Bertien van Manen and friends
Stedelijk museum Amsterdam
29 feb - 20 sep 2020
I Will Be Wolf - 2017
In December 1975 Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen made a series of black-and-white photographs capturing daily life in metropolitan Hungary. I will be Wolf brings together many of these beautiful and never-before-seen images with the editorial direction of renowned British photographer Stephen Gill. Her snapshots of commuters, grocers, chemists, café workers, and street vendors contain all the hallmarks of a bygone era, before the grip of globalisation was able to make its mark on the country. Imbued with an air of ambivalent nostalgia, the book takes its title from the poem Grief by the 20th century Hungarian poet József Attila.
Beyond Maps and Atlases - 2016
Where can it be found again,
An elsewhere world, beyond
Maps and atlases,
Where all is woven into
And of itself, like a nest
Of crosshatched grass blades?
Seamus Heaney from the poem ‘Herbal’ in ‘Human Chain’
At first, working in Ireland I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. My husband had died.
I dispensed with the people and reflected on the atmosphere. I was guided by a
feeling and a search, a longing for some kind of meaning in a place of myths and legends. There was mystery and endlessness at the edge of a land beyond which is nothing
but a vast expanse.
Bertien van Manen
Amsterdam, September 15th 2015
Moonshine - 2014
'...Van Manen’s point and shoot style of photography is one of allowing imperfections in technique stand. In many of her images there is often an unearthly quality to the light; for instance the unnatural glow of the girls’ back in the book’s cover image as she runs from the camera; in an early black-and-white image of four children sitting on a sofa, the two girls in the center dissolve in the glow of the window light; fiery light leaks stain an image of a man in a coffin at a funeral.
...It is said that in the distilling of ‘moonshine’ whisky, the clearer the liquid looks the more powerful the alcohol. In Bertien van Manen’s Moonshine the opposite may be true, imperfection handled with a fierce respect and admiration has allowed for a stronger more powerful drink than few have been able to produce...’
‘...It wasn’t until I spent some time with the work that it really began resonating with me. I see my own life and family in many of these photographs.’
EASTER AND OAK TREES - 2013
‘....It is surprising to see how in essence all the qualities of her riper work are present in these family-snapshots: the lyrical looseness, the sensuality and the melancholy but also a feeling for balance and composition. They seem free, sturdy improvisations on themes, which later, in ‘A Hundred Summers a Hundred Winters’ or in ‘East Wind West Wind’ more outspokenly took shape. Of course especially the contactprints thanks to their grafic imperfections have the seductive aura of authenticity but much more interestitng is the search for form, however spontanuous and intimate the scenes may be. This is most explicitely visible in the attention for the pose. In a single case this is purposefully being created but more often it is very precisely being seen and captured in all its artless liveliness and almost painfull beauty.’
LET’S SIT DOWN BEFORE WE GO - 2011
The photos in this book have been made between 1991 and 2009 in Russia, Moldova, Kazachstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Tatarstan, Georgia. The editing and sequencing of the images have been done by Stephen Gill.
The title of these series, ‘Lets’s sit down before we go’, is a metaphor for the subject of the images. An old habit in Russia. Before leaving for a long journey, people sit down for a moment and think about where they will be going and why...
GIVE ME YOUR IMAGE - 2006
Bertien van Manen has travelled through countless countries in Europe to photograph photographs. She had to enter dwellings and souls, and also the dwellings of souls and the souls of the dwellings. This was a study of interior photography -if by ’interior’ one means something more than simply the inside of a room- say, the inner essence, the core of human being.
East wind, west wind - 2001
‘...To penetrate the privacy of other people’s lives would take a great deal of tact anywhere. For a Dutch photographer to have found her way into the intimate corners of Chinese lives must have taken more than that. China, for all its hospitality, can be an intensely private place.
It is traditionally a country of walled cities, walled palaces, walled gardens, and walled family compounds. The family is still the basic unit that dominates most Chinese lives.
And Bertien van Manen has penetrated those units, to show us how Chinese live, eat, touch, talk, and sleep in private. To have done this she must have been not only tactful, put persistant, curious and symphathetic. You can tell from her photographs that she was trusted. Even if she never sees them again, you feel that her subjects are her friends.
Bertien van Manen’s pictures do not have an overtly political message. She is an artist, not an activist. But the political history of China is visible in almost every photograph...’
A hundred summers, a hundred winters - 1994
‘...Through her excellent photographs and her inquiring and humanistic temperament, and with powerfull artistic expression, Bertien van Manen shows what historians, writers, sociologists and political scientists argue, that there exist at least two Russias. There is the official, imperial and external Russia, known to us from newspaper headlines, and the one within, the hidden, poor Russia of the anonymous, ordinary people of whose existence Bertien van Manen’s moving and revealing album tells.’