The Nederlands Fotomuseum collects Dutch photography, and stories play a crucial role in the selection process: the museum does not collect individual photos, but complete archives or photo series. In the Tall Stories exhibition, the museum is showcasing a variety of these visual stories from its rich collection. It is a mix of historical and contemporary photography; of different types of photography; of themes and subjects; of both professional and amateur photographers. And, of course, all are visually strong.
The Tall Stories exhibition builds upon the museum’s new course, in which photography from the Netherlands and particularly the museum’s rich collection are central.
The exhibition consists of ten chapters. Each chapter exposes a topical, societal, or everyday theme, such as migration, power, wealth or football. Within each chapter, two photo series elucidate the theme from a different perspective, highlighting the significance of how the viewer sees the images.
The theme of power(lessness) shows how photographers can approach a subject from a completely different starting point, in terms of both form and content. The Rotterdam-based photographer Peter Martens was very concerned about the vulnerable groups in society. He wanted to make them visible to everyone so that viewers became aware of their existence. That is why he photographed in a straight-forward, honest manner. The idea that shocking photos will move people was his maxim—what other purpose could they possibly have? The other, less visible side is much more difficult to capture. Because how do you photograph ‘power’? This requires a completely different photographic approach, one that does not focus on people, but on the system, the appearance, and the symbols of power. This indirect and more conceptual approach is typical of Jacqueline Hassink’s work, and particularly of her project The Table of Power.
Another theme in the exhibition is migration—one of the biggest questions of our time. What is it like to be forced to leave your family, home and bed behind? In the Nederlands Fotomuseum’s collection there are two impressive photo series that can give us an idea. In 1956, the Hungarian-born photographer Ata Kandó decided to travel to the Hungarian-Austrian border. The Hungarians travelled en masse to neighbouring Austria, fleeing Russian oppression. Many were stranded at the border where they
were forced to live in appalling circumstances. In ten days, Kandó took more than 1400 photos of the refugees and especially their children. Kandó said: ‘When you can empathise, you take better photos.’
While Kandó captured stranded refugees, photographer Ad van Denderen made a photo series of African refugees in the 1990s, capturing their arrival by boat on one of the European southern beaches in the dead of night. Their faces reveal a sense of hope for a new future.
Football is war. Not literally of course, but the game can be tough and dramatic. Or quite boring, when the match is rather uneventful. Imagine that you are a sports photographer. How do you capture a match? Are you fast enough to ‘catch' the decisive goal? Do you block everything else out and zoom in on the duel across the field or do you photograph the injured player lying in the grass nearby? The football photos taken by Kees Molkenboer and Hans van der Meer from the Fotomuseum’s collection show that opinions about this have certainly changed over time.
The other themes and artists are:
A 22 million story | Hein Wertheimer
The city of arrival | Maria Toby & Lamia Naji
The camera and us | Frits J. Rotgans & Hans Eijkelboom
In the street and the sky above | Cobie Douma & Frits Lamberts
Dutch scenes | Cas Oorthuys & Hans Aarsman
Animals captured as humans | Gregor Krause & Johannes Rombouts
Nude versus naked | Katharina Behrend & Wally Elenbaas / Esther Hartog & Sanne Sannes
The exhibition consists of ten themes and 21 photo series. It opens with the unique life story of Hein Wertheimer, the founding father of the Nederlands Fotomuseum. Throughout his life, Wertheimer was a very active and skilled amateur photographer; however, no one knew he had accumulated 22 million Dutch guilders, mainly by living prudently. In his will, he stipulated that his capital should be used for the ‘establishment and maintenance of a Dutch photography museum’, which resulted in the founding of this museum.
The heart of the Tall Stories exhibition is a space where the story of the museum’s collection and selection process are explained and where lectures and lively discussions regularly take place, for example, about sports photography or the difference between amateur and professional.
Nederlands Fotomuseum: visual stories that matter
The Tall Stories exhibition builds upon the museum’s new course, in which photography from the Netherlands and particularly the museum’s rich collection are central. The exhibition is part of a trilogy that showcases what the museum does: the first exhibition: Lust for Life, revolved around the extensive restoration of Ed van der Elsken’s colour work. Tall Stories is the second exhibition and highlights the museum’s collection policy. In the Eregalerij (Gallery of Honour), which will open next year, all of the icons from the Netherlands’ photographic history will be presented together in a permanent exhibition.
The Nederlands Fotomuseum safeguards the Netherland’s current and future photographic heritage and makes it accessible to the public. In doing so, we collect and exhibit photography in a topical context that reflects the world we live in, enriching people’s lives with visual stories that matter.
Left: Surinaamse familie, Rotterdam (1980) © Maria Toby-Bos / Nederlands Fotomuseum
Right: Rotterdam, Het Kasteel, Sparta - DOS 1-7, filmster Jayne Mansfield verricht de aftrap, (13 oktober 1957) © Kees Molkenboer / Nederlands Fotomuseum
You can only order tickets online for this exhibition. Before visiting the museum, please read our visitor information.