Towards the end of the 1960s, and while still a sociology student with a deep interest in photography, Willem Diepraam became a photojournalist with a deep commitment to social issues. By the 1970s he was one of the most famous photographers in the Netherlands, and one who took a critical perspective on society. Throughout this period, Diepraam operated within the country’s left-wing media circles. His biggest client was the left-wing magazine Vrij Nederland, for which he travelled the former Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles, as well as many other destinations. In the 1980s the aid organisations Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières commissioned Diepraam for photojournalistic projects in multiple African and South American countries.
By the 1970s, Diepraam’s socio-critical stance was making way for a more personal approach. His work became more nuanced and aesthetic, and ultimately grew into a full-fledged artistic practice. Diepraam is a master of analogue photography, and his expertise as a printer of his own work is sublime.
The exhibition Willem Diepraam. 50 Years of Photography presents highlights of the photographer’s oeuvre, including images from the 1970s of a now all-but unrecognisable Netherlands, as well as examples of his international photojournalistic work. This presentation also includes Diepraam’s later almost abstract black-and-white and colour work, as well as well-known images of the unrest in Amsterdam on coronation day in 1980, the ‘woman of Sahel’, industrial landscapes from the Landschap aan Zee (‘Landscape along the sea’ ) series and Lima. He maintains a physical distance from his subjects, but never an emotional one .