Bertien Van Manen

It was Robert Frank's book 'The Americans' that led to fashion photographer Bertien Van Manen exploring documentary photography. This interest took her on a photographic journey across eastern Europe and Asia, which is documented in a number of books, such as A Hundred Summers, a Hundred Winters in 1994, based on the lives of people in the former Soviet Union.
Van Manen skilfully combines people with their place, recording moments of happiness and sadness. Her work emphasises the value of pursuing longer term projects. It reminds me that I should be thinking beyond OCA People and Place. That my coursework has the potential to go beyond the limits of deadlines, and that I should think of project briefs that I can explore in greater depth.
For example between 2002 and 2005 Van Manen traveled all over Europe meeting families and documenting their personal photographs in still-life compositions as they would appear in any family home, in frames, on walls and sideboards. Photographs of photographs, windows into the past. There is a juxtaposition between the world the pictures exhibit and the world they inhabit.
To be allowed access to such personal images, Van Manen must have spent time developing good trusting relationships. As a viewer it's as if we've popped round to the subject's home for a cuppa! Give Me Your Image is a reminder of the photographs we have displayed proudly in our own homes. A roll call of relatives, depicted in happier times.
Meanwhile by choosing to display her images in a photo book, Bertien Van Manen remains true to her paper-based subject matter. However, with the digital image dominating society and screen savers, will the practice of printing, framing and displaying photographs in homes become a thing of the past?