The Dutch Photo book



At a certain moment, every photo book lover thinks: this is the beginning of a respectable collection. Photo books are popular collector objects. Lay out, order and contexts between image and text form stories eager to be read over and over again. Choices in design, like paper, size and typography can make a photo book a truly special object. Artist and photographer Ralph Prins once even proclaimed the photo book as an autonomic art form much like a theatre play, painting or movie. Editors Frits Gierstberg and Rik Suermondt show why the Dutch photo book is so highly acclaimed worldwide. In essence, a good photo bookmaker dares to relativize the force of singular photos in order to create one whole dramatic occurrence. Together with guided text, a coherent unity is brought about; emanating one particular vision, atmosphere or message.

When Martin Parr says the Dutch are the best bookmakers in Europe, he aims at the discerned character of the book-making tradition in the country. In the youngest post-war period of 1945 to 1968, Dutch photographers and designers were part of the same professional association (GKf). Many creative duos, like Ed van der Elsken and Jurriaan Schrofer, started to make books. Het Nederlandse Fotoboek gives an overview of the 124 most important team products. Photo historically; the timeline of the books ushers artistic, technical and social influences.

This way, the elaborate overview not only presents the books within the oeuvre of the concerning photographers, but also mirrors a moving society. It becomes clear how the changing landscape, city, youth culture, economic infrastructure, travelling and correlation between photography & art in The Netherlands have all affected as well as shaped the history of Dutch photo book-making. This first catalogue of Dutch photobooks, assembled with great care and attention, definitely is a must-buy for everyone whose book shelves display more than novels only. Further reading: an article about the role of design in the making of modern photobooks.

Review written by Shinta Lempers