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Five inspiring photo exhibitions to see in Amsterdam

FIVE-ISPIRING-PHOTOSAmsterdam is a city full of creativity. From Golden Age masterpieces to the latest cutting edge app developers, Amsterdam has established itself as a bastion for forward thinking for individuals from all corners of Europe and beyond. Add to this a contemporary history of steward support of artists both institutionally and financially and the Dutch capital is a place that outdoes itself in terms of artist to resident ratio.

 

One of the areas where Amsterdam excels is in the visual arts, more particularly in photography. With festivals taking place year round, the most notable of which include Unseen Photo Fair, the World Press Photo Exhibition, and the Amsterdam Art Weekend, it’s safe to say that Amsterdam and photography have developed into good bedfellows.

 

As the end of 2014 quickly approaches, it’s a great time to take a moment to appreciate the visual masterpieces being shown at galleries and museums both big and small. It may be cold, dark and grey outside, but in the halls of these exhibitions, the perspectives, prints and visual play will certainly brighten up any winter blues!

 

1.)   Vivian MaierStreet Photographer

Where: FOAM, Keizersgracht 609

 

Certainly one of the biggest exhibitions to open this winter, FOAM has once again put on a brilliant show. The story of Vivian Maier is a fascinating one and it’s a wonder that audiences are still able to experience the world through her perspective. Born in New York in 1926, Maier spent most of her childhood in France. After the deaths of her parents at a young age, Maier had to support herself. For this reason she moved back to the U.S and became a nanny for families in large cities. In her free time she would document the street-life, mainly that of New York and Chicago. A bit of a reclusive and a pack-rat by nature, she eventually fell on hard times and the negatives of her photographic work were sold in a storage unit auction when she could longer make the payments.

Discovered by John Maloof in 2007, he recognised just how special her work is and there’s a lot of it: over 100,000 negatives taken from the 1950s onward. What makes the work of Maier so special is the perfect blend of subject and visual composition. An innate knack for seeing the beauty in the mundane, her portraits and street scenes show daily life in a big city as she experienced it: from the disadvantaged to playful children and the absurd luxury stemming from wealth divides, nothing escaped Maier’s expert eye. The black and white photos are unique in that there is warmth to each photograph that shows empathy for the subject, evoking a personal connection to the subject  and era.

 

A bit of a sad end, Maier passed away in 2009, just two years after her life’s hobby had begun to truly be appreciated.

Foam, the Photography Museum Amsterdam, has arranged a gorgeous retrospective of Maier’s work in their marvellous Keizersgracht location. Take the entire afternoon to browse and be sucked into the visual world Maier has so expertly portrayed.

 

2.)   Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century
Where: Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1

 

Arguably the most prestigious museum in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum recently reopened in 2013 after a 10 year renovation. The museum is best known for being home to masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age that includes works by Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer and countless others. However, what many who visited in the past year didn’t know was that the renovations weren’t fully complete. Yes, the main halls were done, but the process of building the massive Philips Wing was still going on. With more than 10 new exhibition galleries, outdoor space and a restaurant, the Rijksmuseum has substantially grown since first reopening.

And what better way to fill the 13 exhibition rooms than with their rarely seen photographic collection. For more than 10 years the curators and experts at the Rijksmuseum have been rapidly expanding their collection of 20th-century photography and by expansion, we’re talking more 20,000 prints, negatives and rarities!

The exhibition Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century sees part of this massive effort finally being shown to the public. In a spectacle that only an institution like the Rijksmuseum can mount, 400 images have been chosen to represent the major developments in photography over the course of the 20th century; from the first rudimentary black and white prints to the addition of colour and abstract artistic takes, it’s all there.

It’s a wonderful chance to not only see the Rijksmuseum in its full glory, but also to view never before seen works by pioneers and stars that include William Klein, Eve Arnold, Man Ray and Joel Meyerowitz. Based on the quality of this first exhibition, let’s hope that it’s just one of many more to come!

 

3.)   Dust by Nadav Kander
Where:TORCH Gallery, Lauriergracht 94

 

Nestled in the gallery dense southern portion of the Jordaan neighbourhood, you’ll find the TORCH Gallery. Small in size, but big in quality, the TORCH will be presenting the work of London based photographer Nadav Kander. An established artist, Kander's career highlights are numerous and include winning the prestigious Prix Pictet for his work Yangtze- The Long River series in 2009 and being named Photographer of the Year at the 7th Annual Lucie Awards.

 Having exhibited at galleries and museums around the world, Kander will be showing new work at TORCH aptly named Dust. Focusing on the desolate areas that acted as nuclear test sites during the Cold War on the border between contemporary Russia and Kazakhstan, the work is an intriguing take on Kander’s landscape photography. During the time of testing, it was believed that the sites were completely evacuated, but this turned out not to be the case, with a few residents documented as having inhabited the area throughout the nuclear explosions nearby.

 

Only recently rediscovered via satellite imaging, Kandar visited the areas to show the aftermath of such destruction. Along with a visual expertise, the photos show a haunting, yet intriguing beauty that confronts the viewer with the mysteries of the people who once lived there. Riddled with notions of suffering and abandonment, Kandar empowers his subjects by bringing the plight of the ominous structures to the public through these images; a type of light emerging from the darkness.

 

4.)   Masterpieces from the Howard Greenberg Collection 

Where: Joods Historisch Museum, Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1

 

A travelling exhibition, Masterpieces from the Howard Greenberg Collection is making a stop in Amsterdam after stints in Budapest, Paris and Lausanne. Greenberg, a scrupulous art collector and owner of the elite Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City, has only recently begun showing his private tastes to the public. Recognized as one of the most influential photography dealers and a renowned expert on 19th and 20th century photography, to look into his personal collection is akin to better understanding photography in general.

 

Having already represented names like Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evan and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the rich work found in Masterpieces from the Howard Greenberg Collection are truly a pleasure to contemplate. In the world of Greenberg, fame isn’t the name of the game, but rather talent. Building his career on this ethos, the exhibition is an extension of this motto. Prepare to see both familiar masterpieces and intriguing new images from the US and Western Europe.

 

With more than 150 photos on display, the exhibition is a testament to the capability of the medium, as new perspectives are unlocked and deep themes evoked by capturing an amazing ephemeral moment and letting visitors enjoy their own meditative investigation of the subject.

 

5.)   Dancing Light/Let it move you

Where: Huis Marseille, Keizersgracht 401

 

Another newly renovated venue in Amsterdam, Huis Marseille will be tackling one of the more difficult photographic subjects: that of dance. In Dancing Light/Let it move you..., the dark subtexts and subtleties that are often missed in live performance due to the rapid movements of the dancers will be examined in depth. An under appreciated art, documenting dance is difficult enough in video, never mind in still life. As the photographer focuses on a single motion, the context of the performance is lost. Make a panoramic shot to include all the dancers and the grace of the individual slips away.

 

Choosing to focus on the endlessly sensual style of flamenco, the aim of the exhibition is to express the raw emotion to be found in this and other styles. Displaying a variety of works spanning the 20th century, names like Vicente Escudero, Xavier Miserachs, Pilar Albarracín and Noaya Ilkegami are all present.

 

Mixing sensuality with the awkward and sometimes downright comic, the works by the artists, choreographers and dancers show a classic art form in a new light. Along with performers, animals and other objects become the subject of investigation in exploring how the dancer mimics and is inspired by movements, shapes and behaviors of their environment.

 

With 2015 right around the corner, be sure to see at least one of these five photographic marvels the next time you’re in Amsterdam!


 

 

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