The Nederlands Fotomuseum has added the archives of Johan van der Keuken (Amsterdam, 1938-2001) to its collection. With his photo books Wij zijn 17 and Paris Mortel, he acquired national and international fame. This acquisition is an important addition to the collection of the Nederlands Fotomuseum. ‘Johan van der Keuken rightfully deserves a place in our collection. He was a true pioneer. He was one of the first people to challenge the medium of photography by also working with video. And it’s precisely this discussion about the thin line between photography and video that, in this current multimedia age, is more relevant than ever,’ said Birgit Donker (Director of the Nederlands Fotomuseum). In the autumn of 2021, the Nederlands Fotomuseum will be dedicating a major retrospective to the work of Johan van der Keuken.
Johan van der Keuken Collection
The large gift consists of negatives, slides and drawings. The archives have been given to the museum by Noshka van der Lely, van der Keuken’s widow. Since her late husband’s death, she and her current husband Willem van Zoetendaal (curator, designer, publisher) have maintained and studied the archives.
This has resulted in publications like Quatorze Juillet 1998 and Paris mortel retouché, and thanks to their expertise, several exhibitions have been created in the Netherlands and abroad. ‘To build on this, the next logical step would be adding the archives to the Fotomuseum’s collection, so it can be made accessible to an even larger group of interested people. Other people will be able to understand Johan van der Keuken’s way of working on the basis of such original archive materials as unadulterated negatives (whole negatives) and texts,’ said Noshka van der Lely and Willem van Zoetendaal.
The Nederlands Fotomuseum will continue its research during the coming years in preparation for the major retrospective in the autumn of 2021. This exhibition will revolve around Johan van der Keuken’s photography, the medium this multitalented artist always found his way back to.
Johan van der Keuken
Johan van der Keuken’s work fits into the tradition of post-war humanist photography and film in the Netherlands. Van der Keuken’s work was characterised by a calm, deliberate style arising from a precise observation of the realities of daily life. All his images are precisely framed and have tremendous poetic power. The meaning of the frame was indeed a central topic in his numerous essays about the similarities and contrasts between photography and video, the two mediums that were integral to his work.
Johan van der Keuken was born in Amsterdam in 1938. At the age of twelve, he began experimenting with photography, and by seventeen had published his first photo book Wij zijn 17 (1955): a series of portraits of his lethargic classmates. In 1956, he moved to Paris to study at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques. During this period, he developed his skills as a photographer and filmmaker. It was during this time that he also discovered the direct style of American photographer William Klein, a major influence on van der Keuken’s work, as he admitted. This resulted in the publication of Paris Mortel, in which he depicted the non-romantic side of the French capital. Today, this photo book rightly deserves to be called an international classic. After his time in Paris, he further developed his skills in filmmaking, making such well-known films as Blind Kind (1964), Beppie (1965), Bewogen Koper (1993) and Amsterdam Global Village (1996).
Special thanks to: Noshka van der Lely and Willem van Zoetendaal