Willem van de Poll worked as a photojournalist for Dutch and foreign news magazines like Panorama and Spiegel and conducted fashion shoots for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, but was best known in the Netherlands as the in-house photographer of the Dutch royal family. The National Archives of the Netherlands and the Hague Museum of Photography now present the first ever major retrospective of work by this Dutch photographer. Willem van de Poll (1895-1970) grew up as a member of a well-to-do family in Amsterdam. His father wanted him to become a doctor, but he preferred to seek adventure first as a police inspector and soon after that as a photographer. After training as a photographer in Vienna, Van de Poll worked as a police and news photographer in that city. His first published press photo, of a major fire, appeared in the Berliner Tageblatt in around 1920. Wishing to travel the world taking photographs, Van de Poll became one of the first Dutch photojournalists to work extensively outside the Netherlands.
A member of the generation of photojournalists who supplied both text and photographs, his work was distributed by international press agencies Associated Press and Black Star. His photo-reportages appeared regularly both inside and outside the Netherlands in magazines like Spiegel, Panorama and the famous Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung. But Willem van de Poll was not born for the world of ‘hard news’. The high-spirited, cigar-smoking photographer was happiest producing atmospheric impressions of places that were then still relatively unknown: the rugged landscapes of Iceland and Norway, romantic Madeira and the mysterious Middle East. At the same time, Van de Poll acquired experience of other forms of photography. During the 1930s he reported on Paris fashions for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and took photographs for use in advertising by KLM, Unilever and Verkade. Van de Poll’s career took an expected new turn when he was appointed in 1944 to head the photographic service of the Forces of the Interior (formed to unite the various armed resistance organisations opposing the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands). He became staff photographer to the commander-in-chief of the Interior Forces, Prince Bernhard, and together they toured the Dutch towns and cities newly liberated by Allied forces. Thereafter, Van de Poll was to remain the royal family’s in-house photographer through to the late ’50s, even accompanying Bernhard and Juliana on holidays and state visits. During this post-war period, he also became passionately interested in the new state of Israel. He made thousands of the photographs of the country, including many showing the fate of the Palestinians. In the mid-’60s Willem van de Poll moved to Switzerland. By that time he had retired and on 10 December 1970 he died in Amsterdam, following a short illness. The 35th anniversary of his death is to be commemorated at the Hague Museum of Photography with a lecture evening on Thursday 8 December 2005. The exhibition will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated monograph, written by Louis Zweers, edited by Wim van Sinderen and designed by Total Identity (published by Terra). In 1996, the National Archives of the Netherlands acquired the Van de Poll Collection from the Netherlands Government Information Service (RVD). Have a look at www.en.nationaalarchief.nl