The Nederlands Fotomuseum has digitized all 447 albums of contact prints compiled by Cas Oorthuys, one of the most influential of all Dutch photographers. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the historic nature of these fragile albums and the need to conserve them properly as part of the photographic heritage of the Netherlands. For this reason, the museum wishes to stop using them as a working tool in the management of the Oorthuys archive and instead to preserve them as a unique historic artefact. In order to maintain access to the Oorthuys archive, the museum decided to digitize the entire set of albums. This is one of the biggest digitization projects in the history of Dutch photography.
The Nederlands Fotomuseum has stewardship of the complete Oorthuys archive. Cas Oorthuys (1908-1975) was one of the most significant Dutch photographers of the 20th century and ranks alongside top international postwar documentary photographers like Werner Bischof and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
A unique feature of the archive is what is affectionately known as ‘Cas’s Cabinet’: a set of cupboards containing no fewer than 447 albums of contact sheets. Compiled by Oorthuys and his wife Lydia, the albums contain sheets of 6 x 6 cm contact prints pasted in by hand. The couple used the books as a way to show photos to clients and other interested parties and then to immediately identify the right negative to produce any desired print.
The albums are arranged by subject in 36 wooden cupboards. They contain a total of over 500,000 contact prints and directly identify the numbers of the individual negatives. For this reason, they are an invaluable tool for the management and use of the Oorthuys archive. Even today, they are still being used for this purpose.
Not only is the set of albums unique in the history of Dutch photography, but the annotations they contain provide insight into Oorthuys’s working methods. This makes ‘Cas’s Cabinet’ a historic object worthy of conservation to museum standards. The Fotomuseum is therefore keen to stop using the albums as a working tool and instead to preserve them in its collection as a unique historic artefact.
Captions for Cas
The Nederlands Fotomuseum is appealing to the Dutch public for help in identifying the contents of photographs taken by Cas Oorthuys, among the most influential of all 20th-century Dutch photographers. Anyone is be able to study the photos in the Oorthuys archive online and provide information on the contents. Using the existing Vele Handen platform, it is open to everyone to contribute information on any of the images in the contact sheets. The museum is looking not just for photography lovers, but for a wide variety of experts and people with relevant personal knowledge. Read more
Retrospective This is Cas | Vintage Photography by Cas Oorthuys
The long-awaited retrospective, This is Cas | Vintage Photography by Cas Oorthuys, will open at the Nederlands Fotomuseum on 15 September 2018. The exhibition will feature over 300 vintage prints, as well as a digital presentation of the albums of contact sheets. It will be accompanied by a new publication on Cas Oorthuys, issued jointly by French publishing house Editions Xavier Barral and Belgian publishers Kannibaal.