Major collection of Dutch photo books acquired by UvA Special Collections

1 August 2014

The University of Amsterdam’s Special Collections department has acquired a large collection of photo books. It comprises more than five thousand publications dating from around 1935 until the present day, most originating from the Netherlands. The collection was brought together by Amsterdam-based collector Frans van der Molen.

The collection offers a detailed overview of both Dutch photography and graphic design in Dutch photo books. Renowned photographers such as Cas Oorthuys, Ed van der Elsken, Sanne Sannes, Erwin Olaf and Rineke Dijkstra feature prominently in the collection, alongside work by lesser-known photographers. Together, the collection presents a wide-ranging view of the Netherlands and Dutch society over the last eighty years.

Collector Frans van der Molen assembled his valuable collection with great care over a thirty-year period. He has donated a large part of it to the Special Collections. The rest has been acquired thanks to substantial contributions from the Walter Frankvoort Fonds voor het Nederlandse Fotoboek (Walter Frankvoort Fund for the Dutch Photo Book) and the Amsterdam University Fund. This newly-acquired collection will now be known as the Frankvoort / Van der Molen Collection for the History of the Photo Book in the Netherlands.

Rineke Dijkstra & Jacob Molenhuis, Stofgoud, 1995

Rineke Dijkstra & Jacob Molenhuis, Stofgoud, 1995

The Walter Frankvoort Fonds voor het Nederlandse Fotoboek intends to support the Special Collections department of the UvA in acquiring, maintaining and providing access to a collection of Dutch photo books. As appealing examples of Dutch graphic design and a reflection of developments in society, these photo books fit perfectly within the collection policy applied by the Special Collections. They will form an invaluable source of reference for education and research.

Photo books are a genre in themselves. In 1969, designer and photographer Ralph Prins described them as follows: ‘A photo book is an autonomous art form, comparable to a painting, sculpture, theatre performance, film, etc. The photographs lose their own photographic character as things in themselves and become parts, translated into printing ink, of a dramatic event called a book.’ In a well-produced photo book, the reproductions actually approach the technical quality of original prints.

Photo books have now become collectors’ items, commanding high prices. Dutch photo books are particularly in demand because of their superior design. Graphic designer Jurriaan Schrofer, whose archive is held by the Special Collections, is considered to be an innovator of the genre. Together with Ed van der Elsken and others, he has placed the photo book as a ‘team product’ firmly on the map.

Hans Aarsman, Aarsman’s Amsterdam, 1993

Hans Aarsman, Aarsman’s Amsterdam, 1993

Published by  Special Collections UvA