Nature is everywhere: in the forest, at the beach, on the street, and always portrayed in a myriad of photographs. Since 1873, Dutch nature lovers have enjoyed caputering the glory of the countryside in print. By bringing together the works of the earliest Dutch nature photographers, the exhibition Hunting with a Camera | Pioneers of Dutch Nature Photography is the very first exhibition of its kind to offer such a complete overview of the many marvels of the diverse Dutch landscape. Visitors can experience nature through the eyes of these photography forerunners and appreciate how important their role was in fighting for conservation. A special selection has been made from over 90,000 historic nature photos that the museum has in its collection, and these will be shown to the public for the first time. Through these exclusive photographs, we can marvel at the inventive photography techniques that were used to capture plants, animals and unique landscapes, some of which are now rare or even extinct in the Netherlands.
The very first photographs of nature
Through Hunting with a Camera | Pioneers of Dutch Nature Photography we can experience the magnificence of nature captured on film throughout the Netherlands during the 1900s. These historic images show landscapes where roads were scarce and populated only by walkers, cyclists or horse-drawn carts. The pioneers frequently trained their camera lenses on birds, and over 40 species of bird can be seen in the exhibition including threatened species such as the stone curlew, the great reed warbler, the little bittern and the purple heron. Be surrounded by dozens of sharply focused, beautifully staged photos of flowers and plants in ‘De Tuin van Tepe’ (Tepe Gardens).
Photographing wild animals would be anything but easy during that time, as was apparent from the pioneers’ countless publications and diaries. The photographers disappeared into the wilderness under very basic conditions, weighed down by the most impractical and heavy equipment. For days they would lie hidden in bushes, tents or camouflaged huts waiting with their cameras for a special bird or a wild animal to appear. Only once back at home could they see if their images were successful. There was always the possibility of under- or overexposed pictures; they could also discover that the bird had just flown away or that the animal turned its back on the photographer just at the moment suprême.
Call for conservation
In addition to these groundbreaking photographs, the pioneers had another clear goal in mind – to make the public aware of nature’s beauty and the absolute need to protect it. By educating the public with beautiful images of nature, the photographers hoped to instill an understanding of the importance of conservation. Their efforts were rewarded in 1905 with the establishment of the Vereniging Natuurmonumenten (Dutch Society for Nature Conservation).
In the footsteps of the pioneers
To this day, nature has remained a prevalent and popular subject in photography, which is why the Nederlands Fotomuseum will also be dedicating a small part of the exhibition to contemporary photography. In this exhibition, the museum will not be presenting nature photography in the literal sense of the word, but will show the work of artists and photographers that reflects on how we interact with nature. The exhibition will display recent work by Kim Boske (1978), Charlotte Dumas (1977), Anne Geene (1983), Erik Kessels (1966), and Luuk Wilmering (1957).
There will be a specially designed children’s route through the exhibition, where they can look for wild animals and special plants using binoculars. It is a fascinating way to learn and understand how photography in nature was achieved over 100 years ago.
Special thanks to: Prins Bernhard Culture Fund
With thanks to: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science | Municipality of Rotterdam | BankGiro Lottery | Prins Bernhard Culture Fund | Wertheimer Fund