Artist, poet and photographer Gerard P. Fieret (b. The Hague, 1924) has turned eighty this year. In honour of the occasion, the Hague Museum of Photography is organizing a major retrospective of his photographic works. Despite his ceaseless production of drawings and poetry, it is the thousands of photographs that he produced between 1960 and 1980 that form the jewel in Fieret’s artistic crown. This is the first major retrospective of work by this Hague artist. Gerard Petrus Fieret trained at the city’s Royal Academy of Art in the period immediately before and after the Second World War. Although he also studied drawing, painting and graphic design, photography was his primary vocation from the late ’50s to around 1980. The medium gave him scope to display all his artistic talents and throughout this period he produced an unceasing and almost obsessive flow of black-and-white photographs. He photographed everything around him: himself, girls, children, animals and street scenes. And women, lots of women, photographed during casual encounters and frequently recorded in candid, intimate poses which give the photos something of a voyeuristic tinge. The strength and freshness of Fieret’s photos lie in his unconventional approach to his subjects and the unusual, far from gentle methods he used to develop and print his films.
Between Fieret and his subjects there seems to be little distance: he uses simple 35 mm cameras and complex, often chaotic printing techniques to create a mood of authenticity. It is a distinctive view of the world à la Fieret: his photographic images are impish and playful, but at the same time raw and confrontational. And if any doubt should remain about his authorship, it is invariably cleared up by the many felt-tip signatures and businesslike copyright marks that stress the identity of the maker. These are prominently positioned on the finished print and form an inextricable part of the image. It is not easy to avoid Fieret’s signature, especially given his constant fear that others may have pirated his individual style. Gerard Fieret has been for many years a well-known figure on the streets of The Hague: out and about every day on his bike, with two buckets of birdseed dangling from the handlebars. His daily round takes him to some thirty places where he stops to feed his beloved pigeons. Few people are aware that the familiar figure is a gifted artist and 1992 winner of the City of The Hague’s Ouborg Prize for the visual arts. In recent decades, Fieret’s photographic work has been largely ignored, but a new recognition is now dawning, as witness a jubilant cover story in the renowned US journal Art and Auction (Feb. 2004), the recent homage in international photo-magazine Eyemazing (spring 2004) and the current popularity of his work at auctions in Amsterdam and New York. The over 180 photos in the retrospective are from the collections of the Print Room of the University of Leiden, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and private collectors in the Netherlands and the US. The exhibition will be accompanied by documentary film footage about Fieret, shot by Jacques Meijer, Henk Augustijn and Susan Fairbanks, and the publication of a book entitled Gerard P. Fieret – 80 jaar (160 pp., 155 ill., € 25, publisher: Voetnoot, Antwerp; ISBN 90-71-877-85 X).