Bertien Van Manen

Bertien van Manen (1935-2024)

Bertien van Manen is a documentary photographer with the exceptional ability to walk into the everyday lives of strangers and capture intimate images.

Born in The Hague, The Netherlands in 1942, Bertien began her career in fashion photography in 1974. However, after being inspired by Robert Frank’s The Americans photobook, she transitioned to pursue documentary photography.

Bertien has compiled her images in many monographs, including Let’s Sit Down Before We Go, 2011 where she immerses herself in the unseen world of teenagers in post-Soviet Russia, and East Wind, West Wind, 2001, capturing the daily grind in China.

Finding the perfect mise-en-scene within strangers’ lives is Bertien’s specialty, slipping in undetected to capture a moment of growing up, such as in Skiing in Caucasus, Georgia, 1993 or seeing human connection among the mess, in Rostov on the Don (Maxim and Tanja Sleeping), 1993.

Bertien finds tenderness within countries and regimes that have been conveyed as cold and overbearing. By conflicting with the Western idea of Communism, Bertien peels back the veneer of ‘otherness’, creating documentary images that could be from your own street, family or backyard.

Bertien’s work can be found in the MoMa, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo; Fotomuseum, Antwerpen; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and many more.

By Gabrielle Kynoch

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Heroines 2020

Barbara McGrady

Britta Jaschinski