscapes, and gives them a new life with embroidery, ceramic and montages. The result is refreshing, colourful, playful and amusing. A bit Picasso-esque, dadaist. I leave to the curator the explanation of the approach: “In offering up her personal, visual language in dialogue with the original, Cockburn highlights that we all bring our histories and perspectives to bear as we look or ‘read’
photos, and invites the viewer to become aware of, and empowered by, their own reading”.
Sometimes, some conjunctions take place… seeing one picture makes you think of another… Helen Levitt met Henri Cartier-Bresson and yet, her picture is anterior to that of HCB. Coincidence? I don’t know. In any case, Helen Levitt’s street baseball player of Mexico City made me think of the boys I met in Havana doing the same.
I stumbled upon another marvel, while browsing for photo galleries in London: the work of Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen. Sirkka Liisa is a Finnish photographer who has worked in the UK since the 1960s. After studying photography in London in the 1960s, she moved to Newcastle in 1969 and started photographing Byker, the part of town where she lived. After the posh England of Regent Street and Pimlico, a trip to the poor England of Byker was appropriate. Poverty exudes from each photograph. Humans making a living in a bleak environment, rows of houses, uniformity, greyness, gloom, misery. Striking images of a time, not too far away in the past, not far away from us. A reminder that sometimes poverty is at our doors and we fail to see it. A sobering moment looking at these images.
A visit to London was the occasion to check out a magnificent retrospective of the work of Helen Levitt at the no-less magnificent Photographers Gallery located in the heart of Soho. Helen Levitt was an avid street photographer. From the 1930s through the 1990s, she spent decades documenting local communities in her native New York (and one single small step out to Mexico), capturing everyday city life on the street, in neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side, Bronx, and Spanish Harlem. She left behind a massive body of work, inspired at times by works from Henri Cartier-Bresson whom she met and got inspiration from. I could find among the numerous photographs exposed on two floors, some winks to HCB but Helen Levitt definitely developed her own style, made of surrealist pictures of people making weird poses in the street and candidly going about their business. Summarizing her oeuvre in a few words is impossible but the exhibit presented spans over various moments of her life as an artist: from the streets of Spanish Harlem in black and white to the portraits in the metro to the lovely colour photographs of the 1970s. Helen Levitt also turned to filming the same streets and it was fun to recognise the subjects she also photographed. I give here a few examples only of her masterpieces. All in all, a beautiful moment, almost levitating in awe in front of the pictures of this grande dame.
Coup de ♥️ for the pictures of Emmanuelle Biadi. Emmanuelle’s eyes are the first thing one notices when meeting her. Surrounded by her iconic red glasses, they sparkle and shine. She cannot be mistaken for someone else. Woman with a real presence, She is an expert, a guru in her very technical field, but she is much more than that. She is also an artist. Those eyes of hers scan for the ordinary beauty around her constantly and when spotted, she captures it on pixels. It can be a close-up of a flower, a landscape, an attitude, a pattern. She shares her work scarcely only with the people she trusts and considers. She is eclectic, always seeking the plus, the extra. Her sense of composition is pronounced and she organizes her photographs like paintings. I suspect she would like some more recognition around that aspect of her (otherwise) lovely personality. So it is with great pleasure that I share here some of her recent work.
The Musée du Jeu de Paume, located in the prestigious Jeu de Paume, on Place de la Concorde opened its doors to the MoMA. More precisely, to the Thomas Walther collection, acquired in 2001 and 2017 by the MoMA. It is a large body of works covering teh beginnings of photography in 1900 to the 1940’s. More than 230 pictures, small and big, are displayed in a large exhibit covering the two levels of Jeu de Paume. I arrived at the opening and could stroll freely, with a few other visitors on this Tuesday morning, between the works of Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, George Hoyningen-Huene and many others, lesser known. The prints are old, often small, and give a sense of uniqueness. We go through the inventive first years of photography, lots of experiments, beautiful portraits of famous artistes, like Henri Cartier-Bresson in his early years, to Jean Cocteau, photo-shy to Paul Citroen and Piet Mondrian. Germany in the 1930’s is always fascinating as well, when one knows what happened later. The roofs of Paris, the streets of Berlin are virtually unchanged despite the years. August Sandler is also present, with a portrait of an Art dealer, far from the romantic view one may have.
To finish this fruitful day, a small stop for a glass of champagne at the posh Christie’s gallery in Paris. We were not on the list of guests but made our way into the inner sanctum, shoulder to shoulder with the happy few, capable of purchasing 30,000€ to 80,000€ pictures for their loft in the 16eme arrondissement… or simply there because they knew someone who knew someone, and the champagne was free of charge. In any case, some very nice art work was for sale the next day, and exhibited publicly, before disappearing for ever in the collection of some private collector. I particularly enjoyed being confronted again with a large piece by Edward Burtynsky, already seen in Singapore, the girl with a shopping bag on her head by Hendrik Kerstens or the homage to Marc Riboud with “Mathilde on the Eiffel Tower” by Peter Lindbergh, alongside the original or “the Wild Ones” by the same Lindbergh.
A delightful art opening at the delightful Artcurial auction house to see delightful pictures of a delightful man, present that evening: Johannes von Saurma is an old fashion man, kind and discreet, he went on the steps of Robert Doisneau to enter the private world of some of the Parisian concierges. After a few words, he was given the opportunity to photograph that endangered species in their own habitat. Small apartments, meager possessions, modest condition, the concierges have been present throughout the centuries to keep an eye on the tenants of the Parisian buildings. They are still alive in front of Johannes’s Hasselblad 6×6 chamber. Discreet, industrious, they kept our staircases clean, distributed the mail, gave advices. What is now left of them? The concierges are somewhere in the stairs, where they have always been.
The Bourse de Commerce, in the heart of Paris, became recently a testament to the glory of François Pinault / a monument to the glory of modern Art (delete as applicable). The architect Tadao Ando was put in charge of transforming the historic building and I must say, the result is just splendid! Pinault’s passion for contemporary art has led to the assembly of a large collection of some young artists and the century-old building is the perfect repository of large paintings, pieces of art and photographic series. I particularly enjoyed the 2012 series of 18 portraits by Sherrie Levine “After August Sandler” and the 1974 series of Michel Journiac “24 hours of the life of an ordinary woman”, was totally indifferent of the Helms Amendment series and amused by the large colour photographs of Richard Prince, reproducing the too (in)famous advertising campaign of a major American cigarette company. What impressions remain after this visit? Does Pinault deserve the place he aspires to? Can money buy everything? Will he remain in history as a modern Medici? I do not know but at least, this temple to trade, epitomising the glory of France at the peak of its power did deserve to be be preserved in the most magnificent way, and only history will tell if Levine, Prince and Journiac get a place at the Walhalla of photography.
As part of PhotoSaintGermain, a small-scale exhibition of René Burri was given on the banks of the Seine, underneath Musée d’Orsay at Solferino Harbour. I visited a René Burri exhibit in Rotterdam several years ago and was charmed by the discretion of this Swiss artist. Modest, almost invisible, Burri made some of the most famous photographs of the 20th century, like that of a defiant Che Guevara, a cigar between his teeth. He travelled around the world, from Switzerland, to Germany, Japan, Brazil, Cuba, the USA for Magnum and brought back some of the best photographs. He would certainly deserve a large retrospective in Paris or elsewhere to give him the spot he deserves in the Pantheon of the greatest. I particularly enjoyed his Flatiron building from an unusual angle or the pictures he took in a torn Berlin, just after the war. He also took one of the few portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1956…
While walking from Rive Gauche back to Rive Droite via la passerelle des arts, one passes the arches of the honourable Institut de France. There, as part of the PhotoSaintGermain festival, Annie Leibovitz, a long time former Parisian, shows 200 of her most iconic photographs and others, lesser known. No need to introduce Annie Leibovitz, an old friend full of talent, who photographed the most famous for Rolling Stones, like a naked John enlaced with Yoko on the floor of their bedroom, a highly pregnant semi-naked Demi Moore or Schwarzenneger on a horse. The “+” of this exhibit in the invisible presence of Annie herself. She came, saw and conquered. Spread over four large rooms, the photographs are presented in a typical Annie’s style: rough, raw, without tralala, without frame, bare on the walls. The scotch tapes are left behind on the walls to mark where the pictures should be placed. A previous exhibit, seen on Singapore, was also prepared by the master herself, in the same fashion. The content of the photograph is central and suffices itself, as Annie lets us know. I particularly enjoyed the graphic image of the ladders in a Kibbutz, the high contrast of the American soldiers with Mary, Queen of the Negritos, the “selfeet”, or the stunning image of Nixon leaving the White House and three guards trying to keep their dignity while assuring their duty. The exhibit is dense, and the various talents of Leibovitz are represented on the walls. How delightful to be treated and photographed by a colourful Andy Warhol, or to follow Patti Smith off the frame. Finally, listening to the private conversation between Willie Nelson and Louise Bourgeois. The lasting impression of this wealth of pictures: the one of Louise Bourgeois: a portrait of a beautiful old lady with at the centre of attention, an imaginary line between her eyes and her open hand – all is said.
