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Armando Jongejan FRPS - May 2012
Daily Life in Three Monasteries in Egmond
1st - 30th May 2012
Armando Jongejan FRPS (1960) studied Photography at the Photo academy in Apeldoorn the Netherlands and works as a freelance photographer. He also makes ‘free work’ for his own interest, especially documentary/contemporary photography. He wants to make contact with people, to photograph them in their own environment: their habitat. He is curious how they live, what they do: daily life. It inspires him.
Egmond in the Netherlands contains three different communities: Egmond aan Zee (6.000 people), Egmond aan den Hoef (2.500 people) and Egmond-Binnen (3.000 people). Altogether it is still a small village on a small scale. Armando was born in Egmond aan Zee and have lived there almost his whole life. It is difficult to recognise what is interesting or not. If you are travelling abroad, everything is new. You recognise what is interesting or what makes a good picture. In your own village you have to look in a ‘new way’.
For his first photo book ‘Egmondse dorpsportretten’ (1996) (Villagers of Egmond) he became - as a non religious man - interested in the monastic world. In Egmond there were at that time three Roman Catholic monasteries.
He started to make a reportage of the ‘Karmel nunnery’ in Egmond aan den Hoef. The contact with the nuns was not easy. It took 18 months before he was allowed to make his first photo. The nuns lived in a very isolated way, almost without any contact in the ´real world´. They choose to live cut off from the villagers. They live in their nunnery with their own gated garden. Even their graveyard was inside the walls of their garden. Until 1969 there were even barriers inside the nunnery. It was strongly prohibited for men to enter the building.
When Armando made his photo reportage of ‘Villagers of Egmond’ he also wanted to make some photos of their monastery. He showed the results of that series to the abbess and after a while she appreciated his work. After a few visits - without a camera - he was allowed to make his first photograph in the garden of the nunnery. The nuns were very helpful, but didn´t trust him in the way he was making his first photograph. The nuns made photographs of their own using a simple compact camera. Armando made photographs with his Hasselblad on a tripod and a 180mm lens on it. He still remembers their reaction when he made his first photo of the group in a nice little lane with hawthorn trees in their garden. “Isn´t it to dark under the trees, do you have enough light..., are you not too far away to make a good picture”. They became curious about the results. At that time; no ‘digital pictures’, just 120 T-Max 400 film in his Hasselblad. After this photo shoot he showed them the results and they were very satisfied.
Then he was invited to realise a documentary of daily life in the nunnery. It starts with prayer and includes all kinds of domestic activities, such as cleaning, washing, eating, and some relaxation when the nuns have one hour ´spare time´ a week. Armando was even allowed to make some photographs of the nuns in their own cell (private room). One time he was very surprised about the nuns - one of them had a computer and internet (it was 1996(!).
The book was published in 2000 and then he was invited by the abbot of the ’St. Adelbert Monastery’ to realise a second reportage. Over a two year period, he made almost 1000 negatives of this community. The project was similar to the reportage of the nuns. He made this reportage even more with an open view, more as an observer. In the monastery Armando took part of the complete atmosphere. To realise the photographs Armando wants to make he needs time. Time to create a relation with the nuns or monks. To get involved and be trusted. For that reason he made photos during a period for at least 20 months. When Armando finished the project of the St Adelbert abbey, one of the monks died. Armando decided to make some pictures of the last journey of this monk. These very impressive photographs close a very special period.
The third and last nunnery in Egmond is of the St. Lioba nunnery. Armando made a few photos of them in 1996 for his project ‘Villagers of Egmond’. They live in a different way as the nuns Carmelites. They have for example almost no recreation time. But they are very artistic. They create all kind of things and sell them in special shops. (see also RPS Journal volume 151, May 2011 p216-219). In 2009 and 2010 Armando made many photographs of this community and at the end of 2010 he captured during a period of 15 years almost six years monastic life.
“No digital camera... Just capture the light in black and white with the square format. You have just 12 negatives, so you work completely different than when you use a digital SLR camera on a single photo card.”
When Armando made his photos he visited the nunnery or monastery for a few hours a day to make several photos of their daily life. He never organised a situation. The nuns or monks did what they had in mind and he just made some photos of them.
The results of three times two years work was published in three different photo books ‘Van binnenuit’ (2000) (From the inside), ‘Een zoektocht’ (2004) (A quest) and ‘Thuiskomen’ (2011) (Coming home).
Parts of these reportages were exhibited in the Hasselblad Image centre (1997) in Utrecht, during the Dutch Naarden Photo Festival 2001, 2005 (group) and 2011 (solo) and in several other galleries and museums, including in Museum of Photography Amsterdam (FOAM) (2005), Dutch Museum of Photography, Rotterdam (2008) (both group) and the Photography Museum of China in Lishui (2010)(solo).
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