Indonesia independent - Photographs 1947-1953
Cas Oorthuys, Charles Breijer and Lex de Herder
Cas Oorthuys and Charles Breijer had known each other since 1937. By then, Oorthuys had already worked as a photographer for some time, and was a member of the communist leaning 'Vereeniging van Arbeidersfotografen' (Labour Photographers' Society). In 1936 Oorthuys started work as a report photographer with publishing house De Arbeiderspers, where Breijer became his colleague. Later, during the last year of the war, Oorthuys and Breijer were members of the illegal Amsterdam-based group 'De Ondergedoken Camera' (The Hidden Camera).
Because Oorthuys and Breijer both took a sincere interest in the Indonesian people and their struggle, they photographed from a Dutch as well as from an Indonesian point of view, and on Dutch as well as on Republican territory. As a result, their photographs show the unbridgeable gap between the Republican pursuit of freedom and Dutch paternalism.
The photographs made by the young conscript Lex de Herder are less pronounced politically. They are a miscellany of war photography, snapshots of the highlights of army life and touristic photography.
Cas Oorthuys and 'Een staat in wording'
From January until March 1947, Oorthuys travelled through Indonesia commissioned by ABC-Press and publishing house Contact. On his journey through Java and Borneo he was accompanied by the educationalist Albert de la Court, who wrote the texts.
His photographs were published at the beginning of July 1947 in the book Een staat in wording (A Nascent State), a plea for a peaceful solution to the Indonesian struggle for independence. (1)
Lex de Herder
Early in 1949, Lex de Herder was sent to Indonesia as a conscript. He was stationed in Surabaja (Eastern Java) where from 15 February until 15 July 1950 he was a radio announcer on the programme for the Dutch troops at Radio Republik Indonesia Serikat. Thanks to his diploma from the Nederlandse Vereniging van Fotojournalisten (Dutch Society of Photo Journalists), obtained in 1948, he also worked as a photographer for the Dienst Legercontacten (Army Contacts Service) from 1949 until 1950 and taught photography to the soldiers.
The negatives from his archive as well as the three photo albums give an impression of the daily life of the Dutch army on the island of Java. The albums are a miscellany of war photography, snapshots of highlights from army life, touristic photography and documentary items such as receipts for drinks consumed. The photographs show similarities particularly with Breijers photo report 'Een dag uit het leven van soldaat Jan de Wit' (A Day from the Life of Private Jan de Wit). Lex de Herder sent the negatives of his experiences home, where his father had them printed and put them in albums. De Herder stayed in Indonesia until 1950.
Biography Lex de Herder (1927-2000)
After the war, Lex de Herder came into contact with press photographers via his job. This inspiring working environment made him decide to become a press photographer himself. He applied for a job at E.A. (Erik) Hof's Centraal Foto Persbureau (Central Photo Press Office), and on 11 May 1948 passed an exam at the Nederlandse Vereniging van Fotojournalisten (Dutch Society of Photo Journalists).
Early in 1949, Lex de Herder was sent to Indonesia as a conscript. He was stationed in Surabaja (Eastern Java) where from 15 February until 15 July 1950 he was a radio announcer on the programme for the Dutch troops at Radio Republik Indonesia Serikat and taught photography to the soldiers.
After his repatriation, he did not return to the Centraal Foto Persbureau, but started to work for Johan Klaver's photo office in Rotterdam. For sixteen years he was employed there as an advertising and corporate photographer, until he was asked to work for the daily newspaper Rotterdams Nieuwsblad in 1967. There he provided the photo's for Ton Schuurmans' weekly column 'Ter Plaatse' (On Location). On 1 September 1969, Lex de Herder was appointed photo editor of the newspaper and subsequently made fewer photo's himself.
In 1989 he went into early retirement. As he was Rotterdam's town photographer, the part of his archives documenting the city and its inhabitants was considered to belong in the Rotterdam Municipal Archives. The remaining archives were transferred to the nfa. These contain amongst others nature photographs and reports of his annual trips to Paris.
Biography Charles Breijer (1914)
Charles Breijer saw photography and film as journalistic means par excellence. He was not interested in 'nice pictures' but rather in the transfer of information. Nevertheless, his photographs clearly show the influence of the New Photography. The Russian film and Joris Ivens' work were important sources of inspiration for Breijer's image language.
In 1937, Breijer started his career as a professional photographer at publishing house De Arbeiderspers. He made, amongst others, photo reports for Wij. Ons werk ons leven, a journal with a modern design, with lots of room for photography and photomontages. At De Arbeiderspers, Breijer became friends with Cas Oorthuys, who encouraged him to experiment and taught him a lot.
Immediately after the German invasion the press became subject to strict censorship. Photographers were forced to become members of the Verbond van Nederlandsche Journalisten (Union of Dutch Journalists), which was supervised by the Bureau Fotopers (Photo Press Office). Breijer did register to be able to continue to work as a photographer and as a front for his underground activities. Already in the early years of the Occupation, he used his press card to capture aspects of daily life that were not acceptable to the occupier. He was one of the few people, for instance, who photographed the closing-off of the Jewish Quarter in Amsterdam. In the course of 1944 he met Fritz Kahlenberg and got involved with De Ondergedoken Camera (The Hidden Camera), a group of photographers in Amsterdam who photographed the last year of the occupation. He made no less than 260 photo's, partly from a bicycle saddlebag in which he hid his camera. Compared with the photographs by the other members of De Ondergedoken Camera, Charles Breijer's illegal pictures are important mainly because they show various aspects of the armed resistance.
Indonesia independent - Photographs 1947-1953
When Breijer travelled to Indonesia in 1947 as a would-be cameraman, he was attracted in the first place by adventure. But he was also driven by a certain idealism: he wanted to contribute to building an independent Indonesian state. Breijer got a job with the Gouvernements Filmbedrijf (Governmental Film Company) and contributed to 'Wordende Wereld', the cinema newsreels for Indonesia.
The Gouvernements Filmbedrijf was in the hands of the Dutch filmmaker J.C. Mol (1891-1954) and produced Dutch-Indian propaganda films. Consequently, Breijer was bound to the guidelines of the Government Information Service. In this context, Breijer filmed a lot of humanitarian subjects: medical care, food distribution and reconstruction works, all of them Dutch activities. In addition he photographed privately and without (self-)censorship the daily life of Dutch and Indonesian people on Bali, Borneo, Java, Sulawesi and Sumatra. These photographs are important mainly because they do not represent official Dutch government policy, but plainly show the tense atmosphere in the last colonial years.
On a few occasions Breijer was given commissions by journals such as Panorama and Libelle. After the transfer of sovereignty, he photographed a lot of landscapes, ritual dances on Bali, street scenes, and 'ethnic types', all subjects that he thought would be easy to sell.
The photographs on view on this site have remained for the larger part unpublished. Only the photo report 'Een dag uit het leven van soldaat Jan de Wit' (A day from the life of private Jan de Wit) appeared in 1948 in a book, called Onze jongens overzee (Our Boys Overseas). After the transfer of sovereignty, Breijer worked as a filmmaker for the new Indonesian government until 1954.
Jaap Zindler filmt in een kampong op Bali twee inheemse meisjes, werkend met een weefgetouw, Indonesië (1947)
Detailopname van een meisje, werkend aan een weefgetouw in een kampong op Bali vanwege een filmopname, gemaakt door Jaap Zindler, Indonesië (1947) foto: Charles Breijer
Pim Ingelse regisseert met Charles Breijer als cameraman een film van een...
Ton Schilling met Charles Breijer als cameraman tijdens filmopnames,...
Ton Schilling, ± 1948 [contactblad]
Schilling werkte bij de RVD en maakte samen met CB de film ''Soldaat over zee''