Dutch Contemporary Photography

Dutch Contemporary Photography

The exhibition Still/Life – Dutch Contemporary Photography was developed in 2011 by Foam, to celebrate its tenth anniversary. The museum first opened its doors in 2001 with the Dutch Delight exhibition, taking ‘Dutch Light’ as its central subject. It was a typically Dutch historical art theme, for which Dutch painting is famous the world over. Ten years later, in Still/Life – Contemporary Dutch Photography, Foam put together an exhibition comprised of work by Dutch photographers giving surprising interpretations of another classic subject in Dutch art history: the still life.

The exhibition Still/Life – Dutch Contemporary Photography was shown at the museum in Amsterdam first, in September 2011. After the first exhibition there was a  great deal of international interest, and as Foam had been working on expanding internationally it started to tour, beginning in Russia where it was on display at three cities, kicking off in Moscow. After Russia, the exhibition travelled to Beijing (2014) and Chongqing (2016), China, Still/Life has been on show in Seoul, Korea and in Mumbai, India (2018). Along the way the exhibition was updated with new works to keep up with the latest developments in contemporary still life photography.

The exhibition continues to be an important medium, not only for visualizing part of Dutch culture and providing a platform for artists to show their work, but also creating significant opportunities for building international relationships and making new connections on many different levels.

 Balancing Orange Pink and Yellow, 2008 © Qiu Yang

Over the last decade and a half, Foam has followed Dutch photography from close by and has concluded that the most striking and innovative developments in the medium are found mainly in the world of autonomous photography. As a theme, still life remains as relevant as ever in today's climate. For a large number of contemporary photographers, this subject, a grouping of motionless objects, is still a source of inspiration, but their own still lifes are based on a radically modernized concept.

For many, the still life, in the classic sense, is above all a genre of painting. The still lifes that emerged in the seventeenth century from the mercantile society of the independent Republic of the Netherlands are still seen as a highpoint of the genre. They are acclaimed for their unprecedentedly naturalistic quality and their technically perfect portrayal of everyday objects with remarkable attention to detail. As well as being true to life, such paintings were carefully created constructs that came into being in the controlled surroundings of a studio. Although each individual element may be thoroughly lifelike, the image as a whole is a product of the imagination.

Taking this as their inspiration, many contemporary photographers are creating compositions in the seclusion of their studios, made purely to be photographed. In doing so these artists often play with the fact that the image is a construct by means of which the gaze and therefore the response of the viewer is deliberately manipulated. Sometimes there is a direct reference to the classic still lifes of the seventeenth century, sometimes there is no apparent connection at all, but many of these contemporary photographic still lifes have features also seen in the traditional painterly genre, features that are perhaps typically Dutch: technical perfection, attention to the everyday and the banal, hidden meanings, mild humour and irony, and reflection upon the medium itself.

Still/Life - Contemporary Dutch Photography offers an insight into how contemporary photographers are interpreting the still life and giving it new meaning. It also amounts to an overview of the work of often relatively young Dutch photographers, underlining how important emerging and young photographic talent has been to Foam over the past fifteen years. Scouting, presenting and stimulating young talent is an essential and recurring aspect of the many activities undertaken by Foam.

> Read the Original exhibition booklet

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - 2011
Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Russia – 2013
Beijing, China - 2014
Chongqing, China - 2016
Seoul, Korea - 2018
Mumbai, India – 2018

Foam is supported by the BankGiro Loterij, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Foam Members, City of Amsterdam, Olympus and the VandenEnde Foundation.