PhotoLexicon, Volume 2, nr. 2 (March 1985) (en)

Steye Raviez

Louis Zweers


As a photographer, Steye Raviez specialized chieflly in photojournalism. For many years he has been a regular staff member at the weekly magazine, the Haagse Post, together with his colleague Ronald Hoeben. The field where he has worked runs from Amsterdam to China, and thus apparently unbounded. But Raviez’s connection with a news weekly and his personal social stand in his photos define the bounds and sphere of interest in his photography.




Steye Raviez is born on 28 March in Amsterdam.


Already at an early age he showed an interest in drawing, and chooses a course in creative work: applied graphics, at Amsterdam’s Kunstnijverheidsschool, later to become the Rietveld Academy. He completes the course successfully.


He starts working as a graphic designer at the Boduin advertising agency in Amsterdam. There he becomes interested in photography, and takes the first steps in the field as an autodidact.


Raviez enters the service of the Haagse Post as their assistant layout editor and becomes involved in photo journalism. After filling in for a considerable period for a freelance photographer who was prevented from fulfilling assignments, he gets a full position as a photographer. In addition, he continues to do the layout for the magazine.


He receives a commission from the Amsterdam Municipal Archive: photographing the city’s Old North neighbourhood.

In September he makes his first trip to China.


In March an education delegation from Dutch Minister Pais leaves for China. Raviez travels with the group to do a report and, at a later stage, a photo book on China.


Several months after the Bouterse coup he travels to Surinam. For his photo of a heavily armed Bouterse during one of his speeches Raviez wins a prize in the Silver Camera, the Dutch competition for photojournalists.


From this point on Raviez provides the layout and photography for the magazine Thrillers en Detectives.


On assignment from the Bijenkorf department store he travels to China for a third time, now with the aim of recording the production of silk and fashion. The photo essay is shown in the various Bijenkorf stores.

After a trip through Central America Avenue magazine publishes his report on Belize.


He spends six months as senior designer in in the service of the Staatsuitgeverij in The Hague, then returns to the editorial staff of the Haagse Post.


Steye Raviez has devoted himself specifically to photojournalism. The apparently logical step from training in the graphic arts to a job as a graphic designer proved not to be the right choice for him. He felt a greater attraction to photography, particularly because of the repid results provided by the medium and the specific approach which that demands: brief moments of concentration, in order to capture a ‘decisive moment’. Evidently this characteristic side of photojournalistic work fits better with Raviez’s disposition than the work of a graphic designer does.

A large proportion of Raviez’s photographic oeuvre has been created on assignment from the Haagse Post. His regular employment with that magazine has deeply influenced his development. First, he has had to – and still has to – keep the wishes of his employers in mind to a certain extent when choosing and developing his subjects; second, like every photojournalist at every magazine, he is heavily dependent on the editors of the magazine. To a great degree it is the editors who define the final image by their control of the selection, the cropping, enlargement and size of the photos used. In the years that Raviez has worked for the Haagse Post, he has been confronted with various changes in the editorship, and the changes in the photo police which have come with them. Particularly in the first half of the 1970s that frequently meant the sacrificing the space for photographs for text, or that photos were too often cropped or enlarged. Only in 1977 was Raviez able to deliver a series of photos, entitled ‘Work’, as an autonomous contribution to the HP.

The arrival of Ron Kaal as the editor-in-chief at HP in 1981 meant an improvement in the position of photography in that magazine. Kaal strove for a more balanced relation between text and photography, and also dared to present photos in larger format. Moreover, he introduced colour photography in the HP. With his policies the HP photographers Steye Raviez and Ronald Hoeben were given more opportunity to show the peculiar character of their work. Raviez’s series ‘Directing, published in the HP in 1984, is comprised of large format colour photos, and like ‘Work’ was carried out as an autonomous project.

The principle themes in Steye Raviez’s photography are defined by politics and current events. Into the 1960s portraits of politicians in somewhat static poses continued to dominate the general image of politics, in Raviez’s work as well. In the decades which followed, the image of themselves as sterling men and women, which politicians wanted to present to the outside world, was exchanged for images that photographers of politicians wanted to show: more in the form of snapshots of unposed, and therefore often unflattering nature. Because of Raviez’s greater involvement with his subjects, his photo portraits of artists, particularly writers, are considerably more interesting than his portraits of politicians.