Photography is everywhere in the city. Action is frequent. La Ville de Paris, together with Fondation Carmignac, took an initiative to “preserve the forests of Central Africa”. The exhibit “Kivu’s Forest” by photographer Guerchom Ndebo is presented on the gates surrounding la tour Saint-Jacques, at this occasion. Images of desolation, pain, sufferings, poverty, war, contrasting with the peace of the place on this sunny Sunday morning, and the tower, symbol of a far away past long lost and yet still vividly present in Paris.
One can legitimately ask for what purpose the Senate exists. The higher chamber has a reputation of obscure work by well off and well fed older gentlemen discussing laws in comfortable arm chairs or around well served tables during endless lunches and dinners. The Luxembourg gardens were a wonderful place to be, this Saturday morning, while waiting for good friends and enjoying the November abundant sun and the numerous children cheering their sail boats navigating the basin. Gérard Larcher, #2 in the State hierarchy as President of the Senate is the master of the place. He introduced the currently shown exhibit surrounding the park “Terres Celtes“. From Brittany to Ireland and Scotland, French photographer Philippe Decressac brought back stunning pictures of rugged coasts, large skies, furious seas and enduring nature. A wonderful contrasts with the quiet arrangement of chairs and flower bushes of the gardens.
The historical space of photography agency Roger-Viollet, located rue de Seine in Paris 6th arrondissement, has opened its doors to the public since December 2020, to show its huge collection of photographs (more than a million pieces) and sell them to a public, keen to novelty and ever more eager to acquire prints. The third exhibit since opening is grand by its title “L’orient en Grand” and the size of the photographs. I had never heard of 16cmx42cm glass plate negatives before: the operators of the studio created in 1864 by Moyse Léon and Isaac Georges Lévy strolled the Earth to bring back pictures of the planet and its people. The result is stunning of sharpness and beauty. 50 prints spread over the walls, in between the shelves stuffed with the historical green boxes that were carefully preserved, containing demo prints for the customers and evoking places and historical dates. One would love to spend some time pulling those boxes one by one and discovering the treasures they contain. “Saturday is not a good day for that”, told us the sympathetic and enthusiastic young employee present in the gallery and showing us around. Nonetheless, gallery Roger-Viollet is a new space that counts: wonders are awaiting to be reveaved or rediscovered, once pulled out of the green boxes… we will be back.
A lot has been said about who she was, how she was discovered, how she worked, how incredibly smart and such a wonderful businessman her discoverer,John Maloof, is, but one thing remains, Vivian Maier was a true artist, working hard, in the shadows of her anonymity, assembling an incredible body of work throughout her active years, from New York City, to Chicago, Paris and all the places she’s been with her 6×6 Rolleiflex. I saw her colour work in FOAM a bit more than a year ago as reported here. My good friend Thierry gave her the place she deserves in two of his marvellously carved chronicles here and here. This time, le Musée du Luxembourg gives her a space of choice in Paris. A walk through her evolution, from her large body of self-portraits, to her street photography, more graphic work, portraits of her contemporaries, children, films. In small rooms packed with mainly female visitors, we can admire her work in posh and large recent prints, hung vis a vis some original vintage prints and several contact sheets, giving us an impression of her ways of working. Discreet, often invisible, relatively frugal in her way of telling a story, she paid attention to details: a tie hanging straight here, an expression there, a shoe, a shadow. With a photographic writing style unique to her, Vivian Maier deserves a place in the sun, side by side the greatest street photographers of the past century.
I discovered the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation by chance, because a dear friend visited it recently as well and sent me this incredible vision of rows of fashion photos exhibited in an orderly, artistic way. Fashion is the word. Azzedine Alaïa was a couturier, designer of amazing black stylish dresses. He worked together with German photographer Peter Lindbergh and together, they created an aesthetics for beauty and style, around the colour black. Black and white photographs were a must for them. The result is presented in the foundation, rue de la Verrerie, in the heart of Le Marais, where Alaïa lived and worked: actual dresses and the models pictured by Lindbergh wearing those dresses echo each other throughout.
When I saw the announcement for the Affordable Art Fair Amsterdam, I did not know what to think… What is affordable? What is art? anyways. The venue was the same as two years ago, before COVID. A large exhibition hall in the north of Amsterdam, full of galleries from all over Europe. “Affordable art” is thus a vague notion, resulting in a large offering of things, going from the ugly, to the unusual, to the okay, to the beautiful, to the sublime. I naturally focused on the photo offering and found several jewels in disguise, resulting in many coups de ❤️. I loved for instance the beautiful portrait of this old woman titled Namasté, or the shaman contacting his spirit animal by the same photographer, Marie van der Heijden. I also enjoyed Yvonne Michiels‘s fascinating dolls, The visits to beautiful empty spaces, left overs from past splendour, by two different artists, Matthias Haker and Daan Oude Elferink, following parallel paths, the monks in the snow by Jeremy Hunter and the outrageously dressed nun (only showing the decent part here) of Cécile Plaisance. There were many more photographs represented, for the pleasure of the eyes, making a stroll through the stands worth the journey.
Chas Gerretsen is one of these lesser known famous figures. Chas who? is the most likely question you may get when mentioning a visit to the first ever Chas Gerretsen retrospective exhibition of his work and life exhibited in the Nederlands Fotomuseum, in Rotterdam: “Chas in de hoofdrol” or “Chas in the main role” in English. And yet… he walked into Vietnam and fame during the Tet Offensive and became a freelance reporter. The year was 1968. Then later, he went into Cambodia from Paris, in 1970, the year Gilles Caron disappeared, as part of the too many “unofficial casualties among correspondents covering the war in Indochina since 1965”. He flew helicopters, visited the Karens, camped in front of Angkor Wat with the troops, all this before being even recognised as a correspondent and joining Gamma in 1972. He became however famous for his coverage of the September 1973 coup d’état in Chile. His famous photograph of General Pinochet was already mentioned here and has become an icon: A group of relaxed and cool, pleasant gentlemen, the embodiment of friendliness and joie de vivre. Pinochet did not like the photo, according to his own words, as it was “making him resemble too much a Latin American Dictator”… no comments needed. Chas was close to the action, on both sides, during those events, as one of the few present. Later on, and for 6 months in 1976, he became the set photographer in The Philippines of “Apocalypse Now”. An irony for a war photographer to take photographs of a fake war on film. and double irony when the title photography of the exhibit is Dennis Hopper as a war photographer taking a picture… of Chas Gerretsen, taking a picture of him… mirrors, mirrors…in any case, a deserved retrospective for yet another grand monsieur of war photography.
A beautiful old city: Leiden, a gorgeous Autumn sunny day, a quiet morning with fresh air, more than 10,000 daily steps and a 10 km walk with a wonderful company, a stop for a delicious capuccino, an open air photo festival along the way with talented local and international photographers: that’s what I call a perfect Saturday morning. The International Photo Festival Leiden is open since mid September until end October. No big venue and no huge crowds, no QR code required but instead small scale exhibits in the open, in the parks, along the spectacular singelpark surrounding the medieval part of Leiden. We discover the work of diverse talented [mainly female] artists like Eelkje Colmjon and her portraits of young Iranian women, Patricia Nauta who followed writer Marteen Biesheuvel in the intimacy of his home before his passing in 2020 and gives us a marvellously humane portrait of another artist, Katharina Pöhlmann and the still lives as “it is” around her room, Franky de Schampheleer and his funky universe of Flandronië, Daniëlle Cellie who makes the portrait of a vanishing town, we meet the hilarious supers of Craig Tuffin, or we follow Rachel Mounsey all the way to Australia, in the eyes of the storm, and many others. Broad choice of genres and formats, some likeable, some not, some triggering indifference, laughters, disgust or joy, but always worth stopping by and enjoying. When all the stars align and one recognises his/her good fortune, the world looks different.
