A'dam by Night. Lood van Bennekom. 1953.
Tekst: Bob Wallagh. Uitg. "de Kern". Amsterdam.
Despite his versatility, Lood van Bennekom is best known for his work in the field of fashion. Fashion photography became his speciality in the 1950s, which saw the rise of both haute couture and ready-to-wear clothing in the Netherlands.
It was by chance that Van Bennekom became interested in photography. After leaving school he worked as an electrician for a while. He joined a young workers' association and developed a keen interest in literature and art. This brought him into contact with Adriaan van der Horst's puppet theatre, which he accompanied to Paris. There he met the American photographer Berenice Abbot. She kindled his enthusiasm for photography and recruited him to assist her in rendering Eugène Atget's archive accessible, which she had acquired in 1928. It was however in the field that Van Bennekom gained most of his practical experience: first as a press photographer, then as a commercial photographer and subsequently as an industrial photographer for Philips and Van Leer; he also worked for the Netherlands Government Information Service.
In the 1950s Van Bennekom specialised in fashion photography. He made reportages of shows given in the Netherlands by French couturiers like Hubert de Givenchy and Jacques Fath, by rising Dutch dress designers like Max Heymans, and ready-to-wear fashion shows. He also photographed fashion collections in his studio or on location. Fashion accessories were another of his specialities. He was the house photographer of dress and millinery designer Peter van Voorn and the shoe company Bata International. Van Bennekom's photos were frequently captioned by his wife, Tosca Leenders, for publication in women's magazines.
Van Bennekom's fashion photos reflect the general line in fashion photography, the models' elegant, ballerina-like poses of the fifties giving way to more casual attitudes in the sixties, when photographers sought a less formal approach in the use of unusual angles and amusing settings.
Van Bennekom's prewar work has been lost, the archive at the nfa beginning in 1946. The photos he took for the Government Information Service are described in the registers kept in the nfa, but the negatives are missing.
Lood van Bennekom kwam bij toeval met fotografie in aanraking. Hij leerde het vak in Parijs bij Berenice Abbott, een leerlinge van Man Ray. Van Bennekom was aanvankelijk als elektricien bij haar in dienst gekomen om werkzaamheden in haar donkere kamer te verrichten. Abbott maakte hem enthousiast voor de fotografie en nam hem aan als assistent. Hij hielp haar onder andere met het ontsluiten van het archief van Eugène Atget. In het in 1964 door Berenice Abbott uitgegeven fotoboek The World of Atget wordt Van Bennekom genoemd: "To preserve the plates, my young Dutch assistent Lood van Bennekom and I cleaned each one, placed it in a glassine envelope, then numbered and classified them all. I had not realized the extent of Atget's work, for this operation took months."
Hoewel Van Bennekom als assistent van Abbott begon, was hij in feite groten deels autodidact. Onge twijfeld heeft hij invloed ondergaan van Berenice Abbott, Eugène Atget en van fotografen die in de tweede helft van de jaren twintig in Parijs werkzaam waren, maar de praktijk was zijn voornaamste leerschool. Zijn werk als persfotograaf bij Het Volk beschouwde hij als een goede training, "daar krijg je de snelle kijk van". Als bedrijfsfotograaf, eerst bij Philips en later bij Van Leer, leerde hij de technische kant van de fotografie grondig kennen.