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Last Updated July 09, 2018
NZR2.00385FAU001-01- fragment van de onderkaak van een kleine krokodil. Datering- 1750 - 1937. Lengte- 313 mm. Locatie- Rokin. © Monumenten en Archeologie, gemeente Amsterdam, Harold Strak & Willem van Zoetendaal

Harold Strak & Willem van Zoetendaal – Amsterdam Stuff

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Website: Visit website
Address: Huis Marseille
Keizersgracht 401
1016 EK

Starts: 09 July, 2018
Ends: 02 September, 2018
Opening times: See Venue
Price: See Venue
Genre: Documentary

It all started with a single dedicated photographer, Harold Strak, who is well known for an almost scientific approach to the medium combined with a technical, but artistically inspired perfectionism. In 2009 he began working on a project that he never suspected would become his magnum opus: photographing the (mostly small) archaeological objects that were discovered during the construction of the Noord-Zuidlijn metro line beneath Amsterdam’s historical centre. Amsterdam Stuff is devoted to Harold Strak’s consummate product photography, with a daring and unusual design by Willem van Zoetendaal. The exhibition also emphasizes the reiteration and replicability so characteristic of the medium of photography. In nine years Amsterdam’s Department of Monuments and Archaeology unearthed 700,000 different, everyday objects, of which Harold Strak made 35,000 photographs. Ultimately, 15,000 of these photographs are depicted in Stuff, an extensive catalogue of archaeological finds being published simultaneously with the opening of the new Noord-Zuidlijn. The exhibition Amsterdam Stuff spotlights a special selection of this extraordinary wealth of objects in a new, remarkable, and monumental way.

Photography born of a fondness for small still lifes
In 2009 Harold Strak submitted a plan for the documentary photography assignment given by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and the Amsterdam City Archives. In it he put forward the idea of using photography to ‘enlarge’ the archaeological objects found during the construction of the Noord-Zuidlijn so that they could be exhibited.

1.67 photographs per object
With tens of thousands of objects to photograph the work had to be fast and efficient, so Harold Strak devised a system that allowed him to feed images directly into the laptop, with later image processing kept to a minimum. Coins, watches, spoons and jugs were sorted into crates by category, with each object separately bagged and given a barcode that Strak linked directly to the photograph. Certain objects, like fish-hooks or bullets, could only be photographed from one angle. Others had to comply with archaeological dogma: cups with the handle to the right, following the so-called ‘Deventer catalogue’.

The Amsterdam Stuff exhibition
Strak photographed all 26,000 objects on a light box, and his approach formed the starting point for the exhibition in Huis Marseille: in a monumental presentation, the photographs are displayed on light boxes, taking the place of the original objects. Amsterdam Stuff is not so much based on the archaeology of things as on their photography. In a superlative form of product photography, Harold Strak captured the (faded) glory, damage and decay – both rusted and restored – in a flawless manner. He and Willem van Zoetendaal then composed object collections that focused on the languages of form and colour. Pattern, repetition, reproduction and scaling open up an entirely new and spectacular way of looking at these – originally often lacklustre – objects.


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