An important segment of his work consists of reportage on current events. He visualizes political and social developments, and often vexed social relationships. In doing this he does not seek the moment suprème, the moment which sums everything up, but produces a visual narrative from different moments which supplement one another. That is the way in which he presents his projects in the HP, and also in his photo books.

Many photographers yearn to put together a photo book. Particularly for photographers who are tied to their employers or clients in their everyday work, it is a ‘luxury’ to be able to produce a photo book that reflects their own ideas about selection and design. Steye Raviez also exploited his opportunities in that direction. His most important photo books are China na Mao (China after Mao, 1979), De Stadsoorlog, Amsterdam ’80 (Urban war, 1981), together with Ronald Hoeben, and Amsterdam. De jaren zeventig (Amsterdam: the 1970s, 1983).

The photo book China na Mao is the outcome of his two trips through China in 1978 and 1979, after the death of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. The outward uniformity of that country had by then begun to make way for a more pluriform society with greater freedom. Raviez’s photo book exposes the cautious political and social changes and greater tolerance, for instance in a photo in which one sees a portrait of Mao on a wall, largely covered by posters with critical texts.

Amsterdam, the city were Raviez was born, and for many years lived and worked, is central to the latter two books. In his view, Amsterdam is the centre of The Netherlands, which is rarely if ever bypassed by important events, and therefore a photographer can find all the motifs there that are representative of happenings throughout the country. De Stadsoorlog is a visual report on the riots in 1980 which surrounded the eviction of squatters and the coronation of Beatrix as queen. The photo book Amsterdam de jaren zeventig begins in the late 1960s and closes with the great peace demonstrations in November, 1981. Raviez followed many of the different groups with his camera, such as the Kabouters, hippies, squatters and Dolle Minas, as they resisted the social status quo.

Through their subjects, these books take their place in an historical series of photo books about Amsterdam since the early 1950s. One is struck by the parallel of the title Amsterdam De jaren zeventig with that of the book about Amsterdam by the photographer Ed van der Elsken, so deeply admired by Raviez (and many others), De jaren vijftig (The 1950s). However, Raviez’s work shows little similarity with Van der Elsken’s dramatic style of photography.

The dominant characteristic in Raviez’s photo work is ungarnished simplicity. The content of his photos, the informational message, is of essential importance; design and technique may in no way whatsoever impinge on it. He avoids special effects such as burning in, enlargement of details and extreme camera angles as much as possible. He uses a SLR camera with a 50 mm standard lens and makes very limited use of telephoto and wide angle lenses. He seeks out the most suitable composition while photographing, and uses the whole negative for printing. The framing of the photo is thus determined by the view finger, and not in the darkroom. He has a preference for the harmonic proportions of the ‘golden section’, a principle of beauty already used in antiquity, in which the division of a line is such that shortest section of a line relates to the longer section just as the longer relates to the line as a whole. That does not mean, however, that he forces his compositions into this relationship. Concentration on the essence of the subject is what is of paramount importance for him. Variations in depth of field can occasionally be helpful for him in this, but most often it is a matter of selecting the right view point. When looking for and recording actions, an important part of the work of a photojournalist, the photographer has hardly any opportunity to find totally balanced compositions. At moments like that, it is important to be able to work intuitively, with a trained eye. Raviez’s training as a graphic designer provided a good foundation for this.

It is not difficult to discover Raviez’s engagement with certain groups in society from his photography. Young people, from teenagers up through his own generation, are the chief subjects in his photos, and in particularly, young people struggling for a peaceful society, living space for everyone, and freedom of movement on many fronts. Raviez’s sympathy for these ideals shows through in his preference for these subjects, and quite literally in the standpoint that he takes as a photographer: he is in the middle of things. In photographing riots however he has been able to very deftly avoid portraying either the activists or the representatives of authority in a bad light; rather, he tires to capture the relations between the two fronts. One reads a mildly leftist, engaged vision from his photographs. As a visual contribution to the historiography of The Netherlands since the early 1970s, these photographs are characteristic documents.


Primary bibliography

foto’s in:

De Haagse Post, periode 1966-heden.

J.J. van Galen, I. Schoutsen, Tochtjes, Amsterdam (Querido) 1975.

