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Dark Dunes - Rein Jelle Terpstra

Donkere Duinen Rein Jelle Terpstra
International zone
Exhibition genre
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Can photography also disguise visible reality? Artist Rein Jelle Terpstra asks himself this question when he comes across an old collection of negatives depicting landscapes, tulips, country roads and Dutch skies. At first glance they are photogenic compositions as we know them from painting, but the date and place, which the anonymous amateur photographer meticulously noted in the margins of every negative, tell us a different story: outside the frame the Second World War is raging.

In the exhibition 'Dark Dunes', Terpstra shows more than twenty photographs from this found collection in large format in negative. Scattered throughout the room are large newspaper pages from the same period, reporting on everyday life and the progress of the war. Once again it becomes clear that photography is by no means always an unerring proof of what really happens.

The passionate amateur photographer of this collection of photos is anonymous and as far as Terpstra is concerned, this will remain so: 'Donkere Duinen is not a personal story about this maker, it is about the phenomenon that photography is seen as a matter of course as documentary. But this photographer has withdrawn from the world, you could say that the gaze is turned away.' Terpstra emphatically refrains from making a judgment. "You don't know what the photographer's reason was, you could call it escapism, but maybe this was also an attempt to preserve a certain autonomy during the occupation, or to arrive at an aesthetic experience."

In the exhibition Terpstra shows the images as he found them: as negatives. Everything that was light when shooting becomes dark, and vice versa. This also creates a metaphorical relationship with history; the negative acts as a sort of tipping point. Terpstra offers the opportunity to portray the photo and thus the history as a positive

In addition to the photos, a few pages from newspapers can be seen whose publication date corresponds to the dates that the photographer has written in the margins of the negatives. The daily news trickles into official and propaganda news about the Second World War. The headlines often refer to what's on the negatives, such as the photo of the armed farmers protecting their haystack with sticks, or refer to the title Donkere Duinen, such as the 'Coastal Zone Regulation' article with its black coastline.

In 2020 Terpstra published the book Dark Dunes in a small edition under its own management and in collaboration with Willem van Zoetendaal Publishers (design). Like the exhibition, the book is made up of a selection of the photographs found, shown in negative in combination with newspaper articles from that period. The book is no longer available.

About Rein Jelle Terpstra
Since his studies at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, Rein Jelle Terpstra (1960) has been investigating the relationship between photography, perception and the absence of the photographic image. So far, this has resulted in an amateur image archive with about 50,000 images, various slide installations and artist's books. These include the project Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train – The People's View, the installation Afterimages (about the untaken photo) and Retracing (about remembering images in people who are about to lose their sight, 2013). His work is included in the collections of the SFMOMA in San Francisco, the MoMA Library and the New York Public Library Collections in New York, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam and the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. Terpstra was nominated for the Dutch Doc Award in 2014. He is a photography teacher at the art academy Minerva HanzeHogeschool in Groningen. In 2017, Terpstra worked on the Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train project with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in Washington, D.C.

Dates and Times

20 August 8 January 2023
11:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 17:00
Photomuseum The Hague is open on Boxing Day (11:00 - 18:00) and New Year's Eve (11:00 - 16:00).
€ 8,00 - € 10,00
Student € 8,00
Normaal € 10,00
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