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Johan van der Keuken - Pictorial Narratives

Johan van der Keuken - Pictorial Narratives
24 September - 8 December 2010

One of best-known photos by Johan van der Keuken (1938 − 2001) is a dance scene on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, taken during the 'Quatorze Juillet' [Bastille Day] celebrations in 1958. This photo was first published in the book Paris Mortel (1964). Another 32 negatives were found in Van der Keuken's archives, taken on the same day and the same spot. These never-before-published photos form the basis of the exhibition Johan van der Keuken - Pictorial Narratives. The series shows the history of how the famous photo came to be created and elucidates Van der Keuken's perception and way of working. The curators of the exhibition (Noshka van der Lely and Willem van Zoetendaal) have also selected a number of Van der Keuken's other series, some of which have never previously been exhibited. Van der Keuken's films will be shown as well. In addition, the book Johan van der Keuken - Quatorze Juillet will accompany the exhibition.


'The young photographer strolls through the city; it is 14 July, the most important holiday of the year in Paris. He walks along the Seine and happens upon a small square where a group of people have gathered. A stage has been set up for the musicians. This provides the perfect vantage point for photographing the people dancing. We see a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds come together, attracted by the music. They are dressed in the fashions of the day; they have come to celebrate. If we look at the photos "chronologically", we first see the people coming into view: young women with flowered skirts and scarves in their hair, older married couples, men from northern Africa, small children with their parents. The people assemble around the dance floor, the music starts. People start talking to each other, minor characters take on leading roles, a man with a ladder walks through the scene, a car comes around the corner. Then people begin to dance, while some look on from the sidelines. We see friends dancing with each other, older couples and children too. New groups form from people just passing by.'
(Noshka van der Lely in the book Johan van der Keuken − Quatorze Juillet)

By showing a carefully considered selection of images from that day, viewers are given an insight into the way the photographer worked and how he ultimately chose that one iconic image. As a special touch, Foam's historic Fodorzaal will be adapted to recreate the atmosphere of a dance hall, where Van der Keuken's images will appear to dance around the visitors.

Since the start of his career, Johan van der Keuken - then principally a photographer - was interested in making movement visible in still images. He experimented with photos shot in a series, which he linked so that an 'image story' was created. He also coupled out-of-focus shots of movement with stationary, sharply focused images. He thus discovered how photo montage could speed up the movement contained in the images or give them another meaning.

The book Johan van der Keuken − Quatorze Juillet has been published to accompany the exhibition. The Japanese-style bound book which gave rise to the exhibition includes never-before-published photos from the photographer/filmmaker's early period (€ 30).


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