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photo-eye Book Reviews: The Dutch Photobook

The Dutch Photobook. Edited by Frits Gierstberg & Rik Suermondt.
Published by Aperture, 2012.
The Dutch Photobook
Reviewed by Colin Pantall

The Dutch Photobook
Edited by Frits Gierstberg & Rik Suermondt
Aperture, 2012. Hardbound. 240 pp., illustrated throughout, 9-1/2x11".

For such a small country, the Netherlands punch above their weight when it comes to the photobook. Perhaps the compact size of their country is connected to Dutch skills in the book arts. Design inundates every inch of Dutch life; inventive architecture, utilitarian town planning and a landscape that is designed to maximise its potential whatever the use. The Netherlands lives and breathes design.

Book design is central to The Dutch Photobook, an Aperture survey of 124 of the greatest Dutch photobooks published since 1945. It’s apparent in every section of the book, starting with the Dutch landscape and moving through to photobooks on youth culture, travel and urban adventure.

The Dutch Photobook, by Frits Gierstberg & Rik Suermondt. Published by Aperture, 2012.
Nowhere is the sheer inventiveness more apparent than in the section on Roads to Tomorrow. Here you’ll find company books such as Plem, the Dick Elffers designed masterpiece that was made to advertise an electricity company. Chimneys, pylons and poles make diagonals across the page blocked out with geometric shocks of primary colours. It’s gorgeous. More gorgeousness comes courtesy of The Connection, a book that elevates a telephone company into something glamorous with spreads inspired by American illustrated magazines of the 1960s.

The Dutch Photobook, by Frits Gierstberg & Rik Suermondt. Published by Aperture, 2012.
More straightforward work can be found in the Youth section where Anton Corbijn and Ed Van der Elsken feature, while The Virgin Sperm Dancer surely wins the Best Book Title Award.

The Dutch Photobook, by Frits Gierstberg & Rik Suermondt. Published by Aperture, 2012.
The Dutch Photobook is not as politically charged as its Latin American or Japanese equivalents, nor is it as self aware, but that’s not what you’re buying it for. Rather it is a revelation of the Dutch reinvention of the book form, beginning with the conventional beauty of Dutch agriculture and ending with the more conceptual offerings of contemporary photographers such as Hans Eijkelboom, WassinkLundgren and Christien Meindertsma.—COLIN PANTALL

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COLIN PANTALL is a UK-based writer, photographer and teacher - he is currently a visiting lecturer in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales. His work has been exhibited in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Rome and his Sofa Portraits will be published as a handmade book early next year. Further thoughts of Colin Pantall can be found on his blog, which was listed as one of Wired.com’s favourites earlier this year.

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