Three photographers in their thirties dream of China in their own way. Two Dutch men and a Chinese woman. One lives in China, two in The Netherlands. The Chinese is here, the Dutch is there. The third Dutch goes back and forth. The Chinese speaks Dutch, the Dutch Chinese. All show the China of today, dream or reality? Xu, XiaoXiao was already the Coup de ❤️ of last years’s Breda festival [see my post of 19 September 2020] with her series “Watering my Horse by a Spring at the foot of the Long Wall”… a walk with her along the great wall of China, meeting the people that are born, live, work and die in its shadows. The two Dutchmen are two Ruben… Ruben Terlou has multiple talents: a medical doctor by profession, speaking fluent Mandarin, a master at interviewing people with an infinite compassion, a talented document maker and photographer. He has ravished us with his VPRO series “Langs de oevers van de Yangtze“, “Door het hart van China“, “Chinese Dromen” and more recently “De wereld van de Chinezen”. Ruben Lundgren is a photographer based in Beijing. All three show their China dreams in an exhibit at the beautiful old town hall of Hilversum turned into a museum. Small scale exhibit but wide reach. Three sensitivities echoing each other, a ravishment for the eyes and a marvellous view into a dreamed China.
Thanks to a friend, I recently discovered the work of photojournalist Eric Bouvet and it became my coup de ❤️. Eric Bouvet worked for the French photo agency Gamma during the 1980s, and launched his freelance career in 1990. He won multiple awards throughout his long career and covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Chechnya, Sudan, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Israel, Northern Ireland, Kurdistan, Surinam, Burundi, Libya and Ukraine. He recently published a 40 years anniversary magazine using crow-funding. The format is very unhandy (too big with slippery pages) but the pictures are marvellous and show how he looks at his contemporaries. Covering wars brings with it the sweat, the blood, the tears, the filth of it all. But despite that, Eric Bouvet remains human and he is able to capture the human suffering through the eyes of his models. Fantastic series of pictures. A few questions remain in my mind though: why does a photographer of his talent need crowd-funding to publish a small magazine gathering 40 years of his work? Where are the publishers of books? He would definitely deserve one and a big retrospective of his work. Any taker?
Unseen 2021 was back this last weekend, after a dry period due to COVID and some financial difficulties. The new edition was still located at the iconic Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, on a somewhat smaller scale but with a wealth of interesting galleries and a tremendous riches of artists. Above and beyond the usual selection of straight-in-your-face crude sexual content, bright highly saturated colourful living room pictures and empty architectural structures, the selection offered several young, mainly female, talented artists with a different vision. I was particularly touched by the works by Ilona Langbroek, Mouna Saboni, Sara Imloul, Lisa Sartorio and Chieko Shiraishi. Across borders, cultures and generations, those women show, in my humble opinion, a true talent and a unique approach to photography and story telling. Lisa Sartorio uses existing photographs and brings them to life – a life of destruction – with her work with paper, textures and structures, leading to a stunning effect of buildings silently exploding. Chieko Shiraishi brings to life the sophistication of Japan through her landscapes involving deers in winter in her Shikawatari series: pure and clean lines, subtle greys and blacks, tending towards abstraction and a Japanese perfection. Mouna Saboni and Ilona Langbroek, both seek their own identity, one through poetry and photography, using traditional middle-Eastern portraits and revisiting them with her own poetry, while the other shows intimate and nostalgic views of a past forever lost in the turmoil of a colonial past. Sara Imloul revisits the old technique of calotype to bring to life a deep black and white contrasted intimate universe. The men are also present in my own selection. For instance I noted the “Borderline” work of Paul D’Haese, created while hiking along the northern French coast, emphasising the edge between inhabited human-made landscape and nature. Talking about emptiness, I could not forget the “Past and Present” series shown by the Galerie Julian Sander. Julian’s great grand father, August Sander, was a tremendous German portraitist in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. He left an incredible and remarkable body of work depicting his contemporaries in their every day life and environment, whether it is at home, at work, in formal settings, indoors or outdoors. Beyond that, and I could have stopped right there and be happy with this discovery, an American photographer, Michael Somoroff, took August Sander’s photographs and removed the people from the pictures, to show empty settings and landscapes, workplaces and living rooms. The series “Past and Present” in its entirety comprises 40 photographs of August Sander and their “empty” counterparts by Somoroff, to make an amazing ensemble where the past echoes the present and vice versa. A stunning presentation that will resonate long within me.
Two giants of the Japanese photography meet in Paris, across times. Daido Moriyama ans Shomei Tomatsu conceived a joint (large) exhibit before Tomatsu’s death, to show their love of Tokyo, the city-world / world-city, as two faces of the same coin. The approach of both photographers is quite different, as can be experienced on two separate levels of the beautifully designed MEP building. The location is the same, like Shinjuku, but the visions of the two artists are quite different. In a nutshell, soft vs hard. Tomatsu’s photogaphs are soft in their approach, their rendition. It shows close up of people embracing, landscapes or people engulfed in artistic vagueness. Moriyama is in your face, with strong – highly contrasted grainy blacks, movements, furor, sex. Which Tokyo do you prefer?
Revoir Paris with Henri Cartier Bresson is always an enchantment. The musée Carnavalet, a prestigious location in the heart of Paris, gives him the space and surroundings to shine. HCB’s images are generally well known and often admired for what they are: chefs d’oeuvre of composition, decisive moments depicting a situation, an encounter, instants of humanity. This time, the grand exhibit describes the encounter of HCB with Paris or Paris with HCB, from his origins as photographer in the 1930’s to his latest works as a drawer. Paris in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. A Paris that was and is no longer. Despite the photographs seen so many times before in previous exhibits and in books, the curator was able to also present a tremendous body of works less known and seen before. I was touched by those photographs as well (below) and remarks, such as this comment by HCB himself when meeting Irène and Frédéric Jolliot-Curie “I rang the bell, the door opened, I saw this [the picture he took of them], I shot the image and said hello afterwards; it was not very polite”, or this dedication by Jean Cocteau on one of HCB’s books “you know very well that your book is a masterpiece, but I am happy to tell you so”… precious.
Diving into the Amazônia of Sebastião Salgado and Jean-Michel Jarre at the Philarmonie de Paris today. As always with Salgado, it is with an overwhelming wealth (200) of huge incredible, almost unreal, black and white photographs that Salgado welcomes us into “his” Amazônia. This time, he has teamed up with Jean-Michel Jarre who delivers music on par with the majestic landscapes. Breathtaking images taken from impossible positions, heavenly skies, massive clouds, infinite meanders of waters crisscrossing the horizon, flying rivers at a continental scale. It is gorgeous, it is fantastic, it is incredible. But, what makes this exhibit uniquely touching is not the trees, the mountains, the river or even the impeccable, almost too perfect, technique (with no doubts, unique means) but rather the people, the inhabitants of the forest, yet another endangered species. We meet Adriele da Silva André Macuxi, Typaramatxia Awá, Bela Yawanawá, Sína, the family of Gabriel and many others, and with Salgado,while they stare back at us, we all wonder what the future will bring to these people.
We were fortunate enough to catch the very last day of a tremendous exhibition of the work of Marc Riboud in the no less fantastic musée Guimet. Riboud gave his oeuvre to the museum and as an homage, the museum organised a grand retrospective of his work. And grand it is! With an impossible title “Histoires Possibles”, we go back to the early 50’s in Lyon where Marc was born, to Paris and his painter of the Eiffel tower, before starting with him his grand tour of Asia, through Afghanistan, India, China and Japan. A delight for the eyes. a marvellous display of his prints with an impeccable lighting. Marc Riboud’s most well known photographs are on display of course but i chose but a few of some that are possibly less known but significant of his eye: humour with a profound respect for the people he met and a humanistic view of his contemporaries.
Staying in Provence was a good occasion to discover the newly opened Centre of Photography of Mougins. A marvellous building in a remarkable town on the heights of Cannes. The first exhibition displayed here on the two levels of the building is “1001” by Isabel Muñoz. Isabel travelled many times to Japan and brought back haunted photographs. Portraits of nude Yakuza, Butoh dancers and scenes of shibari. A very disturbing and unsettling but pleasant trip through the Japan you will never experience.
Valérie Couteron spent time at the Protéor plant in Seurre, near Dijon, France to take portraits of the employees. Ordinary men and women engaged in an extraordinary work: designing protheses for handicapped people. Couteron seized their profound humanity, mainly focusing on the eyes of her subjects. The result of her work is exposed in a XIIth Century romanesque church in the heart of Dijon, the Saint-Philibert church.
