company photobook

front cover WAREHOUSEback cover  gedraaid

Mirelle Thijsen (MT):

I saw the announcement on Facebook: The king of the Netherlands, Willem Alexander, received the first copy of WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY presented by the author-photographer Henk Wildschut. A few days later I purchased online a signed and numbered copy from the photographer’s website. It said, handwritten on the French title page: ‘SE#04’ – number 4 out of 100 copies. While leafing through the book publication I realized I had obtained a contemporary company photobook in the tradition of new documentary photography.

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WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY is a state-of-the-art company photobook on futuristic high-tech ‘agriculture’. The publication is accentuated by the clever, clean and clear layout concept from Robin Uleman. I sent an e-mail query to the graphic-designer to explain the title, some of the technical terms regarding e.g. the sleeve for the map; the folding of the map; the kind of ‘system typography’ used for the inner work of the book, and the letter font. Uleman’s replies are inserted in this review, highlighted in purple.

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Robin Uleman (RU):
Since the building is qualified as industrial heritage, the exterior of the old warehouse has been largely kept intact while the interior has been stripped completely and will get an overall renovation. It was built at the end of the fifties, during the heyday of company photobooks. Most of those publications had a sturdy and alluring look. Hardcovers depicting full bleeding black and white or duotone pictures, with just the book title printed on top, or simply bound in cloth, with monumental type faces embossed in or foil-blocked on top of it were the convention. In the layout of WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY I refer to those days and combine the homage with a shot from the new interior. So the book has a hardcover clad with a canvas-like grainy paper, on which a picture is printed, so sleek and mysterious that it might as well be a still taken from a science fiction movie. The foil-blocked title puts the metaphor of the spaceship firmly on the ground and adds to the earthly tactile sensation of the canvas cover in your hands.

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Such books are rare these days. Let me compare a few examples compiled by Dutch photographers and /or designers in the past 20 years. The robust hand glued accordion fold Interpolis (2006) by Frank van der Salm is an artist’s book containing abstracted images of the interior, the exterior, and the location of the insurance enterprise.

All Ferrari Engines (2002) is a sample book collection of 7 technical drawings and 91 color photographs of Ferrari engines collected by an elderly employer from the period 1947-2002. The publication documents the technical history of a car manufacturer and is designed by Irma Boom. How Terry Likes his Coffee (2010/2012) is a non-commissioned documentary photobook by Florian van Roekel. The oblong self-published book is the result of a fifteen-month exploration of five different offices throughout the Netherlands. It documents a candid reality of the changing perception of people in office culture. Mensenstroom (1997) has been setting the standard for a new documentary approach to the genre. This documentary / company photobook is both a commissioned and self-published by Bart Sorgedrager, following the closure of the nuclear plant Dodewaard. Mensenstroom ultimately is a farewell gift for the employees, handed out on their last day of work.

The title WAREHOUSE / LABORATORY stems from the design process. I like to have that kind of freedom in designing a book: not only to develop the edits, but also to play with titles, chapters and words in order to direct the viewer’s attention and shape the editorial content.
PlantLab’s experiments with cultivating crops under totally controlled conditions, which are purely scientific in nature, so the title had to mimic a scientific formula or comparison, like different states of aggregation that are juxtaposed. In this book a building changes from one state – a former warehouse – into another – a laboratory for the future.
The book is divided in four chapters, in line with that same idea of transformation: STAGE 0 / WAREHOUSE, STAGE 1 / DEMOLITION, STAGE 2 / CONSTRUCTION and STAGE 3 / LABORATORY.

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The introduction text by the board of PlantLab is business-like; not what you would call a prosaic opening, describing ‘explosive growth’ (from five to 35 people, from 200 m2 to 20.000 m2 working surface); ‘preserve talents’ and ‘deliver results’. PlantLab, founded in 2010, ‘is a mission to change the way the world is fed’. The ultimate goal of the enterprise is ‘to ensure that plants can reach their full potential, so that we can have a world where everyone has access to a sustainable source of safe, affordable and nutritious food’. How to implement that mission, I wondered. Well, by merging know-how related to:
A. Plant physiology
B. Mathematical models
C. State-of-the-art technology.

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This business model carries a wonderful name: ‘Plant’s paradise’. So what they do is design and build Plant Production Units (PPU’s). These units are hermetically closed ‘growing environments’ with optimized climate control conditions applicable to all worldwide growing conditions. The consequence and environmentally friendly result allows shortening supply chains inasmuch as food is grown locally. In short, we look at sterile conditions for crop cultivation behind closed doors. All this is happening in a former warehouse, the nostalgic De Gruyter Factory (famous for making chocolate sprinkles and a highly flavoured sweet anise powder called ‘crunched Muisjes’), now a state-of-the-art innovative research facility.

