OORTHUYS, CAS & DOOLAARD, A. DEN: - This is Greece, 1. The Mainland
Cas Oorthuys captured the growing self-awareness of the Dutch in the period of postwar reconstruction in a unique fashion. His photographs show industrial recovery, a hard-working nation on the way towards a booming economy and a thriving tourist trade. Like many photographers in those postwar years, Oorthuys focused on people. His work, however, is characterized by the endeavour to generate interaction between the people in his photographs and the environment in which they live and work. Another remarkable aspect is his strong sense of composition: the photographs are conceived precisely within the matt glass square of his Rolleicord.
Cas Oorthuys' life and work were shaped by World War Two and the events leading up to it. The economic crisis of the early 1930s cost him his Amsterdam municipal council post as an architect. He embarked on his photographic career with pictures of communist workers, and from 1936 was a photo-reporter for the social-democratic weekly Wij. When war broke out he tried to make a living with portrait photography. He also forged identity cards and in the Hunger Winter was a member of the group later known as The Camera in Hiding (De Ondergedoken Camera). This group had formed in order to record the liberation, which was expected imminently. When it failed to take place they illegally documented the last year of German occupation with photographic material which has retrospectively shaped our image of the Hunger Winter.
After the liberation, social engagement remained a vital issue for Oorthuys. It is particularly evident in Een staat in wording (1947, a state in the making), a photo-book advocating a peaceful solution to the Indonesian struggle for independence. It was a vain hope, and changed Oorthuys' views about the function of photography. After this, he rarely used the medium as a political weapon. Henceforth, his photographs of people were prompted mainly by human interest.
Although ideology receded into the background, people continued to feature prominently in Oorthuys' photos. This is demonstrated not only by his numerous industrial publications, annual reports and commemorative books dating from 1945 to 1975, but also by some forty travel paperbacks commissioned between 1951 and 1965 by Contact and the book ‘Rotterdam dynamische stad’ (Rotterdam, dynamic city), published by the same firm in 1959. In 1969 the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam invited Oorthuys to stage a one-man show appropriately called Mensen/People. A book with the same title appeared that year. Oorthuys divided it into fifteen thematic groups, beginning with death and ending with laughter.
Cas Oorthuys' prolific postwar production required an efficient administration. All his films were numbered, contact-printed and arranged according to subject in looseleaf books. With some 500,000 negatives and 444 books of contact prints, Cas Oorthuys' archive is one of the largest and most accessible of Dutch photo archives. It is stored at the Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam.