The Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam is the leading national museum of photography in the Netherlands. It has an impressive collection of almost 6 million images and exhibits every facet of photography. In the permanent Gallery of Honour of Dutch photography, 99 iconic photographs tell the story of the development of photography in the Netherlands from 1842 to the present day. One of these images is ‘Wij zijn 17’ (We are 17) by Johan van der Keuken, made in 1955.
Wij zijn 17
Dutch photographer, filmmaker and writer Johan van der Keuken (1938-2001) made, in the 1950s and 60s, three high-profile books that rank as milestones in the development of Dutch photography books. Johan van der Keuken was seventeen when he published his first book ‘Wij zijn 17’ (We are 17), featuring portraits of his fellow students. Not everyone in the Netherlands was charmed by pictures of dreamy young people clearly not doing any work to help rebuild the country after the Second World War. However, experienced photographer Ed van der Elsken saw talent in Van der Keuken and encouraged him to pursue a photographic career.
Johan van der Keuken unceasingly photographed and filmed the world around him. Through his images, he searched for his own position as an artist and as a human being within the all-encompassing ‘reality’, with all of its social, societal and political aspects. His warm human gaze and poetic visual style would continue to characterise his work as a documentary filmmaker and photographer.
Johan van der Keuken: The Art I Love Most
From 8 October 2022 till 5 February 2023, the Nederlands Fotomuseum presents a large retrospective of Johan van der Keuken’s photography. This also includes a look at his films and the artists who inspired him. The title of the exhibition, The Art I Love Most, is the title of a school essay that Johan van der Keuken wrote in 1955, when he was 17.