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The documentary style of Henk Wildschut, as demonstrated in his recently published book Food (2013), is a remarkable in-depth study on the food industry in the Netherlands, and fits the recording of PlantLab’s culture like a glove. Inasmuch as post-war company photobooks were released as commemoration/ anniversary books to inaugurate a new factory building and in some cases to document the production process and manufacturing, WAREHOUSE/LABORATORY documents the revolutionary renovation of a piece of cultural heritage into a ‘spacelab’.


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To be honest I don’t know what would be a more appropriate term for the ‘sleeve for the map’. I guess that description comes closest to what it is. In terms of bookbinding it’s not a very common solution to create a sleeve from the last gathering of pages. The final two pages are folded inward like in Japanese bookbinding and subtly glued at the bottom. I didn’t want to insert an ugly triangular sleeve glued onto the end papers at the inside of the cover to hold the map. It’s a common solution, but in my opinion it’s better to avoid it, since it looks like an afterthought. I wanted it to be elegant and simple, an integral part of the object. NPN printers suggested this solution, which was created and executed in cooperation with Van Waarden, the bookbinders. The map itself is folded half through the horizon and then folded like an accordion.

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A schematic field report, tightly fit in a exceptional sleeve in the back of the book shows on a map, in floor plans, on the front side the different stages of transforming industrial heritage into a testing ground for indoor farming. On the backside the construction of laboratories is visualised. And this is new, not only within the genre itself: Numbered pink arrows on the map indicate camera standpoint and angles of every single image. So each photograph is indexed with A. a unique number, B. a location, referring to the coordinates on the field report, and C. a date, indicating when the photograph was made and in which stage of the renovation (demolition 0 + 1) or construction of the laboratories (2 + 3). This information is systematically put in a vertical sidebar perpendicular to the images (construction and interiors are full spreads, individual people and single objects are depicted on a single page). The book is divided into four chapters, according to the four stages.

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System typography
The book is all about the transformation of an industrial monument, the former De Gruyter warehouse in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NL), into a laboratory for research at the cutting edge of indoor farming. It documents the first phase of the whole makeover, which will take another year or two to fully execute. The first section was opened in September 2014. The completion of the renovation will take place in the course of 2015 and 2016.
At first glance the book offers an impression of the construction process, showing overviews, details, some action and portraits of the workers at different points in time. At second glance the pictures are embedded in a system. To avoid a simply evocative experience, we wanted to stay close to the architectural nature of the book project and give it a topographical root, something both accurate and detailed to involve the viewer and to provide him with a tool for orientation. Specific locations in the building were documented, some repetitively at different stages. These locations function as a point of reference and make you aware of the actual transformation. To enhance this notion the typographical system visualized on the sidebars of the pages helps you to navigate through the building and offers additional information about the stage of the process, the date the photograph was taken and its actual content. The images carry a number, the floor number and the coordinates that correspond with the map showing all camera standpoints and angles. To make the narrative breathe the air of architecture and science all text has been typeset in Akkurat. Especially when restricted to the use of capitals this font creates an atmosphere of detachment and objective registration.

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Stage 0 shows the former storage room, the ramp for transporting goods, and the remains of temporary workspaces for musicians/artists. From 1980-2013 the former warehouse, a two-floor building with concrete arcades (windows beneath the arch), and tall concrete columns were then used for exhibitions and events. A corridor in green and blue led to rehearsal rooms for musicians. The book opens with a neutral and serene – almost blunt – view on a wide window above two central heating units, covered with five light cotton curtains, kept tight together with some pins, in order for the daylight not to peak through. Alongside are 1970s style orange painted walls in this former artist’s studio.

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Stage 1starts where stage 0 ends: the demolition of rehearsal rooms and studios. We look at how divisions between floors are removed. Pallets, plaster, loose wiring dangling from ceilings, piles of bricks. But in general the overview of each space is there. The first demolition worker is portrayed, sitting in his caterpillar, using his mobile phone while smoking. Single people, demolition and ground workers, are portrayed frontally, like the dockworkers in the photobook A’dam Doc.k (2007) by Henk Wildschut and Raimond Wouda. And unlike that publication, the name, age, profession and employer of the person portrayed are mentioned. On another spread an extraction installation for the disposal of construction waste looks like a red caterpillar crawling out of the window. A standard blue tarp, used as a contemporary chute for collecting construction waste reminds me of a temporary refugee shelter, much like the ones Wildschut photographed near Calais, collected in the book Shelter (2011).

