The coronavirus has had the Netherlands in its grip since March 2020, and photographer Henk Wildschut has been documenting the impact of Covid-19 on life in Dutch society, and the country’s approach to coping with the virus.
DISTANCE Rather than engaging with the distractions of the day, Wildschut chooses to keep his distance and use his photography to reveal patterns. In this case the notion of distance is central to his subject matter, in a very literal sense. It’s also a subject associated with numbers, large numbers – of facemasks and other items of protective gear. Here, just as for Our Daily Bread, his previous Document Nederland commission in 2013, Wildschut’s lucid, ‘clinical’ eye captures compelling images that testify to the emptiness, distance, silence and scope.
THE HUMAN FACE Wildschut also reveals the human face to this crisis – the face behind the seemingly impersonal systems and high-tech equipment. These portraits are interspersed among the images of scenes outdoors, and indoors at laboratories, the RIVM public health body, and press conferences. Together they reflect how the government is trying to combat the virus, the consequences in our living environment, and the goings on behind the scenes.
APPEARANCE In his images capturing distances and enclosed and outdoor spaces, Henk Wildschut reveals a country whose appearance has been temporarily altered. But the photographer does not pass judgement. He keeps his distance, to be able to show the volume of the crowds of demonstrators; the volume of the supplies of protective equipment – providing us with a clear vision of the extent of all the measures taken, and of all the protests against them.
DOCUMENT NEDERLAND In 1975, the Rijksmuseum started commissioning a different Dutch photographer each year to document a particular topical issue affecting society. The title Document Nederland was used for this project for the first time in 1997. The selected photographer is asked to monitor and capture in still images this theme or subject from current events. The resulting photographic series together form a wonderful visual history of the Netherlands in the late 20th and early 21st century.
DOCUMENT NEDERLAND JUNIOR In tandem with Document Nederland, the Rijksmuseum is this year staging the 13th edition of the annual Document Nederland Junior photography competition for young people. For the first time, this year the winning works will be displayed prominently in the Photography Gallery in the Phillips Wing, alongside the work of Henk Wildschut. In previous years, the winning entries to the junior competition were displayed in the Rijksmuseum’s Education Centre (Teekenschool).
WITH THANKS TO Document Nederland is made possible by Fonds 1975 / Rijksmuseum Fund and Familie van Heel Fonds / Rijksmuseum Fund.