It has already been a year of surprises for tourists and Amsterdammers. Early into 2019, the world was welcomed to the news of the Dutch officials’ decision to have the “I Amsterdam” sign removed. This was done to reduce the sheer rush of tourists to the capital city of the Netherlands. Those who did tour Amsterdam used to go to the front of the Rijksmuseum to take snaps of the letters, which encapsulate the city. Not all of them are experts in photography. To be involved and to appreciate any form of art, one just needs to have an interest in that.
“Everyone a Photographer”
After all, everyone having a camera is a photographer. The Rijksmuseum knows it best. It is hosting the exhibition on that theme. So if your interests lie in photography, then this is right up your alley. The photography curator of the Rijksmuseum, Mattie Boom has been studying photographs for a research on amateur photography’s rise in the nation. The results of Boom’s work are on display at the museum through June 10, 2019. The exhibition features over 130 photos, cameras and albums that take visitors back in time, to the end of the nineteenth century.
The inventive cameras, which were small in size and easy to operate, meant that amateurs could capture significant moments in their lives. In the exhibition, Mattie Boom shows that amateur photography’s effect on “visual culture” was extremely deep and that the early photography by amateurs is the missing link in its history.
You can photograph everyone at the museum through June 10, 2019.
The “Everyone takes Photographs” Slogan
Instead of searching that slogan on the internet, it is better that you search the phrase: “Iedereen Fotografeert”. This was the slogan which Joan Guy de Coral, a photography dealer, used in 1900, in order to entice his customers to purchase hand-held cameras and start taking photos. Well-do-to urbanites, having an interest in gadgets, were the ones sparking an interest in photography at the end of the century in the Netherlands. Back in the day, it was these wealthy youngsters who made Netherlands to capture photographs. Drawn together by the shared interest in activities like bicycling, they formed associations and clubs, held soirées as well as trips.
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, a Gifted Photographer
The first part of “Everyone a Photographer” comprises fascinating albums and photos by these first amateurs, who were actually pioneers of the time. The photos taken by them share a striking similarity with images found on today’s phones – those of personal moments, of the everyday life and of travels. Queen Wilhelmina was a pioneering photographer, and a gifted one at that. The exhibition comprises of her album, which is rife with several seascapes and landscapes with personal captions. The photos take by her at the early 1900’s show people from the Spakenburg and Eemdijk areas.
The camera became a part of everyday lives for artists like Willem Witsen, Theo van Doesburg, and G.H. Breitner, and the exposition draws one into the worlds the artists inhabited, making their source of inspiration known to all those who are on a Rijksmuseum tour.
The exhibition’s second part sheds light upon the technical innovations happening at the time. It is the invention of both the Kodak branded camera and the reflex camera that gave significant impetus to photography’s development. The first reflex cam in Holland gets its due place in an exhibition; it shows the precursor of the SLR for the first time.
The invention of the hand-held cam helped ignite an interest towards photography in the country. As a result, in 1890, there were about a thousand photographers, and by 1900, there were 15,000 photographers in the country. These inventions as well as their experimental use fed developments in the nascent field. The number of amateur photographers grew alongside the innovations, and consequently, the quality of photos also improved.
To take a photo means to freeze a moment in time, and the output reveals the richness of reality. Photos are memories of a life captured by a camera.
The Museum Photography Curator’s Book on Photography and Podcast
The exhibition also comes with the book, titled “Everyone a Photographer: The Rise of Amateur Photography in the Netherlands”. It illustrates the English adaptation of Mattie Boom’s doctoral thesis and has photographs that have not been published previously.
The museum’s photography curator was also interviewed by the TV presenter Wilfried de Jong, as part of a podcast. The interview touched on the topics: daily life back in the 19th century as well as the link between cycling and photography. You can listen to the podcast, “In the Rijks” via a music streaming platform, or find it in the Rijksmuseum website’s podcast page. The podcast and the exhibition will help you gain more knowledge about the topic.