Nederlands Fotomuseum Reveals 99 Iconic Images In The Gallery Of Honour Of Dutch
The development of 180 years of photography
On 9 June, the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam opened the Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography to the public and welcomed His Majesty the King for a visit to the museum. As one of the first visitors, he viewed the Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography and spoke with photographers whose work is included.
It is the world’s first permanent gallery to honour photography as a contemporary and topical medium. With this permanent exhibition, which remain on display for at least 3 years, the museum consolidates its position as the national museum of photography, safeguarding the photographic heritage of today and of the future.
Six themes and six time periods
In the Gallery of Honour, 99 photos tell the story of photography in the Netherlands from 1842 to the present day. The Gallery shows the highlights, the innovations, and the great steps photographers have made, from the invention of photography to the unique technological innovations of today.
Director Birgit Donker of the Nederlands Fotomuseum: “With the Gallery of Honour, we’re giving this contemporary medium the stage it deserves. We hope the Gallery of Honour will inspire and spark meaningful conversation.”
The Gallery of Honour starts off by showing the earliest examples of photographs, known as daguerreotypes, and showcases work by dozens of photographers who explored boundaries, developed new techniques, and brought about innovation – from black and white images to colour photography and the digital age. Through six time periods, the visitor is taken through the fascinating development of 180 years of photography.
First time period: The new Miracle, 1839 -1890
In the early days of photography, seeing images appear on a light-sensitive surface must have seemed like a miracle. The invention of photography was first announced in 1839. The possibilities and magic of the new medium were then put to the test. At this time, photography was still a medium for specialists, such as Eduard Isaac Asser, a lawyer and photo pioneer who created a portrait of his daughter Charlotte as early as 1842.
With a camera ordered from Paris and a manual, Asser taught himself to take photographs. He made daguerreotypes. Various methods were developed after that, including albumen printing (negatives printed directly onto paper), glass negatives, the first colour photo in 1861, and silver gelatin printing, invented in 1871.
Second time period: Photos for the masses, 1890-1920
“You press the Button, We do the Rest”: this was the slogan of Kodak, the company founded by George Eastman. The company introduced the Kodak box camera in 1888. With this camera, anyone could take photographs and the medium was no longer only for specialists. Each camera had a roll film for 100 photos. When the film was full, you simply sent it on to Kodak’s laboratory. After this product was developed, photography became more spontaneous. Amateur photography emerged, as it is evident from the jumping man in the photo Aan boord Warnemunde, taken from the Piek family album of 1892. People no longer had to sit still for minutes on end to get a sharp picture. Photo studios for making portraits also became popular.
Third time period: The new gaze, 1920-1945
Photographers are exploring new possibilities. New points of view, new visual language (collages) and other ways of making portraits emerge, such as the portrait Piet Zwart made of anti-colonial writer and resistance hero Anton de Kom in 1933. It was taken from an angle from above. New Photography flourished until the war broke out and the camera became a weapon against the German occupiers. By November 1944, photography was even banned.
Fourth time period: Towards a better world, 1945 – 1970
Photographers start exploring more and more: the camera becomes an instrument for compassion, criticism or for recording progress, as in Cas Oorthuys’ steam tugboat ‘Europa’. During the Second World War, this photographer captured grim images, but now he was looking ahead. The tugboat optimistically steams forward into the future. From 1960, colour photography becomes widely accessible.
Fifth time period: Photography becomes self-aware, 1920-2000
Photographers are looking for a new way of creating art. Visual artists discover photography, such as Bas Jan Ader in 1970 with I’m too sad to tell you and Rineke Dijkstra with her beach series, in which she captures the insecurity of adolescents. The two worlds of photography and art grow closer. Staged photography emerges, with examples such as the fictional family album by Paul de Nooijer, who converted his own house into a photo studio and assigned satirical roles to himself, his wife and son. Digital cameras are available on the market from the 1990s.
Sixth time period: The digital world, 2000 – the present day
Photography is everywhere and for everyone. Photographers roam the Internet both cheerfully and critically. The power and versatility of the photographic image is further exploited. Photos are edited digitally or transformed into fantasy images, such as, Flowers in December by Sanja Marusic. Images become art objects, such as the installation Neutral (openhearted) by Anouk Kruithof, in which she uses images hijacked from the Internet. After 2000, cameras were built into telephones. This is also the era of the selfie and the Instagram Account. Meryem Slimani uses the latter to portray her mother in a mix of streetwear and traditional Moroccan clothing.
The public decides: 99+1
The Gallery of Honour consists of 99 iconic works, plus one empty frame. This symbolises the photograph that – consciously or subconsciously – was not chosen or noticed, not known, or not (yet) appreciated. The public can pick this ‘missing photo’ themselves. In this way, the Gallery of Honour invites everyone to offer a response to the current selection of photographs. Visitors can add their own +1 photo with a special App during their visit to the Gallery of Honour.