Another coup de ❤️ for the poignant photographs of Catherine Leroy and respect for the woman. She was a war photo reporter with an incredible story, forgotten for too long and far less recognised for her tremendous value than her male counterparts. Henri Huet, Larry Burrows, Don McCullin, Tim Page, Horst Faas or Gilles Caron have been long recognised internationally. Catherine has been somehow forgotten. Le Monde just wrote a long paper on her. A dotation Catherine Leroy is rehabilitating her work and life. The next step would be a book presenting and praising her work. “Une sacrée bonne femme”, as we say respectfully in French. She deserves the title of queen of photo journalism.
Photography is all about how you look at things. One subject, two different pairs of eyes and you end up with very different pictures. Both Henri Cartier-Bresson and Fred Stein strolled around cities, whether it was Paris or New York, with their eyes wide open and a camera, the same for that matter… a Leica. Henri Cartier-Bresson invented the notion of “moment décisif”. Fred Stein did not, but eventually had a similar approach. Across times and space, those two masters met without possibly knowing of each other. I tried to illustrate my “theory” with some examples among a rich iconography for both artists.
Another late and wonderful discovery for me at the Joods historisch museum of Amsterdam: the photos of Fred Stein. From Dresden to Paris and then New York, Fred Stein enchants us with his account of his time, mainly through the 1930’s and 1940’s. Wandering through the city, capturing moments and people in their daily lives. He then focused on making portraits of his contemporaries. A wonderful gallery of known and less known figures, mainly in the US and in Germany. The magnificent exhibit in Amsterdam is with freshly reprinted photogrpahs and it gives us a vibrant and broad overview of his work, forgotten for too long a time. I am not sure Fred Stein ever met Henri Cartier-Bresson but many of his pictures echoe those of the master. Definitely worth a visit!
The giant of Dutch photography Eddy Posthuma de Boer passed away today, at age 90. He was a photographer with love for the people he was portraying. We were enchanted by his work when we first discovered it last year. I had the chance to see a large exhibit at Fotomuseum The Hague and reported it here. His pictures, full of a humanism since then long gone in the streets from our cities, will survive him for ever.
The yearly visit to the FotoFestival Naarden edition 2021 was a disappointment. At least, the offering in the vesting Naarden was just so-so. I don’t know what it was… a lower scale display, some local photographers, the topics, the artists… A few jewels were displayed in the gardens of the Comenius museum, like the works by Frank Rentink and Wim Banning. After a couple of hours of strolling through the beautiful location, I thought this was it for this time… But away from the vesting, there was a real exhibit in a former garden center, transformed for the occasion, before complete demolition, into a gallery. I was particularly attracted to the series “Fica Suave” from Sabine van Wechem. Sabine followed a young girl, Thay, in her daily life in the favela Vila Cruzeiro in Rio de Janeiro.I also enjoyed the haunting portraits of Maan Limburg, especially in the dimmed light of the location. Jorge Mañes Rubio, Cynthia van Elk and Milene van Arendonk also gave some remarkable pieces of work, in different styles and locations. These young artists made my day.
Sir Winston Churchill had nothing to offer to the British people but “blood, toil, tears and sweat” in a famous speech in 1940. Thats’s about what you get at each new edition of the WorldPress Photo festival in Amsterdam. It seems mankind is destined to suffer, to bleed, to cry and to sweat, over and over again. This suffering is also what gives the best pictures. The 2021 edition is no different, spanning from the absurd short war for Nagorno-Karabakh, to the massive ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut, to the demonstrations for freedom in Peru, to nature playing its own part in The Philippines. And if people live in peace, they just accumulate absurd numbers of firearms for an hypothetical protection against bad guys. There will be enough suffering to renew this yearly event for many years to come. We cannot complain as the best photojournalists will be there to give us touching, moving pictures of the human suffering.
I discovered a few photographs made by Lola Álvarez Bravo, during the exhibit around Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. A lifelong friend of Frida Kahlo, she was taught photography by her husband Manuel Álvarez Bravo, continued as his assistant, but soon enough became recognized as a photojournalist and independent artist. Her photo archive is located at the Center of Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, USA. I particularly enjoyed her “burial in Yalalag” that echoed for me the “Srnigar, Kashmir” picture of Henri Cartier-Bresson.
After several months of closure and a delayed start, the Cobra museum in Amstelveen has finally opened its doors to a large exhibit around Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. “A love revolution” covers a wealth of Mexican masterpieces from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman collection. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are totally unforgettable but another couple is also represented: Manuel and Lola Álvarez Bravo, photographers of the Mexican identity. So with the Gelman, the Rivera/Kahlo and the Álvarez Bravo, a family affair. Frida was admired and photographed during her tumultuous relatively short life. Some of these were displayed to bring some context to the paintings exhibited. Photos by Gisèle Freud, Lucienne Bloch, Manuel and Lola among others.
The Nederlands Fotomuseum reopened with the great promise of the honour gallery of the Dutch photography with its “99 iconic photos”, gratified by the presence of the king, himself, opening it. But at the same time, almost unnoticed in the basement, another exhibit also started on June 9th: that of Ellen Thorbecke’s China. And that is a real delight for the eyes and the true discovery of the day, combined with a coup de ❤️. Ellen Thorbecke, a German by birth, was a true 20th century woman. With a classical education in languages and piano, she further studied economy and worked as a freelance journalist. After meeting her second husband Willem J.R. Thorbecke in 1930 while working at the Dutch embassy in Berlin, she started photography with a Rolleiflex. She followed her husband to Beijing in 1931, not just as an expat wife, but with a journalist contract to report in writing and images on life in China. And what a photographer and a story teller! Ellen Thorbecke is far less known and recognized than Henri Cartier-Bresson but her work on China is, certainly for me, of the same quality, with a rare talent and as additional twist, a closer, more feminine approach of her subjects, as shown for instance in her portraits of Chinese figures. The large exhibit displayed in Rotterdam mixes original prints, extracts from her delightful books and beautiful new prints, as the museum is also the curator of her large fund of 6×6 negatives. Mainly focusing on China, Ellen also spent some time in Hong Kong – see her hilarious picture of the diverse Hong Kong police – and traveled back via Paris where she spent some time as well in 1936. A book was issued at the occasion of this marvelous exhibit, which found in the meantime its way to my private library…
After seven long months without museums and exhibitions, the curse has finally ended and all museums have reopened, with some drastic measures to prevent the bugs from jumping from one visitor to another. To break this cultural scarcity, an early visit to the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam was a must, especially since the king opened a new setup and exhibit a short while ago, the same week. The fotomuseum is expanding, which is a good thing, doubling his surface within the same premise. The permanent space boasts a “gallery of honour of the Dutch photography”, showing 99 photographs spanning over the end of the 19th to the early 21st centuries. The 99 photographs were carefully selected by a panel of “experts” for their “social and artistic impact, and are meaningful for photography in The Netherlands”. What to think about it? First of all, such a selection is by definition completely subjective. Some of the early photographs are clearly presented first and foremost because of their historical meaning, like a tiny dark portrait of Charlotte Asser, taken in 1842, or this couple from Paramaribo, Suriname in 1846, a then Dutch colony in the new world. Some are there for their scientific significance, like a photography of the moon dated 1862 or a microscopic shot of a plant stem dated 1873. Some for their social resonance, like these photographs of the Dolle Minas demonstrating for birth control and abortion rights in 1970, or the South Moluccans, photographed in colours in Tiel in 1970 by no less than Ed van der Elsken. Some are there because of the renown of the photographer (what makes Erwin Olaf “one of the greatest photographers of the century”?, who decided that? His bankable value on the market?), some because they are simply a reflection of the period, like Snoop Dogg from 2014. But for sure, a lot of them are there NOT for their artistic content. I could make my own gallery of honour of Dutch photography. It would be certainly centered around Ed van der Elsken (two photos here), Cas Oorthuys (two photos) and Koen Wessing (one photograph) and a few others. Beyond the somewhat pompous title of this gallery, this visit made however for a pleasant promenade throughout the century, with some unexpected jewels discovered, lots of rejections and a few coups de coeur. I deliver herewith some of the photos that touched me more than the others. Why those? The portrait of the hungry lady is haunting, her eyes empty, focusing on feeding herself with a meager piece of bread. The suffering is present. Pinochet, for his irresistible mugshot, the mother with children, yet again a moment of dispair captured so elegantly by the photographer. The hewer in a coal mine and Kennedy in a ball, for their similar expressions of satisfaction, and yet, such world-apart from each other and the construction of the dam, for its echoing of the painter of the Eiffel Tower by Marc Riboud… my own gallery of honour.
