Zwartjes’ photography was part of the artistic process that culminated in his films. His photographs were taken as studies, as a spin-off of a cinematic situation, or occasionally as independent images. It was a diversified approach designed to satisfy the artist’s irrepressible urge to express his highly individual view of the world. As a photographer, Zwartjes stands alongside people like Gerard Fieret and Ed van der Elsken: pioneering figures who brought Dutch photography into the realm of the visual arts. His idiosyncrasies produced fabulous results and his work blazed the trail for the generation that followed: artists like Arno Nollen, Hester Scheurwater and Paul Kooiker, whose aim as photographers seems to be to delve into the human psyche, often by way of images of the female body.

In 1968, Zwartjes was one of the first Dutch visual artists to make use of film, initially as a way of recording his performances, but soon afterwards as an independent medium. He did everything himself: camera, sound, editing, even the development of the film. He edited in the camera, so that the sequence of the shots determined the sequence in the finished film. His actresses (who included Willeke van Ammelrooy, Moniek Toebosch and his wife Trix Zwartjes) seem to be trapped in a web of sexually loaded power games; hysteria, psychosis and cruelty are among his standard – albeit implicit – themes. But the situations he depicts are ultimately no more than fuel for the artist’s unprecedented images.

Frans Zwartjes ignored many of the normal rules of film-making such as the logical sequencing of events or the existence of a plot, although each of his scenes contains the suggestion of a potential narrative. His cinematic world is totally weird, yet convincing. The form is all-important and the effect is surreal. Zwartjes is fascinated by the impact of the prelinguistic potentialities of the image.

The exhibition has been created in collaboration with the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam.

It is accompanied by a new publication entitled Frans Zwartjes – The Holy Family, published by Van Zoetendaal (price € 35).