Bertien van Manen - Let's Sit Down Before We Go
Bertien van Manen - Let's sit down before we
Press release | Amsterdam, 17 januari 2012
19 March 2012 - 24 June 2012
This spring Foam will present the solo exhibition Let's sit down
before we go by Bertien van Manen (1942). More than 60 photos will
be on show, created between 1991 and 2009. During that time, Van
Manen regularly and extensively travelled with a small 35mm camera
through Russia, Moldavia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine,
Tatarstan and Georgia. She stayed for long periods with the
people she met on her travels, learned their language and usually
became friends with them. This produced intimate and
sometimes tender photos resulting from a personal and sincere
relationship. In Bertien van Manen's humanistic approach,
photographer and subject are equals and the mutual respect is
The title of the exhibition, Let's sit down before we go, refers to
an old Russian custom: before you leave on a journey, take a moment
to think about where you come from, where you are going and why.
This was also the case for Bertien van Manen. Since 2010, she has
travelled far less due to her personal circumstances. So she took
time to look back on her projects and travels. Together with
English photographer Stephen Gill, she sorted through more than
15,000 negatives. She was surprised to see that time had nearly
stood still: life outside the big cities seemed to have changed
hardly at all in her photos.
Van Manen's photos are intimate. Take Pjotr and his family. They
look relaxed standing there in the snow in their pyjamas and bare
feet: posing for a photographer they have confidence in. You can
see that in Pjotr's smile as well as in the two men peering from
the porch in an easy way. Or look at Vlada, sitting in her kitchen,
surrounded by her possessions: the teapot she's just poured from,
the flowers she loves, her painting that she gazes at every day.
The personal atmosphere of the photos is reinforced by the soft,
nearly flat palette of colours. Moreover, the photos are often
slightly odd. What is that boy doing on top of the cabinet? And why
is someone sitting in an empty cinema wearing a cap? That slight
absurdity is not something Van Manen directs; it's something she
just happens to encounter.
Bertien van Manen started out as a fashion photographer - and she
still has an eye for detail and pattern - but inspired by Robert
Frank's book The Americans (1958), she decided on a more
documentary approach. For a time she photographed in
black-and-white, but she changed her style radically in the early
1990s. From that point on, she travelled with great regularity
through Eastern Europe and Asia. Her many travels and intensive
contact with the people she met resulted in the book A Hundred
Summers, a Hundred Winters in 1994. A logical follow-up was East
Wind West Wind (2001), which was shot in China. In 2005 Van Manen
published Give Me Your Image, comprised of photos of interiors in
which the residents had placed a private photo of their own. Let's
Sit Down Before We Go (2010) is her most recent photo book. The
character of this book is less documentary than her earlier books
and therefore allows more room for the viewers' imagination.
The work of Bertien van Manen was in numerous solo and group
exhibitions including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), The
Photographers Gallery (London) and Photo Museum Winterthur. Her
work is included in major international collections such as
Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), The Museum
of Modern Art (New York), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New
York), Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris) and The
Metropolitan Museum of Photographie (Tokyo). Bertien van Manen
lives and works in Amsterdam.
Let sit down before we go, by Bertien van Manen can be seen
from 19 March to 24 June 2011 at Foam. Open daily 10 am - 6 pm,
Thurs/Fri 10 am - 9 pm. Tickets: € 8,50.
Note to editors: For information and visual
material please contact the communications department, e-mail
foam[at]foam.org or phone +31 (0)20 5516500.
Foam is sponsored by the BankGiroLoterij, De Brauw Blackstone
Westbroek, Delta Lloyd and the VandenEnde Foundation.
1017 DS Amsterdam
+ 31 (0)20 5516500