A friend of mine, Hugues, made me aware of a passed exhibit I missed because of COVID. It is now a virtual exhibit on the site of the bibliothèque numérique patrimoniale de la Ville de Versailles, La Sirène. Jenny de Vasson was a rich young woman living in the XIXth century, near Versailles. She was one of the first street photographers, a far predecessor of Robert Doisneau. She did that for fun mostly and left behind a wealth of photographs of her times, the people she met ad the places she visited. This is a wonderful walk through a distance time and space and a new window opened into the past.
What to do when you are bored and in lockdown? When you don’t have any new perspectives of discovering new horizons, new people and exotic landscapes and situations? Well… you put your coat on and get out to photography the beauty of your immediate surroundings day after day, preferably during the blue hour, at dusk, when no one is around. Carla Matthee, born in South Africa but living in Leiden since 2004, has created a beautiful series of intimate portraits of Leiden that can be visited on her website.
I took the opportunity of (still) open musea to visit the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam before it shuts down again for 5 weeks… Among a wealth of modern and contemporary art of the highest quality, a few photographs of their large collection are exhibited, among which four pictures by Cor Jaring, Who was very present in the Amsterdam of the 60’s. His photographs of John and Onno remained very famous to this day. At the same occasion, I browsed through a special exhibit of the recently passed Ulay. I cannot say I was impressed. Ulay was certainly an artist of his own but he existed for me though his relationship with Marina Abramović, present throughout as well.
I discovered the photos of Didier Bizet by chance, while browsing the emails I get from “L’oeil de la photographie”. I particularly fell in love with his “the big Lie” series of photographs of North Korea. As he puts it, it is “a trip to another world”. But Didier Bizet went further than the typical lines of obedient workers and students, the empty squares and the monumental statues of the Kim dynasty. A small, almost imperceptible, twist if you don’t pay attention and his vision of North Korea reveals the deadly absurdity of this regime. I let you discover it in the few extracts below and strongly invite you to explore his work further. Enjoy the massive pingpong player, the perfect student with a bubble gum, the AC/DC piano lesson and these two employees “steeling” the hammer…
Ed van der Elsken is back, at the Rijksmuseum this time. I always wondered how he “treated” Japan during his stays there in 1959-1960 and then in the second half of the 1980’s before his death in 1990. I was curious to see his “blessed eyes” fall upon this culture, so strange for us, so difficult to apprehend and to understand. His book about Japan “de ontdekking van Japan” remains almost impossible to get, so getting an insight on his vision of Japan, for a passionate lover of Japan like me, was crucial. Van der Elsken took the time, in Japan, to photograph not only the streets, the youth but also the a-typical Japanese: the yakuza, the sumos and the geishas. The result is stunning and triggers this deep desire to go back there very soon. The Rijksmuseum put together a large exhibition of his work, titled “a crazy world”, not only to show his Japanese pictures but mainly to get a deeper insight into the way he worked: multiple reframing of the same picture, to get the perfect balance for a publication or an exhibition. But what remains remarkable of Van der Elsken’s work, and for that matter for all the artists of that time, is to be seen on the several contact sheets exhibited: not many shots of the same subject, one, two, maybe three. We are far from the hundreds of shots one can take with a digital camera. One, two, three shots and the magic happens. Ed van der Elsken hd undoubtedly “blessed eyes” to get the decisive moment.
I went to the Rijskmuseum in Amsterdam for yet another van der Elsken exhibit. And I got to discover Wim Diepraam as well. Diepraam left a significant legacy of documentary pictures of The Netherlands in the 50’s and later. A country that does not exist anymore. 50 years of nostalgia, 50 years of photography, exploring the deepest layers of society. The glamorous and the ordinary. An excellent photographer of his time with a lot of empathy for his subjects. A discovery.
Steve McCurry continues to enchant me with his pictures. He has remained “in search of elsewhere” the title of his most recent book.
I never knew about the quaint museum of Hilversum, located in the beautiful building that used to be the townhall of the city. A large exhibition of photos by Belgian artist Lieve Blancquaert titled ‘Circle of Life’ makes use of the circular space on three stories to walk us around the circle of life, from birth to death and again. Date of birth, date of marriage, date of death summarise in few dry numbers our lives. Lives of hope, of suffering, of love, of pain, of tears and laughters. Lives of fun and sorrow, births of children and deaths of loved ones. Lieve went throughout the world, from her native Belgium to China, the USA, Ghana, Mexico, India and other places to show us that despite our differences, we all are human and we all go through the same phases of life, living them differently but none the less experiencing life in a universal way across borders, religions, social status. We are welcomed by a beautiful Japanese lady who invites us with a wink in her eye to enter the circle of life…
In a large exhibit, the museum of Amersfoort shows us what America is today. “This is America Art USA today” gives us a wide vision of the America of immigrants from the South, former slaves, far away from what’s shown everyday on Fox News. From the civil right movement champions now older, to the millennial wrapped in the American flag, from the reenactment of a slave rebellion to fresh immigrants hugging each other, the USA is showing its richness, its openness, its values. Let’s hope that THIS dream will become a reality again, very very soon.
It is never too late, one is never too old to discover a real jewel… 6 Mois “le XXI˚ siècle en images”, the 21st century in pictures. A beautiful format, a thick delivery literally full of pictures, a dream for those, like me, nostalgic of the photo reporters of the past, in these times of quickly browsing on the social networks and forgetting in the next second. This magazine is a real and rare pleasure. Browsing and dreaming through the pages in B&W and colours a moment to cherish. Thanks to Hugues for giving me this wonderful tip!
Visit to the newly created street art museum “straatmuseum” in Amsterdam-North in the impressive 7,000 m2 building of the former Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij (NDSM) shipbuilding company. A perfect location for such a collection of art. The high ceilings make the large paintings look small. with inspiration in comics and photography, but also in history, travels, personal experience, the various collection from all over the world is deployed in a street-like fashion. the visitor walks from street to street among the panels. I was particularly impressed by “Super Nurse” by Fake (Netherlands) and by “My death dream” by Cix (Mexico) inspired by the Mayan culture. ”La deriva” by Morcky (Italy) depicts the end of a love story that occurred in Amsterdam and Helen Proctor (USA) shows us a mountain landscape of Les Alpilles. A very nice experience in this new place, relatively remote and very quiet because of the current restrictions in place.
A large exhibit about Rotterdam at work at the Nederlands Fotomuseum. Not that the topic is exciting, but some jewels can be found in the large body of pictures presented, covering the whole 20th century. It shows a world that does not exist anymore. The modern Rotterdam harbour is high tech, the containers are moved around with computers, a society of services, of “working from home”. Difficult to imagine that only 60 – 70 years ago, a large population of workers, like this man staring at us with a cigarette pinched between his lips, lived in this busy city.
A disappointing series of photographs at the Somfy Photography award 2020 exhibit, with a theme of “Gimme Shelter”. More on this award here. Difficult to extract appealing pictures in this group of 9 nominations of young photographers from various places in Europe. More than the pictures themselves, it is the project that is judged. I was only sensitive to some of the shots by Jordi Ruiz Cirera (Spain) and Antoinette Nausikaä (NL). “La Espera”, Cirera’s project, explores the waiting, where as in “A river runs through me”, Nausikaä explores the confrontation of nature and civilisation along the river Seine.
WWII ended 75 years ago. A commemoration of 5 years of occupation of The Netherlands in Europe and Asia led to the Dutch public selecting 100 photos to represent this painful part of history. The result is a stunning exhibit in black and white and colour at the small Amsterdam Verzetsmuseum (resistance museum). It tells about ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations, violence, destruction, misery, hunger, sorrows and, retrospectively, about the absurdity of it all when, 75 years on, we are all one and we don’t spend hours and days without crossing the path of peaceful German tourists enjoying the fresh air of the North Sea beaches.
While visiting the ‘China imagined’ exhibit in Breda, I stumbled upon (and bought in a heartbeat) what looked like a great book by a photographer I didn’t know… Carl de Keyzer. Carl visited the USSR of Gorbachev in 1989 and brought back stunning black and white pictures. The cover of his book and the topic immediately resonated in me… and I drew the parallel with the amazing photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson assembled in his 1973 ‘A propos de l’URSS’ (About Russia) but HCB reported on the URSS of Brezhnev, at the peak of the soviet power. Looking a bit further, I realised that Carl, a Belgian, was a member of Magnum… this explains that… Great photographer. I am looking forward exploring his other projects in Cuba and North Korea.
