Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen produces intimate portraits of the people she photographs, immersing herself in their lives in order to reveal the poetry within the everyday. From 1990 onward, van Manen has taken extended trips to China, Europe, and the Former Soviet Union, capturing commonplace scenes of people in their homes or enjoying various recreational activities: families eating meals, a couple asleep in bed, late night dancing, and trips to the beach. Van Manen brings us into the private lives of her subjects to reveal a poignant meditation on human existence.
For the series Let’s sit down before we go, van Manen focused on the lives and homes of people in Russia following the fall of the Soviet Union, celebrating the richness and humanity within a country dominated by fear and suspicion. Focusing particularly on Russia’s youth, who we see skiing in the snow in bathing suits and donning wedding dresses, van Manen sensitively reveals a side of Russia unknown to most of the world.
For her most recent series, Beyond Maps and Atlases, van Manen made several visits to Ireland in the wake of her husband’s death. Images of mist-shrouded fields and shadowy rural nightscapes speak to the feeling of profound absence created by the death of a loved one. Imbued with both a strong sense of place and a feeling of mysticism, van Manen was guided by Irish writers such as Seamus Heaney and John McGahern. Continuing her investigations into notions of belonging, van Manen’s photographs reach beyond the surface to uncover the hidden depths and enigmatic quality of life in Ireland.
Born in 1942 in The Hague, The Netherlands, Bertien van Manen lives and works in Amsterdam. Her most recent monograph, Beyond Maps and Atlases, was published by MACK in 2016. She has released seven previous monographs including A hundred summers, a hundred winters (1994); East Wind West Wind (2004); Give Me Your Image (2005); and Let’s sit down before we go (2011), among others. Van Manen’s work has been exhibited internationally at museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fotomuseum Winterthur; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Photographer’s Gallery, London; and the Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo. Her work is held in the permanent collections of several major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.