PhotoLexicon, Volume 4, nr. 6 (March 1987) (en)

Truus Haasbroek-Hessels

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf


Truus Haasbroek-Hessels was a talented amateur photographer during the 1930s. She was also a stimulating personality who was active in the NAFV (Nederlandse Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Netherlands Amateur Photographers Association’). Haasbroek’s oeuvre consists of still lifes, cityscapes, and landscapes produced with bromide printing, but also bromoil ink printing, oil printing, and ‘pigmo’ (bromoil printing) transfer: all fine printing (‘edeldruk’) processes in which Truus Haasbroek was specialised.




Guurtje (Truus) Hessels is born on 1 February in Amsterdam.


Truus Hessels marries Nicolaas Dirk Haasbroek, who initially works at the Amsterdam land registry office (‘kadaster’), but later becomes a lecturer at the TH Delft (Technische Hoogeschool, ‘University of Technology’).

Ca. 1925-‘30

Truus Haasbroek takes painting lessons from the painter/graphic artist J.J. Aarts, director of the RABK (Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘National Academy of Fine Arts’) in Amsterdam. It is probably during this period that she begins to photograph.


Haasbroek’s participation in the Focus Competition ‘Lente’ (‘Spring’) implies a promotion from Focus Class B (juniors) to Focus Class A (seniors) category. In 1932, the competition ‘Tegenlicht’ (‘Backlight’) brings her into the Focus Master Class. In 1933, she goes on to obtain the master class at the NAFV (Nederlandse Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Netherlands Amateur Photographers Association’). In 1933, her husband becomes treasurer of the NAFV based on his involvement in the association. He hold this position until 22 December 1937. He is not a photographer.


Haasbroek has her first private exhibition at the NAFV in Amsterdam.


Following her ‘meteoric career’ with the NAFV, Haasbroek plays an active and stimulating role in the organisation of this association, as well as in educating future generations of amateur photographers. She gives numerous lectures at various associations. She also frequently serves as a jury member at competitions, often with her good friend Bernard Eilers. Starting in 1935, she gives classes in bromoil ink printing and oil printing on behalf of the NAFV and regularly leads club outings. In the same year, Haasbroek becomes a member of the NAFV’s exhibition committee. During this period, she also makes several trips abroad, including Brittany as well as several visits to Italy, e.g. Rome, Venice, Siena and a number of other small towns, as her photos confirm. In 1939, her husband serves as the acting chairman of the NAFV.


Together with Henri Berssenbrugge and Bernard Eilers, Haasbroek serves as a member of the jury for the exhibition Gouden Fotoschouw (‘Golden Photo Viewing’), in honour of the NAFV’s anniversary.


The outbreak of World War II brings an end to Haasbroek’s photographic activity. The materials for her fine printing (‘edeldruk’) processes are no longer available. She returns to painting, and occasionally sculpting.


Haasbroek submits her photos to exhibitions, but on an incidental basis and only when invited.


Haasbroek is made an honorary member of the NAFV on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.


Truus Haasbroek-Hessels dies in Rijswijk (South Holland) on 27 February.


In a letter to the Leiden University Print Room dated 22 May 1956, the photographer Johan Huijsen described Truus Haasbroek-Hessels as follows: ‘In my opinion, she is indeed the best Amateur and Amateuress of the Netherlands.’ Haasbroek’s photography belongs primarily to the photographic movement that, since the onset of the twentieth century, had striven for ‘painterly’ beauty through the use of fine printing (‘edeldruk’) processes and themes borrowed from painting: art photography. Her work forms, however, a subtle variant—already touched by new movements—that can serve as a model for the oeuvres of a number of fellow amateur photographers from the 1930s.

As a photographer, Haasbroek was an autodidact. She mastered technique through practical experience, though she is certain to have received useful tips over the years from two professional photographers who were closely connected to the NAFV (Nederlandse Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Netherlands Amateur Photographers Association’) and belonged to her personal circle of friends: Bernard Eilers and Johan Huijsen. Haasbroek made several oil and bromoil ink prints together with Huijsen. The basis for her becoming a good photographer is likely to have been previously established with her other hobby, painting. Her skill with a brush was not ony useful for making prints with these ‘fine’ processes, but through painting, she had also learned about composition. She received advice in this area from Johan Aarts, a painter and graphic artist. Haasbroek never made painting or photography her profession: there was never any need for her to make a living from her artistic endeavours.

Haasbroek relied on a Dalmeyer reflex camera for 9×12 cm glass negatives and a 6.5×9 Zeiss Miroflex as her photographic tools. In addition, she used retouching brushes and bromoil ink brushes, required to carry out the various fine printing processes she applied. Haasbroek evolved into a skilled specialist in the techniques of bromoil ink and pigmo (i.e. bromoil ink) printing, as well as bromoil and bromoil ink transfer. Through her ability in the art of retouching, she also turned the technique of printing on bromide paper into her own special craft.

