Photographer and Humanist.
Edited by Louise Baring.
Schilt Publishing, 2013. 224 pp., 100 tritone illustrations, 7¼x10".
Emmy Andriesse (1914 - 1953) is one of the most important 20th
century women photographers, best known for her unforgettable
portrayal of Amsterdam's Hunger Winter of 1944 - 1945, now
emblematic of civilian suffering during the Second World War.
Andriesse was born into a liberal Dutch Jewish family. She was
trained at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague under the aegis of
Gerrit Kiljan and Paul Schuitema, who pioneered the 'New
Photography', based on Bauhaus principles - as well as encouraging
students to experiment with its role as a documentary medium.
Her rigorous yet sensitive approach enabled Andriesse to produce
images of extraordinary poetic power, while her versatile fashion,
documentary, portrait and landscape photographs reveal her curiosity
about her fellow human beings and sense of beauty in the world
around her. She used her quick perception to capture everyday life,
often emphasizing a specific aspect to lend strength to her
compositions: cyclists pedalling into an oblong of sunlight on a
cobbled street; the diagonal of a woman's bare legs stretched out on
a beach, the sand rippled by the ebbing tide; three fishermen dwarfed
by a giant net slicing across the foreground, or a blonde-haired
Amsterdam teenager powdered with falling snow, as he clutches his
sledge on his way to the frozen canals.
Her image of three fishermen behind a net, taken in 1940, just before
the German invasion, proved her last published photograph until
after the war. Unable to work, then forced to wear the yellow star, her
life darkened. Her marriage to Dick Elffers, who was from a
protestant family, protected her only for a while. Thus, in early 1943
Andriesse went into hiding. Together with Dick Elffers, she joined the
'artists' resistance' - risky work for which the penalty was execution
- venturing out again only in the final months of the war to document
ordinary lives under exceptional circumstances in the Hunger Winter
- the images that defined her career.
Though she survived the war, Andriesse feared she would die before
she reached forty, like her own mother. It was this premonition that in
part fuelled her eagerness for living, an eagerness for photographing,
seeing, experiencing, suffering, enjoying... reflected in both her varied
choice of subjects and tangled personal life. Andriesse's strength lay
in her ability to combine dramatic intensity with aesthetic rigour,
photographing an astonishing array of subjects during a career that
spanned only seventeen years. Her fourteen thousand-odd negatives
and contact sheets, housed at Leiden University's Print Room, are a
testament to her enormous drive and discipline.