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The daylight captured in the book is as serene as that in a museum exhibition space and the way the different sections of the building are recorded: Each former studio, each pile of disposal, the fluorescent red outlines for drilling and milling on the iron tiled floor are like art installations per se.

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In STAGE 2 / CONSTRUCTION you get to understand pre-heated paint, and a paint gun is needed at low outdoor temperatures. Walls are glued. An altimeter placed on a tripod in a ‘Mondrianesc’ coloured room measures the level of the entire second floor.
You get a glimpse of the temporary canteen during a break. In the kitchenette in front of a microwave and a coffee machine, a Makita battery charger is loading a cordless electric screwdriver. An electric outlet and cord is popping through a wall. Apart from constructing 22 Research & Development (R&D) units, 10 Plant Production Units (PPU’s) are installed and 28 km of heating tubes. On the following pages we witness how on top of twisted pipes a poured self-levelling concrete screed flows out. In this section of the book we see more people, more daily workers, most of them wearing safety helmets, and a few too many pictures showing the pouring of mortar.
Further in the book more pouring of screened floors is depicted on photographs 65-69, this time in Plant Paradise 1.
You could curate an exhibition in a PPU, they are very similar to museum spaces identified as ‘White Cubes’: a sterile white box. You could start a prison of a cooling enterprise behind the sliding doors of a R&D unit. And photograph 56, portraying the installers measuring high plain walls of the units with a red level, is like witnessing an art performance in itself.

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From daylight to LED-light, from RGB to CMYK and day-glow
The last chapter shows the new laboratory in action: a typical purple, pinkish light radiates from the so-called Plant Production Units. PlantLab creates an ideal environment to grow crops: micro-climates with pitch perfect humidity and temperature and ideal light conditions, provided by LED-lights. ‘Ideal’ means that they are only exposed to those parts of the light spectre that are beneficial to them. Green is taken out, which leaves red and blue, to which far red (a colour invisible to the human eye) is added. Every photographer and designer knows that you loose depth of colour when translating RGB images into CMYK, necessary for printing, but within those limitations these pictures were not suitable to translate into something credible and satisfactory. The reproductions were dull and boring: not resembling the spectacular originals. Finally, I considered replacing a substantial amount of magenta by a day-glow (fluorescent) pink and add this to the regular CMYK line up, it would do the trick. Test prints demonstrated that this strategy worked. In print the result comes closest to the stunning effect your eyes experience when you visit a working Plant Production Unit (PPU). The arrows used on the map are printed in the same colour to create consistency.

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In the final chapter of the book STAGE 3 / LABORATORY the fluorescent purple colour (like on the cover photograph) appears, showing Plant Paradise by night. And this is what it is all about: ‘The plants are exposed 24/7 to ideal light spectre that only consists of blue, red and so-called far red, that cannot be seen by the human eye’.
Photograph 074 is the only picture showing an actual crop: wheat drenched in purple light, creating an atmosphere like in a nightclub: artificial, trendy and sensual at the same time. The research is focussed on finding the optimal climate for wheat. In Plant Paradise it is possible to test over a 100 different climates simultaneously.
A young man behind a microscope is inspecting wheat plants to find out whether ears are developing. His job description is ‘plant paradise profiler’. The engineering control is in-house expertise, as well as the installation design, and production supervision.

So what actually happens in these units? Here it is getting really interesting: photograph 57, on floor 2, in field J6, depicts a dividing wall, a processing area where crops are sown, re-potted and covered with black sound insulating fabric and finished with birch panelling, the caption reads. It could as well have been a wall in a cinema theatre.

The special light conditions result in a growing speed that is often twice as high, and the annual production is three to five times higher. Bathing in the purple light, both the uniformity and transformation of the R&D units and the PPU’s stand out as rhythmical elements in the book.



FOTO INDUSTRIA invitation 2

FOTO INDUSTRIA invitation 2

MAST. invitation 1

MAST. invitation 1

MAST invitation 2

MAST invitation 2

MAST invitation 3

MAST invitation 3

On the occasion of the opening of the first biennale of industrial photography FOTO INDUSTRIA, this Thursday October third in Bologna, you may find here the integral bibliographical data on five categories of company photobooks as selected for the exhibition ANALYSING WORK TODAY: Company Photobook Collections shown at the Bologna Pinacoteca. The selection is based on the private collections of Bart Sorgedrager, Jan Wingender, with contributions by Erik Kessels, Hans Gremmen, the Nederlands Fotomuseum, and Mirelle Thijsen/IPhoR.