The old KPN building in the centre of Breda is the perfect location for a broad exhibit of contemporary photography from around the world. Large empty rooms, high ceilings, wide windows letting a beautiful summer light bathe the ample displays. I decided to focus on two of the many photographers displayed at the occasion of this 2020 edition: “Three colours I know in this world” by the young Romanian photographer Kingsõ Bede. Kingsõ did not grow up in Ceausescu’s Romania but was marked by the traumas her parents lived through. Her pictures are haunting us long after we leave the building. Luis Cobelo comes from another part of the world, also marked by continuous traumas: Venezuela. His series Zurumbático shows bizarre situations depicted by the word itself, a mixture of dazed, bemused, stupid, melancholic, gloomy, dull, puzzling and drunk… the feeling we leave with.
An astonishing contrast at the Church of our Lady built from 1410 onwards. First and foremost the series “Watering my Horse by a Spring at the foot of the Long Wall” by Xu, Xiaoxiao who travelled 25,000 kilometers along the Long Wall to document the lives of the people she met. Xiaoxiao shows them in their daily lives and rites. Many more photos can be seen on her web site right here. In any case, she definitely is my Coup de ❤️ of this festival. Feng Li invites us to his weird White Night. After Nanjin in 2016 and Paris in 2017, he is now exhibiting in Breda. Guo Yingguang depicts the Bliss of Conformity in a poignant installation from the matchmaking corner in the People’s Park of Shanghai where desperate parents trying to find a spouse for their daughter. The church of Our Lady was caught in the statue storm (Beeldenstorm) of 1566 and became Protestant after that. Some damage is still visible today but the main statue of Virgin Mary is still intact, offering an amazing echo to the young Chinese gymnasts. We finally leave China to go back to the vibrant brabantian southern city of Breda after a farewell from two young Chinese ladies from Shanghai.
At the occasion of Breda Photo 2020, a trip through a weird gallery of portraits by young photographers from various horizons, genders and breed. Baqteria, also known as “the Ghost rider” is from Kibera, the largest slum of Nairobi. Hatti Rees is British. Not sure if Britain is still on Earth at this point in time, after its divorce with the EU. She/he is showing disruptive auto-portraits from another galaxy. Finally Bruin Parry, a Dutch artist with Down syndrome, puts on a performance as a free-styling dancer on the Johnny Jordaanplein in Amsterdam.
Coup de ❤️ for the photos of Romain Laurendeau and his series on “Kho, the genesis of a revolt” depicting the demonstrations against the sclerotic military-backed regime of Algeria: a country where the “80 plus” generation leads the “30 minus” population – How can that work? Romain Laurendeau is among the people when he takes his pictures. One of his shots stuck in my memory: the portrait of this woman in the crowd looking at the young boy on the shoulders of a demonstrator. Photojournalism at its best, chapeau!
The world press photo edition 2020 is again in the beautiful Nieuwe Kerk on the Dam in Amsterdam. A regular rendez-vous with photography. Many subjects cover the world events, my favourite. This year, an excellent series by Romain Laurendeau on the Kho movement in Algeria. More to come on that.
After several months of coronhibernation, it seems that the world has decided to continue turning. FOAM in Amsterdam has reopened its doors and offers a small travel through the 1970’s of Vivian Maier in full colours. Vivian Maier was well known post mortem (she died poor and anonymous in 2009) for her discrete black and white street photography but we can see here a series of color photographies showing an America yet familiar (clothes, attitudes, expressions, black children with fear in their eyes, black men selling cheap items on the street, huge cars passing by) but at the same time an America that is no longer: Those white women with excentric wild glasses, curlers and fancy dresses, tailleurs and white gloves are no longer strolling the streets of Chicago, New York or elsewhere. At that time, Nixon was president and America was undisputed. Its people were living their American dream, mostly unconscious, if not ignorant, of the surroundings. As the newspaper reports: “Bombs saved lives” said Nixon… and they believed it. 50 years later, the black children still have fear in their eyes, black men are still having lesser jobs but those white ignorant people that believe that America is still the way it was are no longer nonchalant and insouciant – and that’s the way it should be.
Coup de ❤️ for the photos of Jule Forth. Jule is a talented young lady with a mission: as a cultural anthropologist, she wants to “visually document the (extra) ordinariness of everyday life”. She’s done that in Leiden, her hometown, India and Iran. In these troubled times of staying at home, a refreshing view on mankind and stunning pictures of far away. I highly recommend a visit to her website here.
While passing by in Maastricht, a nice step out to a humanity on its way to extinction. Jimmy Nelson is exhibiting his Homage to Humanity at the Museum aan het Vrijthof: beautiful people magnificently shot by Nelson with respect and care. And Stephanie van der Wiel is not far…
A new discovery today: the massive oeuvre of Eddy Posthuma de Boer. A giant in the footsteps of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ed van der Elsken and Robert Doisneau. At 88, Eddy can look back at more than 60 years of pictures taken all over the world. Nostalgia for a world that was and is no more, for an Amsterdam that one can only dream about today. His colour portraits of the 70’s in the Netherlands are particularly touching – one can clearly see the evolution of the population of then and now. Eddy Posthuma de Boer was a photojournalist. He preferred greatly having one of his photographs on the front page of a newspaper and thereby reaching 275,000 readers at once, rather than a few hundreds at an exhibit. The photomuseum in The Hague is however paying a well-deserved homage to this great and modest giant.
Exceptional series of breath-taking portraits of flowers – a “tribute to flowers”, by photographer Richard Fischer at the flowerart museum of Aalsmeer.
Three very different exhibits at Fotomuseum Den Haag: Richard Learoyd, known for his portraits of sad looking skinny ladies but much preferred for his black and white landscapes, “La Soupe de Daguerre” displaying some of the photographs owned by the museum and finally a small exhibit of early photographs, when “Photography becomes Art” exploring the history of this art with spectacular views taken in the XIXth century.
Documenting The Netherlands today. This is the task Martijn van de Griendt was given by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, with emphasis on the new codes of behaving around modern technologies and in groups. Bright colours, young and old, an in-depth dive into the Dutch society and the psyche of the country.
A marvellous exhibition of the fascinating Henri Cartier-Bresson’s trips to China in the periods 1948-1949 and again 1958. This very broad display shows a wide range of well-known photographs and also gems never seen before. It also provides an in-depth view on how HCB worked. Definitely worth an extended visit.
An exhibit high in the air, on top of La Grande Arche in La Défense, for a photographer taking things from the heights… Yann Arthus-Bertrand and his beautiful shots from the skies: a marvel for the eyes.
Large Paris Photo fair in a wonderful place: le Grand Palais in Paris. A huge amount of artists, old and new, presented by a good hundred of international galleries. Difficult to make a representative selection of the art seen, so I will just give some of the pictures that I particularly enjoyed, with a coup de ♥️ for the crazy and wild images of Hassan Hajjaj.
Fantastic exhibition at Japanmuseum Sieboldhuis in Leiden of the delicate etchings of Tanaka Ryōhei. The beauty of Japan in all its splendour. A remarkable work of precision leading to a photographic view of the country.
The association Stadsfotograaf Leiden gives a yearly opportunity to a photographer to portray the city and its inhabitants. In 2018-2019, this chance was given to a group of seven young women anthropologists. The result of their work was displayed in the local newspaper and also in an exhibition.
Jimmy Nelson relentlessly travels to the most remote places on Earth to document the vast diversity of the human species. He brings back stunning pictures of our humanity. He calls it its “Homage to Humanity”, a magnificent collection of individual histories and a warning signal for a future without them? A small scale exhibition of some of his photographs is presented for a month at Kunsthuis Leiden.
Now a classic, the Unseen festival took place over the weekend at Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam for its 8th edition. An occasion to see multiple facets of the photographic art, from classic black and white to the wildest uses of the medium. Young and old artists are confronting or complementing each other. Connoisseurs, collectors and ordinary people are strolling through the large exhibition area in the iconic gas tank. A surprise this year: the presence of Deck Gallery of Singapore exhibiting several pieces representing Singapore, among which an amazing “Hanging heavy on my eyes” by Ang Song Nian denouncing the haze issue in Singapore.
