For her third exhibition at the galerie in camera, Bertien van Manen presents around twenty prints, all of them taken from her silent adventures around a world populated by humans.
“An intense interest in others”. This is how Bertien van Manen sums up what links all of her photographs together. And, in fact, since her first models (her children, her husband), she has not ceased, in “her urgent need to discover the world”, to pay attention to those she has met in the world. United States, Siberia, Italy, Hungary or China. For her, it is not a question of testifying, but of making appear, here and there, through intimacy that is always under control, moments that are both banal and rare. It is there, in this refusal to freeze the moment and make it extraordinary, that the Dutch photographer finds herself, whose scenes, by their clarity, reveal the daily life of men.
She keeps strangers company, without trying to surprise them, much less to be intrusive: “It’s a matter of respect. There is a narrow line between which to navigate, between respect for the subject and that for the work. If I choose the job, I feel guilty about my subject. If that’s the topic that wins, I feel frustrated and disappointed with myself. This balance is the sign of recognition of this adventurous and friendly woman, who refuses any dramatic tension or any mirror play. She takes her time, guided by “an enormous curiosity”; she takes the world as it is, not as it should be. No duplicity in her vision, no experience of blackmail.
Because she does not submit to any rule that can normalize her gaze, Bertien van Manen walks freely, using black & white, or color, it depends. Her photographs live their lives, regardless of the one that gave them life. They have this rare quality, they are silent, as if there had been a tacit agreement between those photographed and photographing. Her characters, like her landscapes, touch us; sometimes they seem very close to us, as if they came out from the memory of our family album.
They can also be found in the books of Bertien van Manen, from Easter & Oak Trees to I Will Be Wolf. She is not afraid of the past, she likes to “dive into her archives”. Her last exhibition, this spring at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, was titled Beyond Image. It means, she says, “it’s more than a beautiful picture.” It’s just. Bertien van Manen has high standards. Her photography cannot be reduced to an aesthetic management of others. Question of ethics.
Brigitte Ollier, September 2020
Bertien van Manen
12 novembre 2020 – 16 janvier 2021
in camera galerie
21, rue Las Cases 75007 Paris