Analysing work today CAPTIONS Sala Clementina Bologna Pinacoteca 2013 final 18072013

For CEOs Only – bibliography FINAL

WHAT WE MAKE Graphic Industries NL Bologna Pinacoteca captions FINAL 18072013

HIGHLIGHTS bibliography captions Sala Clementina Bologna Pinacoteca FINAL 18072013

Bibliography Captions photobooks medical CARE Sala Clementina Pinacoteca Bologna 2013 18072013



  • Oranje Nassau Mijnen, 1953


On the recommendation of Erik Kessels and invited by the artistic director of Foto Industria Bologna, François Hébel,  I am curating an exhibition on company photobooks  to be shown at the Bologna Pinacoteca from 3-20 Octobre 2013. For more information on this premiere that  explores the relationship between professional photography and the corporate world, see the press communique by Les Rencontres de la Photographie Arles. Let me share with you some more details on our contribution to the event, which, I believe, is the world’s first exhibition showing 120 company photobooks from the Netherlands and across the borders, from early and classic examples to a more hybrid type of company photobook that has emerged today.

ANALYSING WORK TODAY: Company Photobooks Collections consists of five categories. ‘For CEO’s Only’ is a selection of international company photobooks from the private collection of professional photographer Bart Sorgedrager, based in Amsterdam. Research assistant Clara Jankowski (MA Master Photographic Studies, Leiden University) has compiled a bibliography and captions for this particular selection of company photobooks and is presented in the exhibition as FOR CEO’S ONLY (alluding to the title of a company photobook by Richard Avedon for M&A Group in New York). The second category ANALYSING WORK TODAY extends the genre to the present-day, and is based on the research and book selection I made for Schaden_cahier 001 (2010). This selection of seminal company photobooks and daring annual reports is compiled from the private collections of Hans Gremmen, Erik Kessels, Bart Sorgedrager and Mirelle Thijsen/IPhoR.

Three other categories of photobooks are on display in Bologna, focussing on the heydays of this genre in the Netherlands: HIGHLIGHTS: COMPANY PHOTOBOOKS FROM POST-WAR HOLLAND; WHAT WE MAKE: DUTCH GRAPHIC INDUSTRIES and DUTCH MEDICAL CARE ENVIRONMENTS: THEN AND NOW.

The photobooks for these categories have been selected from the private collection of Jan Wingender, which will be acquired this year by the Netherlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. This selection is supplemented with a few publications from the Netherlands Fotomuseum. Designer and craftsman Niall Watson is currently making special book panels set on reclining ‘book stands’. The book panels seem to be suspended in the window cases. For the press release announcing the exhibit, see:  FOTOINDUSTRIA BOLOGNA_ENG

view towards living room, library and first floor bedroom

outdoor fireplace west facade

This summer my collection of company photobooks, mainly seminal photobooks published by captains of industry in postwar Holland, as well as annual reports and derivations of the genre, has been sold to the renowned collector Manfred Heiting (Malibu, CA).  Prior to the sale a salon was held on June 16 in my office space in Amsterdam. Read also the newsfeed on PhotoQ.

Right now I am preparing a chapter on the history of Dutch photography from 1939 to 1969 for the encycpledia A History of European Photograhy Volume II 

Another work in progress is An Anthology: Photobooks on Found Photographs, an online database to be accessible and consulted in 2013. See for a preview:

kitchen and cellar entrance

From now on the Researcher in Residence (RiR) in the Southers Vosges is OPEN for applications. Researchers, writers, historians, photographers, designers, curators, scholars are most welcome to apply.

southern side granit wall and facade

Bart Sorgedrager, De Unileverfabrieken in Delft, Loosdrecht en Vlaardingen, 2008

NV Lettergieterij ‘Amsterdam’ voorheen N. Tetterode, 1957. Design Mart Kempers

Les Levine, HOUSE, New York/steendrukkerij de Jong & Co, Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1971. Design Pieter Brattinga

Koen Vergeer, [f]oto’s, 2005. Design Henrik Barends. goodwill publication by Maria Austria Instituut, Amsterdam

Lee Friedlander, People Working (The George Gund Foundation Annual Report), 1995

Esko Mannikko, 100% Cashmere, 2003

Violette Cornelius, Ed van der Elsken, Paul Huf, Cas Oorthuys, Ata Kando, vuur aan zee, 1958. Design Jurriaan Schrofer

Nico Jesse, Oranje Nassau Mijnen, 1953. Design Nico Jesse

Mirelle Thijsen, Schaden_cahier 001, 2010
first and second print run

Proost Prikkel 322 (boekenfabricage), 1971

Kunststoffenindustrie Proost & Brandt NV, Proost Prikkel 328, 1972. photography: Aart Klein

De snelbinder, Proost Prikkels 286, 1965. Photography: Ad Windig, text: Bert Schierbeek. Published on the day the first elastic straps were issued.