Berenice Abbott acquired a substantial fraction of Atget’s negatives in June, 1928, and quickly started work on its promotion. Abbott’s work on Atget’s behalf continued until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. She published several books of Atget’s oeuvre like The World of Atget (1964), A Vision of Paris (1963), published a portfolio, Twenty Photographs, and wrote essays. Her efforts helped Atget gain international recognition. At the occasion of the retrospective of Abbott’s work at Huis Marseille, several Atget’s photographs printed by Abbott in 1956 are shown.
Berenice Abbott’s large retrospective at Huis Marseille covers her work from Paris to New York. She spent two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin and started her involvement with photography in 1923, when Man ray hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Later on, she met and worked with Eugène Atget until his death. She then visited New York City where she realised most of her most famous work.
Brassaï views of Paris and its people are all breath taking. A Paris that does not exist anymore. Phantoms and shadows of things passed. A nostalgic trip back to the Paris of the 30s to the 50s.
Two photography giants are currently exhibited in Amsterdam. Brassaï at FOAM and Berenice Abbott at Huis Marseille with an extra thought to Eugène Atget, also shown in his relationship to Abbott. More impressions of these two exhibits in my news. Just follow the links. A ne manquer sous aucun prétexte!
The exhibition continues inside Queen Anne’s Summer Palace with photos dedicated to the velvet revolution of 1989. Seeing Havel and Dubček in the arms of each other is touching and allows strong souvenirs to resurface.
1945: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent”. Winston Churchill
1989: the curtain rises in Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and other countries, to never descend again.
2019: 30 years have passed – Fantastic and touching open-air exhibition around the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace in the royal gardens of the Prague Castle to commemorate the events of 1989 throughout the once called “east block”.
… with other photographers around fashion and the female body. Large exhibition of his works from the years 1950-2000 but also several works of his contemporaries and influences from previous historical periods. Helmut Newton in Prague: sophistication and beauty at Museum Kampa, the former Sova’s mills on the eastern bank of the Kampa island on the river Vltava.
Werner Mahler followed the miners of the Steinkohlenwerk Martin Hoop in 1975. An incredible testimony of the working conditions in the paradise of socialism. The coals miners are naked, with limited equipment and precarious working environment, extracting coal for the benefit of the homeland.
Germany 1993 – 60 years after the rise of the nazi Germany, 48 years after its fall, in a suburb of Berlin… meet, thanks to Ute Mahler, the friendly and sympathetic “Bomber”, a young East-German, living his passion in full daylight…
Ute Mahler followed Zirkus Hein between 1973 and 1974 within the borders of the GDR. Beyond the specifics of being a circus in a communist country in the 70’s, it is the human beings that Ute met that make these pictures remarkable.
A large retrospective of the work of photographers and partners Ute (born 1949) and Werner (born 1950) Mahler, both from the German Democratic Republic. A series of portraits of a small town today, of a circus in the 1970s, of a neo-nazi in the 90s, or of coal miners in the 70s show a not-unexpected facet of human beings confronted to adversity, boredom or simply poor living conditions. Stunning photographs showing some poetry were no one expects to find any.
Krijn Giezen (Noordwijk aan Zee 1939 – Caen 2011) was not really a photographer but used photography to document his discoveries and to develop, together with collages and installations mixing media, his conceptual art. He was fascinated by the smoking of fish on the coast line of The Netherlands and used this theme several times through the years.
Objectifs, the Centre for Photography and film is boldly “examining Singapore women’s private lives, and queer female relationships” in two exhibits “The hour before she sleeps” by Mindy Tan and “How she loves” by Charmaine Poh. Nothing offensive (to me) despite the big warning at the door “Please note this exhibition is rated Restricted 18 (Homosexual content). Age-checks may be required prior to entering the gallery”. Showing artists whatever their sexual orientation is a big progress for Singapore as homosexuality is not officially recognised.
Objectifs, the centre for photography and film in Singapore continues its discovery journey of the great photography artists of Singapore. After Mr Lui, it currently gives a large exposure to 87-year-old Lim Kwong Ling with his “Portrait of Home” exhibition. Breathtaking views of daily life in the Singapore of yesterday.
I took the opportunity of a short trip to Singapore to meet my old friend and fellow photographer Mr. Lui. We spent an hour evoking souvenirs and browsing through an amazing collection of colour photos spanning the 60’s and 70’s and all the cultural communities of Singapore: another treasure worth discovering.
Andy Warhol was a son of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A visit to the Steel City was an occasion to also pay a visit to the museum dedicated to the artist, as Warhol took his inspiration from existing photographs.
Armando Jongejan (1960) spent several years of his life taking photographs of the monks’ life inside the St.Adelbert abbey of Egmond-Binnen. The result was exhibited during the Foto Festival Naarden, along with his book “Monnikenleven”. Although the topic can be perceived as very dry and confidential, Jongejan was able to depict the simplicity and humility of a monk’s life within the walls of an abbey.
Photos hanging in the open air on the gates surrounding the church of Naarden. An interesting way of exhibiting photographs.
Helena van der Kraan is a Dutch photographer born in 1940. She was featured in an exhibit of her most stunning portraits, in the attic of Naarden’s beautiful city hall.
At the Foto Festival Naarden, a beautiful exhibit in an old church: Eddy van Wessel is a Dutch photojournalist of the old type: the kind of Don mcCullin and Gilles Caron… hardship, tough environment, boots on the ground, close to his subject, great black and white pictures. Eddy van Wessel just was back from a trip in Irak, tracking the last followers of ISIS in their forced exile from their heaven on Earth caliphate…
Attended the Fotofestival Naarden 2019 held in multiple locations of the gorgeous Naarden vesting. An occasion to see the work of some refreshing photographers, like Thijs Wolzak who took pictures of people in their living environments. Weird, unusual, funny, astonishing, as the people in general can be.
A very unusual exhibition at the Rotterdam Kunsthal: The Anarchist Citizenship: Ode to Youthful Daredevils gives us an insight on on the young Somalilanders, inhabitants of Somaliland, dress and behave in their country. The installation consists of juxtapositions of photos printed on silk and plexiglass. They move with the air being displaced as we walk through it. The project is a collaboration between Amal Alhaag and Nadine Stijns.
Well known for his black and white photographs taken in Amsterdam and Paris in the 50’s, Ed van der Elsken also took throughout his life a large amount of pictures in colour on slides predominantly in the 60’s and 70’s. The fotomuseum in Rotterdam restored these pictures to their original glory. The result is a magnificent ode to life and love and a touching homage to human diversity. From Amsterdam to Dhaka, from Cuba to Tokyo, Ed van der Elsken shows his profoundly humane eye and sincere love for people. The large collection of photographs is presented in a buoyant way, as a celebration of humanity.
Coup de ❤️ for the photos of Alejandro Cegarra, an extraordinary young (29) photojournalist from Venezuela, featured at the 2019 World Press Photo exhibition. His series “State of Decay” got him am award for Long-term projects. The Venezuelan society has been in a long state of decay, degrading day after day under Chávez and now Maduro with no sense of an outcome, happy or else. We see it every day on TV and then zap to some other news. The people of Venezuela suffer it day after day, with violence, deprivation, tears, political chaos, No way for them to zap from this daily nightmare and move on to something better. Cegarra has documented over the years this violence from within and brought back powerful pictures of an unimaginable turmoil with a divided society of ordinary people rising up to the occasion or not.
More on his website
The world press photo edition 2019 is upon us. The exhibition is presented in the beautiful Nieuwe Kerk on the Dam in Amsterdam. As usual, our eyes are confronted with a sum of misery, tears, blood, human suffering, absurdity, mal treatment of women and children. But yet, these are the best photographs of events and people around the world. My good friend Thierry calls it “the horror of the world that feeds the photojournalists“. This horror is relentless but, once in a while, there is some hope, like this picture by Iranian photographer Enayat Asadi of illegal refugees waiting to take a ride on a wagon at the eastern border of Iran and where one of the immigrants is comforting his companion. A simple image showing two human beings helping each other.
The Deutsche Börse art collection comprises approximately 1800 works from over 120 international photographers, including famous names like Diane Arbus or Walker Evans. FOAM in Amsterdam proposes a large exhibition “Changing Views – 20 Years of Art Collection Deutsche Börse“. The first part of this exhibition in four parts is titled “Chapter 1: Germany” and shows the view of their own country by various German photographers.
