Emmy Andriesse (b. 1914, The Hague), who died at a tragically early age, is one of the most significant Dutch photographers of the 20th century. Andriesse recorded the 1944 famine known as the ‘Hunger Winter’, the Netherlands’ liberation by the Allies in 1945 and the first postwar years of struggle and reconstruction. Her haunting shot of the ‘little boy with the pan’ – a lone, malnourished child photographed on an Amsterdam canal in 1944 – has become her most famous image, iconic of a starved and exhausted population struggling to survive the last year of the war. The Hague Museum of Photography will mark the 50th anniversary of Emmy Andriesse’s death with a major overview of her work.
The exhibition, jointly mounted by the Print Room of the University of Leiden (where the Andriesse archive is kept), comprises 150 photographs. Besides dozens of authentic prints and documents, some of which belong to Emmy Andriesse’s estate, the exhibition includes many newly printed photographs selected by the compilers from the original negatives ‘with a fresh, 21st-century perspective’. As a result, we have a more nuanced and complete picture of ‘war photographer’ Andriesse than ever before. A young, independent professional, her promising career as a chronicler of the modern ’good life’ (from children’s portraits to fashion, advertising and news photographs) was cut short by a war that did not just threaten her livelihood, but – as a Dutchwoman of Jewish origin – her very existence. When, after 1945, she took up her work again with her usual drive, her imagery had changed: it had become less stiff and academic; it was now more personal and left more to the element of chance. Emmy Andriesse was born in 1914 in The Hague. Her father was a travelling salesman and her mother part-owned a lingerie business, which does something to explain her entrepreneurial zeal and love of fashion. Between 1935 and 1937 she attended an experimental class taught by Paul Schuitema and Gerrit Kiljan at the Academy of Art in The Hague. It was here that she learnt photography and the use of photographs in posters, advertising and newspaper articles. The narrative, occasionally anecdotal character of Andriesse’s photographs, which almost always centre on people and their direct environment, meant that her work leant itself exceptionally well to printed media such as newspapers, magazines and books. In 1940 she married the well-known graphic designer Dick Elffers. In 1953 Emmy Andriesse died of cancer in Amsterdam at the age of 39. A photobook entitled Holland zonder haast. Foto's van Emmy Andriesse (publ. Voetnoot, Antwerp; 96 pp, 80 illustrations; €,50; ISBN 90 71877 57 4) is being published as a companion vol