/ Koos Breukel
Photobooks on care environments and matters of life and death in post-war Holland: THEN and NOW
This exhibition focuses on the meaning and significance of photobooks concerning health care environments. Heart-rending, intimate stories on matters of life, sickness, death and personal loss, are observed and experienced by consecutive generations of photographers working in the documentary tradition. Martien Coppens (1908-1986), Koos Breukel(1962), Carel van Hees (1954), Rince de Jong (1970), Roy Villevoye (1960), and Albert van Westing (1960) unveil various aspects of the everyday lives of their friends and family, as well as people in their professional environment who suffer from a severe illness or find themselves facing grim adversity. The photographers record how these people, some of whom are very dear to them, try to deal with their illness or misfortune with a need to hold on to memories of a happier past, and to understand their slow deterioration and the bewilderment that comes with it. There is often a great sense of urgency: the clock is ticking.
The world of the loved one, the patient, is turned upside down. Suddenly, life is built around medical care and attempts to find a new sense of meaning and purpose. A new dimension is added to the concept of ‘home’: ‘home’ is no longer a safe and protected place, and consequently the patient no longer experiences it as such. ‘Home’ turns into a health care environment. Simultaneously, a different kind of reality suddenly becomes of vital importance close to home: the care facility. That turns into a new ‘home’ of sorts, in the shape of a transitory location of controlled care and attention. The hospital, the nursing home, the mental institution; they are like hotels – a temporary accommodation, often born out of necessity, sometimes unwanted; a place to meet fellow sufferers. The photographer infringes upon that environment; he/she considers the ‘home away from home’ his/her work environment.
The core of the exhibition is shaped by photobooks published by and on the Dutch public health care. In addition, photobooks on consumer driven health care and loss within one’s domestic circle and circle of friends are put on view, self-published by modern day photographers. Those publications are considered to be an extension of the genre. Within the genre, photobooks since post-war reconstruction constitute a category of their own.
Photobooks are selected that were groundbreaking in their day and in the way they depict the socially, often highly sensitive, themes of health care in text and images. Further, the books stand out for their technical execution, layout and way of photographic storytelling. In sum, this exhibition is about commissioners, photographers, graphic designers and graphic industry that have played an important role in the history of photography and graphic design.
Koos Breukel (The Hague, 1962) studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague from 1982 to1986, after which he began working as a freelance photographer based in Amsterdam. He specialized in portrait photography and his work was soon being published in magazines and newspapers in the Netherlands. He had his first solo exhibition at the Noorderlicht Festival in Groningen in 1991. In 1994 he published his first monograph, The Wretched Skin. The book Hyde , with photographs of his good friend Michael Matthews who was terminally ill, was published in 1997, to be followed in 2001 by Photo Studio, and Cosmetic View in 2006, all published by Basalt/Van Zoetendaal Collections. For his exhibition Among Photographers at the Museum of Photography in The Hague in 2007, Breukel combined portraits of 58 photographers with one or more photos from the oeuvre of each of them. Koos Breukel has held solo exhibitions at the Nederlands Foto Instituut in Rotterdam, Museum De Hallen in Haarlem, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, Pori Art Museum in Finland and Bergen Kunstmuseum in Norway, plus other venues. He has participated in many group shows in institutions worldwide, including Ropongi Louis Vuitton, Tokyo; Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul; Institut Néerlandais, Paris and Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris. Koos Breukel is represented by Van Zoetendaal Collections in Amsterdam.