Everlasting coup de ❤️ for the photos of Ed van der Elsken, this time, spotted on the walls of the AMC hospital in Amsterdam. Ed van der Elsken was extremely active in the years 50 and 60 and at the top of his art, both in Amsterdam and Paris, but also later on in Japan. I associate his black and white photographs of Paris and Amsterdam with the nostalgia I have for a world that does not exist anymore, for a moment of my life and a period of time that will never be back. A world where life appeared simpler, where happiness was within reach, where artists were gathering to reinvent the world permanently, where a laughter, a glass of wine, an animated discussion with a good friend could make your whole day. Of course, the 50’s and 60’s were also full of pain and drama, wars and misery but what’s left behind now from that era, apart from the History with a big H, is the humanist approach to everyday life.
Itinerrands playing it iconic, in front of MBS, thanks to Susan.
… and finish with some collages by students – a collection of hybrid icons.
A visit in London would not be complete without spending some time at the Saatchi gallery, looking at the bizarre pictures of Jessica Craig-Martin.
In a day rich of visual wonder, strolling through the photographic collection of the V&A Museum.
Taking the opportunity of being in Tate Britain, discovering a Czech-born photographer and her portraits of people in their everyday lives.
A fantastic comprehensive exhibition of Don McCullin at Tate Britain in London. An oeuvre spanning over several decades and all the continents. Don McCullin has been everywhere with his profoundly human eye. No one can put it better than himself “Photography for me is not looking. it is feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures”. I am glad I was able to be there.
Itinerrands taking an olympic walk on the shores of Marina Bay in Singapore, thanks to Susan.
Lost paradise, haunted places, souvenirs of past battles, a reflection of age and death, Sally Mann explores in this exhibit the Deep South of the USA.
Visited a small scale exhibition of young Latino talents at the Houston Center for Photography. “Photography at its limits” explores “the regimes of power that have naturalised and popularised the use of the photograph as a means of tracking and controlling the world at large”…
Itinerrands on a nostalgic trip to Chaville, France, the town where I grew up. Merci beaucoup Evelyne pour ta contribution discrète à cette période.
Just for Facebook, because nudity in Art is not acceptable to them (but genocide seems to be), a link to my website page to signal this interesting exhibit at the Sieboldhuis in Leiden.
The Sieboldhuis in Leiden was purchased by Ph.F.B. Von Siebold (1796-1866) to exhibit his collection of Japanese objects. it is now a foundation established “to further express the long and special ties between the Netherlands and Japan”. There was a new occasion to visit this special place during the recently opened photo exhibition titles “Japaans naakt” or “Japanese Nudes”.
Coup de ❤️ today for Pearl Gan, a Singapore photographer and dear friend who recently published her new website. Pearl describes herself as a storyteller who tells stories with her images. She was heavily involved in the Asia Malaria project with the University of Oxford, which described the damages of malaria in Asian populations. She loves to get close to the people she photographs, capture them in their day to day activities, get to know them and their stories. I particularly enjoy her black and white portraits, but not only…
Coup de ❤️ today for Anette Brolenius discovered at the Cobra Museum of Modern Art. Anette was born in Stockholm and now lives in The Hague. Her serie of portraits of women’s rights activists, male or female in the exhibition “Unsung” are just stunning. More on her photography can be discovered on her website.
Kati Horna, Eva Besnyö and Ata Kandó are three photographers who studied under the then famous photographer József Pécsi in Hungary. They were not as widely known as their male contemporaries and compatriots Brassaï, Robert Capa and André Kertész. All three were forced to flee Hungary in the 1930s. They all settled in different places (Mexico for Horna, The Netherlands for Besnyö and Kandó) and continued to exercise their art in their new home. The beautiful Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen devotes a large space to all three in a huge exhibition around Kati Horna mainly “Kati Horna, Compassion and Engagement”.
A very bizarre, well-visited exhibit in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague: a large retrospective of Erwin Olaf’s work for his 60th birthday. Olaf is a famous Dutch photographer. Most pictures cannot be shown here. Not my cup of tea as we say in French, but still worth the visit for education purposes mainly.
An unusual photo exhibit at the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam: the German troops invading Holland on May 10th, 1940 took photographs as if they were mere tourists. This must have been a walk in the park for them…
A strange exhibition at the Nederlands Fotomuseum of Rotterdam. An installation by Alfredo Jaar based on a photo of Koen Wessing taken in Nicaragua during the last days of the Somoza regime. The exhibit continues with a series of chilling photos from The coup of September 11st, 1973 in Santiago. The famous photos of blind military repression haven’t aged at all and are still very vivid.
Coup de ❤️ today for Merel Schoneveld, a young street photographer from The Hague, discovered during the Haute Photographie Rotterdam 2019. Her black and white pictures, taken mainly in The Netherlands, show a very diverse population, living together in this old country, in their day-to-day interaction with each other. Merel is among them, discreet but yet very present and engaged in their lives. She discovered this passion for photography very late in her young life and has created a large body of work to this date, all visible on her web site and instagram accounts. Merel’s web site can be seen here and instagram feed there.
Fourth edition of this salon/exhibition, during Art Rotterdam Week 2019. Younger and older talents are presented by International galleries. The prices are exorbitant but the photographs worth admiring. I have extracted some of the gems I particularly enjoyed.
Without knowing it, some places and attitudes shared with Martine Frank…
Robert Doisneau spent a lot of time photographing musicians and singers. Maurice Baquet and his cello of course, but also the famous singers from the 1950’s to today. A sweet and nostalgic trip down memory lane at Cité de la Musique in Paris.
A wonderful Martine Frank exhibit at the newly moved Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in the heart of Paris.
Saskia van der Linden, a local photographer, took amusing pictures of famous Noordwijker in poses from famous paintings. Where different arts meet. A small scale exhibit is currently held in Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has a rich collection of photographs but those are timidly presented in a remote corner of the vast museum.
The Dutch Café by a young photographer Stacii Samidin at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A celebration of the Dutch diversity in a historical place.
Itinerrands taking a stroll in the heartland of Singapore in Toa Payoh. Thank you Chen Ee for your kind efforts!
Itinerrands on Sentosa Island in Singapore. Back to where it came from. Thank You Susan!
An article in Le Monde about HCB’s more intimate pictures.
Meeting Jimmy Nelson (and Stephanie van der Wiel) for his massive book “Homage to Humanity”. An excellent initiative by Boekhandel van der Meer in Noordwijk
The full article can be found here
I am very proud to announce that Mr. Lui Hock Seng’s artistic talent will be recognised in a solo exhibition starting on February 8th, 2018 at Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film in Singapore.
All Photos © Mr. Lui Hock Seng
More information: https://www.objectifs.com.sg/passing-time/
Visiting the Peter Hujar exhibit at Den Haag Foto Museum. Active in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s until his death in 1987, Peter Hujar took pictures of his contemporaries, like Susan Sontag and William Burroughs.
Another exhibit left a vivid memory in our minds: the repetitive pictures of Hans Eijkelboom. He took hundreds of pictures of people in the streets of European cities, matching them on clothes patterns or types. Here the green loden.
Visiting again the Sebastião Salgado exhibit Genesis in Rotterdam is like visiting an old friend… no need to recap, no need to catch up, it is well known territory, immediate understanding and the same awe is there! We can continue where we left it, one year ago, in Singapore. Marvellous setup, breath-taking pictures, really worth the trip. From Africa to Antarctica, from North America to Asia, Salgado’s Genesis pictures have something biblical about them. Our Earth and their inhabitants are just amazing and we should be reminded of that constantly.
Very big Bruce Davidson exhibit at the Nederlands Fotomusuem in Rotterdam. Pictures from the 50’s to the recent years, from New York to Paris. The famous pictures from his most famous series, from East 100th Street, to Brooklyn Gang, to Paris, to Los Angeles. The social struggles in the USA in the last 50 years. Nothing much has changed today.
Unseen Amsterdam is “the leading platform for contemporary photography”. Unseen Amsterdam was returning for its sixth edition at the beautifully rehabilitated Westergasfabriek this weekend. A beautiful vivid show of photographs, combined with a superb Autumn Dutch weather.
More details: www.unseenamsterdam.com
Pearl is a compassionate photographer. She is able to establish contact with her models and take the most natural compelling pictures of men, women and children in various Asian countries. The Asia Malaria Images Exhibition will be held between 2 – 29 September 2017 at the Promenade Level 8 of the National Library Singapore, 100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064
The Black & White houses remain a fascinating topic for the expats in Singapore. History, architecture, style attract the people from overseas to these very special Singapore houses. I had the opportunity to help the French La Gazette team illustrate a series of articles about the Black & White houses. The result of this work was published in the July-September 2017 La Gazette magazine.
Photos © Albert Sim
Photos © Albert Sim