The first section of the Dynamic Archive is called ‘the Stayers’. A few decades later, Meijer took colour photographs of the same people he had photographed in black and white between 1955 and 1965. Behind each pair of photographs is the story of a life; the subtle details in the photos give viewers all sorts of hints which they can interpret according to their own imagination and empathy.
In this series the photographer shows the passing of time – that people grow old, that their skin has wrinkled, that illusions about existence have not left them unaffected. But Meijer’s main focus is on the vitality of life. Nelly Frijda still acts, now in roles in which she can take advantage of her experience of life. John Kraaijkamp made the move from being a comedian to being a celebrated actor. Meijer photographed Willeke Alberti during the ‘Fishery Days’ at Scheveningen when she was very young; now she has become a great star with a loyal audience and her shows are always sold out.
Sometimes chance played a major role in finding the less famous portrait subjects of the past. After a great deal of detective work Meijer found out that an anonymous fisherman, photographed in Veere in 1960, was called Bastiaan de Ridder, was 86 years old and still worked as a buyer of fish for speciality restaurants in Zeeland. It was just as difficult to plan a date to take De Ridder’s photograph as it was to find a space in the diary of a busy politician.
Meijer is very intrigued by people’s lives, by how they go about living them. He already had this fascination when he made a photography book in 1958 with the title ‘Wie regeren ons?’ (Who governs us?) With his camera, he wandered around the Binnenhof, thro..ugh parliament and above all through the corridors, to show the atmosphere in which Dutch politics are practised in photographs. This experience enabled him to portray politicians following in the footsteps of their predecessors for the section of the Dynamic Archive called ‘Successors’. Spot the similarities and the differences. A fine example is the photograph of Willem Drees as ex-Prime Minister and Minister of State in 1962, and Wim Kok in the same capacities in 2008.
In a mysterious way successors also start to resemble their predecessors, both in politics and in theatre. In 1958 Mieke Telkamp was a star in the ‘Snip en Snap Revue’ in Carré Amsterdam. When Meijer photographed Mariska van Kolck at the same location in 2001 in the musical ‘42nd Street’, it turned out that under stage spotlights musical stars resemble each other closely. Time seems to stand still; the stars are radiant. Who is who?
A separate category is made up by ‘Offspring’. Meijer’s photographic skills come into full play in these photographs, for which the similarities between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, were an extra source of inspiration.
All of the portrait photographs present a revealing and often moving picture of life, then and now. On the face of it things have changed greatly, but sometimes, surprisingly enough, very little has changed. By juxtaposing present and past Jacques Meijer makes changes and similarities visible. The subjects of the portraits have transformed due to the passing of time, but at the same time they are still – undeniably – themselves. First and foremost they are people.
Jacques Meijer (1934) studied graphic design at the Royal Academy in The Hague and later became renowned as an artist, photographer and filmmaker.
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