Mensen en Machines in Maastricht. Proost Prikkels 236, 1959. Text Endt Friso

Henk Wildschut and Raimond Wouda, A’Dam DOC.k, 2006. back cover

Migros annual report 2002, Zurich 2003
Photography: Horst Diekgerdes

Erik Kessels, On Show (Howard Smith Paper), 2008

Het telefoonboek van Ben, 1999. Photography: Koos Breukel, Celine van Balen a.o.. Design: Kesselskramer

Jacqueline Hassink, The Table of Power, 1996. Design: Melle Hamer, Plus X

INVITATION from the desk of IPhoR  for June 16 2012, 12.00 AM- until 18.00 PM

Herewith I like to invite you for a Company Photobook Salon & Sale  on Saturday June 16 at my office along the Ertskade in Amsterdam.  We will open the doors to the garden and serve espresso and mint tea with tramezzini, filled dates and Turkish Delight. We will make a display of seminal company photobooks, annual reports and derivations of the genre, with an emphasis on photoboooks published by graphic industries in the Netherlands. Several mint copies of my reference book Het bedrijfsfotoboek 1945-1965. Professionalisering van fotografen in Nederland (2002) will be for sale. As well as the self-published dissertation Humanistische Fotografie en het geluk van de alledaagsheid. het Nederlandse bedrijfsfotoboek (2000). Titles included in Schaden_cahier 001 (2010)  will be displayed. Anyone interested in making a bid on the integral collection company photobooks is welcome!

Company photobooks were published in small press runs, were usually not sold in bookshops but circulated within a closed circuit of potential clients, contacts, staff and friends of the company. For a new generation of post war photographers, however they were a significant source of income.

Captains of industry expected rethorical images of industrial growth and people working in functional buildings, even of employees relaxing after work. The furniture factories of Bruynzeel and the Menko textile manufacturers, the Hoogovens steel furnaces, the mines of Limburg and the Dutch National Railways were presented as pleasant working environments. A lot of seminal Dutch company photobooks were published by Meijer N.V. in Wormerveer. Politically left-wing GKf-members, idealists such as Carel Blazer, Eva Besnyo and Cas Oorthuys made company photobooks. They accepted assignments from capitalists, business men. Their attitude was an ambivalent one, prompted on the one hand by an ideology of making an artist’s statement and on the other by the need of a new generation of photographers and designers to make a living.

The post-war company photobook has made way for an artist’s book documenting contemporary corporate cultures, the decline of industrial sectors, automation, globalisation, neo-capitalism and the network society. The Table of Power (1996) by Jacqueline Hassink, mensenstroom (1997) by Bart Sorgedrager, as well as the anual reports by JRP|Ringier and Migros are illustrative of the evolution of the genre.


THE?   25%

First the title: THE Dutch Photobook. Why being so pretentious? For this kind of birds-eye overview on Dutch photobooks from the postwar years, you would expect a title that leaves room for more interpretations, for other selections. Even Parr and Badger haven chosen a more modest title for their reference work The Photobook: A History Volume I (2004) and Volume II (2007). In terms of concept and format The Dutch Photobook comes close to The Book of 101 books (2001) by Andrew Roth. An appropriate title could have been The Book of 124 Dutch Photobooks – the post war years. Leaving out the word ‘seminal’ in a subtitle. Because most of the books selected in The Dutch Photobook are not to be considered SEMINAL (meaning highly influential in an original way). Well, some of them are. Which ones? Hollandse taferelen (28), Wij zijn 17 (46), Sex a gogo (55), Jazz (52), HE (56), Exactitudes (68), 50 jaar Bruynzeel 1897-1947 (80), De letter op straat (82), Monsters van de Peel (88), PLEM (90), Chili september 1973 (124), zonder titel [Hongaarse vluchtelingen] (117), Sweet Life (120), Empty Bottles (106), The Table of Power (101), vuur aan zee (86), Why Mister Why? (136), A Hundred Summers. A Hundred Winters (131), Paris Mortel (170), Blauwe maandag (175), Sequences (1995), Losing One’s Photos (197), Checked Bagage (210), Oma Toos (214), Bonjour Paris (164), 101 Billionaires (146). That amounts to about 25% of the 124 titles in The Dutch Photobook.