J.J. van Galen, I. Schoutsen, Nieuwe Tochtjes, Amsterdam (Thomas Rap) 1977.

S. Raviez, J J . Van Galen, M. Korzec (inl.), China na Mao, Bussum (De Gooise Uitgeverij/Unieboek) 1979.

S. Raviez, Toerist in China, in Avenue april 1979.

W. Bary, Het begin, rubriek over theater, film en literatuur, in Zero 1 (1979) 6, p. 130; in Zero 2 (1980) 8, p. 10; in Zero 3 (1981) 1 ,p. 9.

HJ.A. Hofland, S. Raviez, R. Hoeben, De Stadsoorlog, Amsterdam ’80, Alphen aan den Rijn (Sijthoff) 1981

Thrillers en Detectives, tijdschrift voor misdaadlectuur, vanaf 1981.

M. Berger, Belize een laconiek landje in Midden-Amerika, in Avenue mei 1982, p. 80-91.

J. Vader, München cultuur van een verborgen hoofdstad, in Avenue oktober 1982, p. 102-109.

T. Kunz, Jan Wolkers, in Libelle nr. 40, oktober 1983, p. 10-17.

S. Raviez, De Mennonieten van Belize, in Troef 1983.

H. Vuijsje, China kleedt u in zijde, in Elegance 40 (1983) 3, p. 5-11.

JJ. van Galen, E. Werkman, M. ‘t Hart, K. van Kooten, Amsterdam de jaren zeventig, Amsterdam (Tiebosch) 1983.

Diverse boekomslagen voor onder andere de volgende uitgeverijen: Querido, Meulenhoff, Elsevier, De Bezige Bij, Arbeiderspers, Van Nijgh en Ditmar, Thomas Rap en Sijthoff.

Secondary bibliography

Foto 27 (1972) 8, p. 20-25.

M. Dekker, Modieuze Tochtjes, in De Nieuwe Linie 5 november 1975.

E. Barents (red), Fotografie in Nederland 1940-1975, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, supplement biografieën.

B. Tromp, China op het breukvlak, in De Haagse Post 1 december 1979

Auteur onbekend, De Zilveren Camera, in Schipholland nr. 16, 1980.

Auteur onbekend, China na Mao, in Elseviers Magazine nr. 23, 7 juni 1980.

Auteur onbekend, China na Mao, in Down Town Magazine, Amsterdam mei 1980, p. 47-50.

Winkler Prins jaarboek, Amsterdam (Elsevier) 1980, p 260-261.

T. Temmink, Hofland licht tegel van krakersoorlog, in De Volkskrant 2 december 1981.

F. Jansz, interview met S. Raviez, in Foto 36 (1981) 2, p. 22-27.

Auteur onbekend, Straight Shooter, in Holland Herald nr. 25 (1981).

E. Werkman, J.G. Contant, Tien jaren te kijk, Hoogtepunten uit onze vaderlandse persfotografie, Amsterdam (Elsevier) 1982, p. 8, 14, 18, 27, 28, 37, 8, 153, 158.

Auteur onbekend, Eendagsvliegen gered, in Het Parool 16 februari 1983, p. 6.

Auteur onbekend, Uit de jaren zeventig, in De Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant 12 februari 1983.

B. Roodnat, De jaren zeventig van Steye Raviez, in De Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant 25 maart 1983.

D. Ettema, Steye Raviez in de kijker met foto’s van Amsterdam en China, in Noord Hollandse Courant 12 februari 1983.

Auteur onbekend, Een nieuwe baan voor Steye Raviez, in Vrij Nederland 2 juli 1983.


NVF, van 1974-heden

Fotogroep Stroming, van 1982-heden


1980 Zilveren Camera, categorie B, eerste prijs.

1981 Zilveren Camera, categorie C, tweede en derde prijs.

1982 Zilveren Camera, Categorie C, tweede prijs.


1983 (e) Monnickendam, buurtcentrum Den Bolder, Overzichtstentoonstelling.

1983 (e) Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Eindhoven, Arnhem, De Bijenkorf, China.

1984 (g) Amstelveen, Cultureel Centrum, Fotogroep Stroming


Steye Raviez, documentatie en mondelinge informatie.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Amsterdam, Gemeentearchief

Amsterdam, Archief De Haagse Post.