An exciting winter for photo-enthusiasts
2018-12-20 | By Anne Pinto-Rodrigue
As temperatures plummet and the thought of spending time outdoors gets increasingly daunting, I explore the world from the comfort of photographic institutions in the Netherlands. This winter, several thought-provoking photo exhibitions showcase Dutch and international image-makers and promise to fascinate and enlighten.
Controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) once quipped about his profession of choice, “I went into photography because it seemed like the perfect vehicle for commenting on the madness of today’s existence.” A sentiment echoed today by thousands of photographers and photojournalists around the world. Photography has emerged as one of the most powerful tools for storytelling, for creating awareness, and for initiating change. Here in the Netherlands, several compelling photo exhibitions during the winter give us an opportunity to make sense of the world around us, through the eyes, and lenses, of several master photographers.
I start my photo exhibition tour at the National Archives in The Hague. Home to the largest photo collection in the Netherlands–15 million images from the past 175 years–the National Archives launched “Face to Face” in September 2018. In this extraordinary showcase, ninety portraits of famous as well as ordinary people, selected from the in-house collection, are displayed in a novel fashion. Original, vintage prints of seemingly unconnected individuals are paired to tell stories of their surprising commonalities–for example, the portrait-pair of Dutch dancer Mata Hari and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Though born nearly 100 years apart and in different parts of the world, the lives of both women were fraught with infamy and notoriety — one executed by the state, the other condemned by the media and public. Forty-four other such image pairs tell intriguing stories of shared history. These stories are further enriched by letters, documents, books, and magazine articles from the National Archives.
This exhibition runs until 6 January 2019. Find more information at https://www.nationaalarchief.nl/beleven/tentoonstelling/face-to-face
When too much really is too much
My next stop is The Hague Museum of Photography, to view the work of American photographer and film-maker Lauren Greenfield, who has been documenting the concept of ‘wealth’ for over 25 years. Titled “Generation Wealth”, this exhibition with shocking images of people’s excesses, is an interesting contrast to the sombre experience at the National Archives. Interested in the science behind people’s desires to acquire more and more, Greenfield shares over 200 photographs and several short films which tell stories of the ultra-wealthy 1% and the ‘wannabes’ who go to great lengths to portray a certain image. The show also documents the aspirations of the poor in societies who idolise financial success, and those ageing in a culture that fetishises youth. ‘Riches to rags’ accounts also serve as cautionary tales. This hard-hitting exhibition, which runs until 3 February 2019, pushes us to examine our own attitudes towards wealth and consumption. Greenfield’s work is particularly relevant in our times, as humanity’s insatiable desire for material goods decimates the world’s natural resources.
Details of the exhibition are at https://www.fotomuseumdenhaag.nl/en/exhibitions/lauren-greenfield
For the love of food
One topic that always pops up while discussing excesses is food. From time immemorial, food has been a popular subject in traditional visual arts–painting and sculpture–and more recently, in photojournalism and commercial photography. With the advent of the camera phone, photographing your meal has become an integral part of the dining experience, making food the most-photographed subject of our times. From 21 December 2018, the Foam Museum in Amsterdam will host a riveting exhibition “Feast for the Eyes–The Story of Food in Photography”, centred on our long history of documenting food. Three specific themes–Still Life, Around the Table and Playing with your Food–will be used to explore the many layers surrounding the representation of food. Delightful cookbooks from the sixties will be displayed, providing additional context to the photographs. This exhibition, which runs until 6 March 2019, includes works by many well-known photographers, such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Guy Bourdin, Imogen Cunningham, Roe Ethridge, Rotimi Fani Kayode, Martin Parr, and Andy Warhol.
Discover more at https://www.foam.org/museum/programme/feast-for-the-eyes
Redefining the African narrative
Another exhibition to watch out for is “Recent Histories/Contemporary African Photography and Video Art” at the Huis Marseille Museum of Photography in Amsterdam. This show, which runs from 8 December 2018 until 3 March 2019, shares the perspectives of 15 contemporary photographers and film-makers of African descent as they question traditional narratives about Africa. Through their work these lens-based artists explore issues of identity, origins, belonging, migration, and the legacy of colonialism. The work of these artists– David Goldblatt, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Em’kal Eyongakpa, Pieter Hugo, Délio Jasse, Lebohang Kganye, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Zanele Muholi, Mame-Diarra Niang, Dawit L. Petros, Thabiso Sekgala, Mikhael Subotzky, Guy Tillim and Michael Tsegaye–is a powerful investigation of African identity, and is taken from the Walther Collection and the Huis Marseille collection.
With so many gripping photo exhibitions this winter, photography enthusiasts in the Netherlands are in for a treat. This Dutch winter may turn out to be quite exciting after all!
Other Photo Exhibitions
- This is Cas
Works of renowned 20th century Dutch photographer Cas Oorthuys
Until 31 December 2018
Nederlands Fotomuseum, Wilhelminakade 332, 3072 AR Rotterdam
- Daniel Shea
2018 Winner of the Foam Paul Huf Award
Until 20 January 2019
Foam, Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS Amsterdam
- Erwin Olaf
One of the Netherlands’ most famous photographers
16 February to 12 May 2019
Fotomuseum Den Haag, Stadhouderslaan 43, 2517 HV Den Haag
- World Press Photo 2018 exhibitions
Den Bosch Until 20 December 2018
Willem Twee, muziek en beeldende kunst, Boschdijkstraat 100
Hulst Until 20 December 2018
St. Willibrordusbasiliek, Steenstraat 2
Hilversum 4 to 27 January 2019
Museum Hilversum, Kerkbrink 6
About the author
Anne Pinto-Rodrigues is an Amsterdam-based writer and photographer. She moved to the Netherlands two years ago and documents several subjects of interest to her. More about Anne on her website www.annepintorodrigues.com