school mates

The Dutch Photobook is edited by Frits Gierstberg (head of exhibitions at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam) and Rik Suermondt (lecturer in art history and theory of photography at HKU, Utrecht and AKV|St. Joost, Breda). Both art-historians, both passionate collectors of Dutch photobooks since the mid 1980s. Rik and I were members of a research group ‘the Dutch Photobook’ (1984-1986) – about 6 students – supervised by Adi Martis, associate professor Art History of the Modern Era at the Utrecht University. Then, we could choose research topics from a list Adi had written on a piece of paper in a Courier typewriter: ‘Contact photopocket’; ‘Drukkerij Meijer-the company photobook’; ‘Sanne Sannes’; ‘photobooks by Cas Oorthuys’ a.o.  During the second edition of the manifestation Amsterdam FOTO in 1986 we, as a group, co-curated a small exhibition in the cold and damp apse of The Nieuwe Kerk, each of the students on his or her topic. We felt on top of the world. It must have been the first thematic exhibition on Dutch photobooks from the postwar period. The photopocket Bonjour Paris by Cas Oorthuys was my gig. That same year I graduated. My thesis title was ‘Drukkerij Meijer NV. The Dutch company photobook: teamwork with text, photography and design’. In 1989 Rik Suermondt edited a first bilingual overview on Dutch documentary photobooks since 1945: Photography between covers. Co-author was the curator of photography at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Mattie Boom. This publication has been the reference work on Dutch photobooks for at least 20 years. A sober reference book, containing reproductions of covers and spreads, all thumbnails in black & white, fit into a somewhat clumsy design. The selection of company photobooks in Photography between covers is straight from my unpublished thesis. The history writing on company photobooks in Photography between Covers is paraphrasing sections from my thesis. Until the present day I feel awkward, cheated, by the fact that the origin of the idea and the source of reference is not explicitly mentioned in the main text. My name is even wrongly spelled in the endnotes. It would have been a courteous gesture, considering we were school mates.

update  45% + 20%

In many ways The Dutch Photobook is an update of Photography between covers. The following titles appearing in Photography between Covers have also been selected for The Dutch Photobook.

 Landbouw (16), De schoonheid van ons land (18), Een staat in wording (114), Impressies 1945 (20), de ramp (21), Op de grens van land en zee (23), Delta (24), Droom in het woud (54), Achter glas (50), Monsters van de Peel (88), Oog om oog (194), 24 uur Amsterdam (163), Rotterdam, dynamische stad (166), Paris mortel (170), De Jordaan (172), Dit hap-hap-happens in Amsterdam (174), Frimangron (126), Neem nou Henny (58), Monsters van de Peel (88), Frimangron (126), De kater van het gelijk (100), Industriële zone (98), Miserere (130), Planned Landscapes (26), Chessmen (198), Reportages in licht en schaduw (192), 46, 48, 116, 120, 118, 127, 160, 55, 128, 117, 124. Plus four company photobooks  Wegen naar morgen (22), 50 jaar Bruynzeel (80), vuur aan zee (86), De draad van het verhaal (93). This amounts to about 45%.

The update The Dutch Photobook shows less cultural historical context, more exposure on a page or a spread, and is definitely in color. External experts were invited to create lemmas of approximately 300 words per book. The design of The Dutch Photobook by Joost Grootens is striking, in particular the indexing in the back of the book. This is new and unusual in publications on the history writing of photobooks. In one blink of an eye you get a visual overview of the alphabetic order of book titles; a timeline showing the heydays of the Dutch photobook over the past 65 years; the quantity of selected books per photographer; for the graphic designers as well; the sizes of 124 books shown to scale and, finally, a schematic display of the total print run, based on all first editions of a book – which means, including all foreign language editions that were published at the same time. Two exceptions were made, for Bonjour Paris and Liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint Germain des Pres. The print run of the first edition from these seminal photobooks was unknown, so a comment is made regarding that figure.

Actually, the selection of Dutch photobooks in The Dutch Photobook is basically a cocktail of the one made in Photography between covers and in the chapter ‘the Photobook after the Second World War’, Rik and I co-authored for Dutch Eyes. A Critical History of Photography in the Netherlands (2007). Well, Rik was the first author, I had a minor role. The chapter in Dutch Eyes was a fresh update of photobooks from the 1950s till 1970s, extended to the present day. The following titles of contemporary Dutch photobooks were selected in the first place for Dutch Eyes.

