Bertien Van Manen is a Dutch artist
Episode 238: It was an absolute honor and treat to sit down with Bertien Van Manen to speak with one of the greatest living Dutch artists working in photography.
I spoke to Bertien last week about her new book Archive published by MACK. The book is a perfect reference guide to Bertien’s work starting in the 1970s that underscores her concerns regarding place and photography’s documentary tendencies. The book is an overview of the Dutch artist’s commitment to observing the world both on a micro and macro level. Though unintentional, Bertien has often found herself making work amidst a vast sea change of political and cultural moments. Her work in China and the former Soviet Union are excellent examples in which the artist, through her own negotiation of the landscape, both social and psychological, has come away with making work that define the historical moment.
In this episode, we trace Bertien’s early steps into photography which came after her beginnings as a mother and more conventional family life. Her career started after this period of time, giving the artist a strong sense of home and also relationships. Her work is tender and disarming and can perhaps be viewed best in the present looking back on its significance of manufacture date. As mentioned, Bertien has photographed a number of important historical moments, but all feel indebted to the personal. Of note is her work in the Appalachia’s in America and her work in Ireland, perhaps the most personal work in her oeuvre.
Throughout the conversation, I ask Bertien to expand on her early life, but I also kept referencing history and we discuss her work to the historical. I ask her about her memories of the war, her understanding of labor as it relates to coal mining, and also her time in Bucharest as Nicolae Ceaușescu’s government crumbled. I was humbled by her experience and lamentably outraged by her treatment by her male counterparts, which we speak about in detail. Please tune in to this episode to hear one of the greats speak about her background, work, and thoughts on photography, history, and life in general. you will not be disappointed. Please pick up the book from MACK. It is another in a series of important catalogs by the publisher bringing the highlights of an artist’s works together in one volume.