World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 53 - Jacques Meijer
In some photographs of Jacques Meijer there is THE SIGN. It is an exclamation point. It can be seen in photos of hotel rooms without a view, but also on an Italian square and in the Picos in Spain. Sometimes the character is large, sometimes it is small.
Jacques Meijer: ‘The original format is a beer mat. All the characters are hand painted, black on a white ground. I tell the spectator: This is extremely weird, I made this picture.’
Archive in Scrapbook
The photos with THE SIGN are passing by on the computer. We are in an upstairs room of his house in Landsmeer. Meijer (1934) has a long career behind him. He was a photoprapher, filmmaker and editor. He photographed Armando, Jan Cremer, The Dutch Ballet, the Royal Family, national politics in The Hague, the comedians (Wim Kan, Toon Hermans), many Hague artists including Gerard Fieret. Sometimes it was also a video or a movie, like Fieret.
He was a publisher of photomagazines as Fototribune and TFF. He is now busy to archive everything. Meijer: ‘Photography is relaxing, archiving is strenuous. Many photos disappear Ins Blaue Hinein. It is important to keep photos visible.’ A book of archived photographs, ‘Archive in Scrapbook, part One’ is already completed. The second, which we are looking at at the computer, is as good as finished. On the third he already knows what is to come in.
There have been several exhibitions of his work, in the Rotterdam Kunsthal, in Panorama Mesdag and in The Hague Public Library. The work is documented in a dozen books, including ‘Den Haag 1955-1965’, ‘Scheveningen 1955-1965’, ‘Japan, analogous memories’, ‘Dossier Dubbelportretten’ and ‘Beautiful Square’, portraits of women in a square.
Downstairs in the living room, he shows me his first picture. That was made in 1955, 60 years ago. It’s a funny photo. A man with a coat over his head on Scheveningen beach. The photo was published in the newspaper De Tijd. Jacques Meijer: ‘It began with documentary photography. I worked a lot together with Piet van der Ham. He was not only a photographer, but also a filmmaker and film critic. He lived on the Laan van Meerdervoort. In The Hague we could sell our pictures – pictures of Hague news – to no less than seven newspapers, including Het Vaderland, de Nieuwe Haagse, de Haagsche Courant and het Haags Dagblad.’
There was something new: color photos. Meijer experimented wit hit. I see pictures of Wim Kan and Corry Vonk, The ABC Cabaret, Albert van Dalsum as King Lear, at his farewell from the stage, young ladies with the latest eyewear, the young singer Rob de Nijs, the singing group The Shepherds from IJmuiden, a smiling bishop Bekkers. In the meantime Jacques Meijer had founded a publishing office in The Hague. He published the magazine Fototribune, a magazine for photography and cine film, which appeared previously in Belgium. And not much later there was the new magazine TFF, a monthly for applied photography and film.
Seed potato cultivation
Meanwhile he also made reports for illustrated magazines: Wereldkroniek, Libelle, De Spiegel, de Katholieke Illustratie. There were reports about Toon Hermans, the Snip & Snap Revue. Following Piet van der Ham, he started making films, ‘free movies’. But that was ‘doom and gloom’. Then commissioned films. He started, with his wife Yvonne – occasionally also in the living room – a production company for audiovisual communication, Jacques Meijer Productions BV.
‘We made films for ESA/ESTEC, the European Space Agency and for engineering firms. With topics such as Polyethylene – the Process, Gas production in the North Sea and The Seed Potato. A wide variety of topics. But every time yet with the same approach. You tell a story in a certain shape. It has to do with logistics and efficiënt use of your resources. In every process there is a problem, for example the polyethylene, there is too much or too little. The point is that you solve it efficiently. This applies both to the manufacturer and for me as a filmmaker.’
In addition, he wrote. For example in het journal PF a series of Photo Galleries in the Netherlands. ‘It’s become quite a rage’. And on conceptual photography and staged photography. He made himself a conceptual work, ‘The Golden Egg Circus.’ It is an animated film with a series of visual jokes. The viewer gets the impression that the eggs are little critters zipping through the theatre on two legs and applauding with two hands. The artists and the public are smooth, clean eggs. Only the two clowns have a hat on.
Meijer: ‘I have always had , for sixty years, a film camera or a digital camera within reach. Thus I made ‘street photographs’ as well, which I made as a byproduct, as I was with the family on vacation. Some photographers call themselves street photographer. I did too, but I wasn’t as a street photographer on the move.’
The Pyramid of Cheops
We see a picture of a young Egyptian in djellaba, in the middle of the Egyptian dessert. Meijer was there in connection with the seed potato project. Even in Egypt potatoes are grown. He needed some preliminnary shoots for the film, preferably of a pyramid where the sun was shining in a certain angle. The Egyptian has on his left shoulder a large bag and on the right another bag. Meijer’s film camera and passport were in the bags. You see the Egyptian rush forward on his slippers. Meijer can not keep up with him.
‘That was exciting. There he was, with all my capital. I was not sure I would ever see my camera back. But he walked right into the place that I needed and the sun was just in the right angle of the pyramid, the Pyramid of Cheops. I shot my film scene. This situation stands for how I stand in (photo)life. What’s gonna happen? What am I going to make? There is always a risk, from whatever aspect. But if the recording is there, that’s the past. The future you cannot shoot.’