Snelweg (32), Play (178), Hollandse taferelen (28), Paradiso Stills (60), Hollandse velden (34), The Table of Power (101), The virgin sperm dancer (57), the wretched skin (203), famous (62), in den beginne (122), A hundred Summers, A Hundred Winters (131), Van de tijd en de tropen (133), Giflandschap (30), HYDE (64), Why Mister Why? (136), wherever you are on this planet (205), Exactitudes (68), Why Mister Why? (136), Jeffersonville Indiana (180), Rainchild (207), Heartbeat (204), Second first (202), neem nou Henny (58), De kater van het gelijk (100), Industriele zone (98).

This amounts to about 20% of ALL books selected in The Dutch Photobook. And about A THIRD of the CONTEMPORARY photobooks represented in this overview was already discussed in DUTCH EYES. This explains maybe the emphasis on photobooks published since 2005 in The Dutch Photobook.

Maybe this also explains why there is no upheaval since the launch of The Dutch Photobook. Not to be compared with the clash, both among members of the ‘old’ establishment of the world of photography in the Netherlands – all involved in editing the book – AND, between the establishment and a bunch of critical photographers, researchers and critics during the making of Dutch Eyes (2005-2007). Altogether, it’s a serious, but devout selection, Gierstberg and Suermondt made in The Dutch Photobook.

vice versa

In 2004 about ten book titles listed in Photography between Covers show up in The Photobook: A History Volume IImpressies 1945 (20), Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (160), Sex a gogo (55), Chili september 1973 (124), Wij zijn 17 (46), Een liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint Germain des Pres (48), Jazz (52), Paris Mortel (170), Sweet Life (120). And vice versa, seven photobooks in the new documantary tradition, selected by Parr/Badger for Volume II in 2007, appear now in The Dutch PhotobookHollandse tafelrelen (28), A Hundred Summers A Hundred Winters (131), Snelweg (32), Hollandse velden (34), Why Mister Why? (136), Portrait/landscape Macedonia (138), Checked bagage (210). In Volume II a few company photobooks selected for Het Nederlandse bedrijfsfotoboek 1945-1965 (2002) pop-up as well: 50 jaar Bruynzeel 1887-1947 (80), PLEM (90), The Table of Power (101) and mensenstroom (102).

Twelve historical company photobooks in The Dutch Photobook Wegen naar morgen (22) is not considered as such by the authors – and the two, already mentioned, contemporary derivations of the genre  – The Table of Power (101) and Mensenstroom (102) were included in the reference book Het Nederlandse bedrijfsfotoboek 1945-1965 (The Dutch Company Photobook 1945-1965)  (2002). This is a commercial edition of my dissertation, edited by Adi Martis and Bram Kempers. In fact, most of the spreads are identical.

Furthermore, The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture  (formerly known as FBKVBK) assigned IPhoR and Prospektor in 2010, to produce a series of 5 web films  in order to introduce the march of the new Dutch documentary photobook to a larger public. We are pleased to annouce that all books presented in the DUTCH DOC films are now part of the canonical overview: Mimicry (72), The Kaddu Wasswa Archive (152), 101 Billionaires (146), en Willem (73) and Libero (216).

Contact sheets and one of three lay-outs of Sanne Sannes' maquette for Diary of an Erotomaniac (1964-1967)

unique material

From all the titles listed in The Dutch Photobook, most surprising and cute is the pocket HE. Visual Information About A Human Being (56) by Louis-Paul Vroom. Although it doesn’t really belong in this listing. The artist book is a reaction against theories by the Canadian scholar in communication science Marshall McLuhan. It contains photographs by Wim Davids of body parts from Louis-Paul Vroom. In fact HE is a counterculture thing, a reaction against the pocket McLuhan himself made, one of his seminal publications regarding the impact of mass media on the human conscience: The medium is the massage (1967). And because of its ground breaking design by Quentin Fiore the cult book just recently has been incorporated in, yet, another overview The Book of Books (2012) edited by Mathieu Lommen.

