Dutch Week: Freudenthal/Verhagen
This week, Dutch Photographer Anne-Laure Autin will be sharing a week of photographers from her country. I met Anne-Laure at the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado a number of years ago and our paths have crossed at review events. She recently had a book, Blood Line, published by Kris Graves Projects. – Aline Smithson
Presenting a week of Dutch photographers, I should probably start by saying that I have a French passport. But, having family here, I spent half my childhood in the Netherlands, as well as most of my university years followed by another 10 in corporate life. I married an English man and we raised our children for a while in Canada. Having lived in the Netherlands on and off for almost 25 years now, returning to The Hague in 2014 felt like coming home. The only new thing was that I was now a conceptual photographer. And so I went about discovering the photo world in the Netherlands.
A lot of the photographic traditions here are anchored in documentary and photojournalism – you’d be hard pressed to even find a post graduate program in any other genre. There’s World Press Photo, NOOR images, FotoFestival Naarden etc. The first year I was here, every single photographer I met made documentary work. I showed my series, Blood Line, to a reviewer at an event organized by the FotoMuseum of Rotterdam, and he told me that he knew no-one who showed mixed-media conceptual work in Holland. I guess he and I just didn’t know enough people though, because shortly after I came across places that do, such as the Ravestijn Gallery in Amsterdam, and I was enthused in particular by the work of Freudenthal/Verhagen.
For the past 30 years, Carmen Freudenthal and Elle Verhagen have been collaborating, bringing photography and fashion design together. Their sets are elaborate, conscientiously thought out, and the results can be somewhat surreal, sometimes even a little uneasy. Through the layered narratives of their work, they aim to tell stories and comment on society, and their meticulous approach doesn’t get in the way of the often present whimsical undertone. Freudenthal/Verhagen recently said in Metal Magazine “If there is a Dutch style, it’s usually clean, graphical, conceptual and realistic; whereas ours was scenic, surreal, multi-layered and often lavish.” You might need to know that the Dutch unofficial motto is “Be normal, you’ll be crazy enough” to appreciate what it means to be that different.
For their latest work “Absorptions”, Rembrandt’s unfinished paintings were the first inspiration point that led them to look at the body in its most simple and isolated form. They worked with prints on silk, silicone rubber, anodized aluminum, epoxy… The materials allow them to shape and reshape the work. It feels like photography is no longer treated as the medium, it has become instead a 3-dimensional object used to illustrate the impermanence of the human body. As the artist’s state: “Taking a photograph is the starting point for building an image, which is, preferably, not flat. This image can turn out just to be a collage with tangible layers of paper, but also a 3-dimensional installation. By adding an unusual medium to the printed image, something that fools the eye and makes people wonder, we force the viewer to take a closer look”.
Freudenthal/Verhagen (1965 & 1962) are a Dutch photography duo based in Amsterdam. Carmen Freudenthal & Elle Verhagen met right after graduating from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy were Carmen studied photography and Elle studied fashion design. There was an immediate recognition of a mutual taste in image making and what fashion imagery should look like.
Their still lasting cooperation started of with a first publication in I-D magazine in 1989. In their work they are always in search for ways to expand the definition of fashion photography, crossing lines between fashion and art, looking for cultural relevancy. The images are, over the years, diverse in discipline and form, but always show a sense of disturbance and a multilayered story. Stretching the confines of photography, they have merged photographs into 3D installations, projected video onto photographs and printed photographs onto draped silk. Their work has been published in Dazed & Confused, Jalouse, Flash Art International and numerous other photography and design books. Works are listed in the collections of the Groninger Museum and Centraal Museum Utrecht.
Taking a photograph is the starting point for building an image, which is, preferably, not flat. This image can turn out just to be a collage with tangible layers of paper, but also a 3-dimensional installation. By adding an unusual medium to the printed image, something that fools the eye and makes people wonder, we force the viewer to take a closer look. – Freudenthal/Verhagen
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