At the same time, the exhibition accompanying the publication is so much richer; has more surprises to offer. Each showcase displays one or two books, next to historical footage, the work-in-progress, together with text fragments taken from the lemmas written for the book by the invited authors. But why are the names of the authors not mentioned on the captions in the showcases, on the text in the exhibition space? Except for two, the external experts are not institutionalized, not representing the Nederlands Fotomuseum. So here they are: Tamara Berghmans, Flip Bool, Patricia Borger, Martijn van den Broek, Karen Duking, Karin Krijgsman, Claudia Kussel, Pieter van Leeuwen, Pim Milo, Mireille de Putter, Max van Rooy, Bart Sorgedrager, Mirelle Thijsen, Anneke van Veen.

Maquette for Heart Beat (1994) by Machiel Botman

Better look in the showcases. There are meticulous sketches of De snelwegParis Match and De Spiegel published theme issues on De Ramp (‘The Battle of Floods’) . There is a beautiful dummy of Heart Beat. And I was never aware a dummy existed of Chili september 1973. It’s a loan, from the private collection of former prime minister Joop den Uyl, which is being presented to the public for the first time. Contact sheets related to the production of the pocket Bonjour Paris. Next to piles of the popular pocket edition published by Contact. Irma Boom made a miniature dummy for the oversized book Memory Traces. Then, there is the Chinese wrapper for Libero next to an original, bleached, found photograph, showing the interior of a house in Calabria from where the story starts. Sketchbooks of Tokyo/Tokyo showing series of digital jpg scans. Numbered drawings after photographs by Ed van der Elsken, in preparation for the lay-out of Sweet Life. And what about the English edition of Coppens’ Op de grens van land en zee. It has an awkward title: Betwixt land and sea. Why is this unique material – this historical evidence – not included in The Dutch Photobook? Which is showing the-making-of, showing the devotion of the photographer/designer to the long term project and the reception of the book,  It’s all there.

selections and alternatives 

On March 16 I contacted 11 photographers/editors represented in The Dutch Photobook. Asking them two questions:

1. Do you consider the selection of the book (s) in TDPhB representative for your work?

2. Which historical or contemporary photobook, according to you, is superfluous in TDPhB? If you could substitute it, for which title?

Five of them did not reply. Cary Markerink was concerned to be part of a ‘book bashing’ stunt. Both Cary, Erik Kessels, Paul Bogaers, Hans Eijkelboom considered the choise of their book(s) representative. Gerald van der Kaap had, so far, only received a letter of the publisher announcing his book Wherever you are on this planet is included in The Dutch Photobook. Willem van Zoetendaal was not amused about the selection of book titles he designed and/or published. On March 19 I also contacted five photographers who are NOT represented in The Dutch Photobook. Question 2. remained the same. Question 1. was changed into: Which of your book(s) would fit in the overview? Nico Bick and Lidwien van de Ven replied politely, but did not make an effort.

Here are some quotes.

‘Erik Kessels:  The selection of 10 books from the series In almost every picture is representative of the  search I have done for the past ten years in order to find remarkable series of amateur photography. Overall, I consider it a good selection. If I really have to pick out one book, it would be Wherever you are on this planet by Gerald van der Kaap. It does not really fit in. I would replace it with Beaches by Rineke Dijkstra. This iconic title is really missing in The Dutch Photobook.’

Paul Bogaers:

‘People just LOVE ‘lists’, although we all agree on the fact that they are subjective and artificial […], maybe even wicked and out of tune. Because they are just snapshots, while pretending to be a final judgement. [..] Be it ‘the historical canon’, ‘the architectural highlights of modernism’, ‘the main artists of the twentieth century’, ‘the best books of 2011′ – au fond it is all rubbish.’

Cary Markerink:

‘I am still learning a few things, though there are hardly any books that I do not know. A little over 50% I have in my collection. I am disappointed in myself…. In the index I miss the publishers..they should have been there. I consider The Dutch Photobook better then DUTCH EYES. Well designed (with the true Grootens indexes), well printed. Texts are unpretentious: clear and engaged analyses which may also enthuse a wider public.’ 

Hans Peter Feldmann, Ein Energieunternehmen (1997)

Lee Friedlander, People Working (The George Gund Foundation Annual Report) 1995

Schaden_cahier 001 ( 2010)


Contemporary photographers analyse – on quite different levels and scale – the experience of work, corporate culture, (un)employment and office life today. Visual sociology and new documentary photography are overlapping with major social areas. The photobooks assembled in this cahier are the result of long-term research, which is analytical in nature. The distanced approach and careful observation of aspects of daily life, work areas, and domestic spaces, driven by the so-called ‘archival impulse’ in contemporary art, has been defined as ‘conceptual documentary’.

Buy Schaden_cahier 001 (2010)

The extended list of of company photobooks by Mirelle Thijsen