Design was most important to Haasbroek: creating beauty according to academic rules of composition and perspective. In the brief articles she wrote for Focus, she demonstrated her thorough knowledge of these rules in painting. At the heart of her vision of design are—perhaps sounding cliché, but essential—a balanced composition and lighting. By choosing a well-considered camera angle, or when that was infeasible, by making manipulative alterations to the image, she was able to create a balance among the objects present in her photos. One illustrative example of this latter case is a shot of a gateway building and street in Vannes, Brittany (France). When she took this shot, a woman with baskets was walking just in front of the gateway’s right pilaster. The photo’s right half is rather richly filled with attributes and people, while the left half is almost empty. Haasbroek felt it would be better if the woman was placed more to the left in the image. She made a slide positive of the photo, and from this, she then made two negative prints on paper. She used one of these paper negatives to remove the woman completely from of the image through retouching, and filled in the ‘freed’ space of the building and the background with a pencil. Taking the other paper negative, she then cut out the female figure—shadow and all—and edited her into the other negative that had been retouched. She subsequently printed this ‘new’ negative by applying the bromoil ink printing technique. Her intervention has been carried out so skilfully that it is visible to the naked eye only with great effort. In any event, Haasbroek managed to achieve her goal: the composition was a success because of it.

Not all of Haasbroek’s photos are derived from these kinds of interventions. Sometimes a simple retouching suffices, especially in groups of clouds in landscape photos. Her oeuvre as well includes photos that have not been manipulated: gorgeous still lifes, skilfully composed and exposed. The treatment of these still lifes—whether it be of flowers, onions, or a basket with mushrooms and peppers—reveals Haasbroek’s eye for contrasts in light, as well as the details and texture of the objects depicted. In addition, she introduces surprising camera angles. One can especially tell from these still life photos that Haasbroek had given some thought to the ideas of New Photography and incorporated them in her own vision in her own personal way

The themes that Haasbroek chose for her photography are centred, like her design, around her desire for serenity and beauty. Though still lifes were given special attention, landscapes and picturesque places in the city could as well inspire her. People usually play no noticeable role in her photos, while mood, atmosphere and rhythm predominate: the silence of an Amsterdam canal in the winter, three women at a market in Brittany, geese in the misty morning sun, or the prows of Venetian gondolas. These are the themes found in amateur photography, which on one hand, allows one the privilege of freedom in selecting a subject, and on the other hand, is still very much—one might even say, dogmatically—bound by themes found in painting.

The generation of amateur photographers working in the 1930s, however, does not necessarily follow the contemporary avant-garde of the ‘New Objectivists’, but is much more oriented towards the second blossoming of Impressionistic and Expressionistic painting. Haasbroek’s photos—as well as those of Johan Huijsen—depicting the Amsterdam canals in the snow, for example, are highly similar to contemporary prints of Frans Everbag: both refer directly back to the serene etchings of Willem Witsen. Still life is not just a theme embraced by amateur photographers, but was also a popular genre in painting of the 1920s and ’30s. Vases or ginger pots with flowers, sometimes in combination with small porcelain or ceramic statuettes, are not only found in the photos of Truus Haasbroek, Henk Mersel, or K.H. Idema, but also in the paintings of artists such as Raoul Hynckes, Kees Verwey, and Hendrik Werkman.

Truus Haasbroek’s photographic work is not distinctive for its spectacularly innovative vision. In thematic, technical, compositional, and ideological terms, it fits perfectly within the tradition that amateur photographers and a large proportion of professional photographers had been building up since the early twentieth century. Haasbroek proved that the technical, artistic, and intellectual level of amateur photography in the 1930s could stand up to the test when compared with the work of professional photographers such as Bernard Eilers, Johan Huijsen, or Francis Kramer.

Among amateur photography circles in the Netherlands—and specifically within the NAFV—Truus Haasbroek-Hessels evolved to become a leading amateur photographer, who expressed herself both through the quality of her work and the numerous activities in which she was involved in these circles. Her importance for the NAFV was recognised in 1947, at which time she was awarded an honorary membership.


Primary bibliography

Hoe de foto ontstond, in Focus 20 (1933) 6, p. 168-169.

Een praatje over het fotograferen van stillevens en bloemen, in Focus 20 (1933) 13, p. 378-380.

Het ‘machientje’ voor beginners uit den booze (de kleine camera. Voor of tegen?), in Focus 21 (1934) 16, p. 456.

Hapert er wat aan de Nederl. Amateur Fotografie?, in Focus 23 (1936) 3, p. 67-68.

Het voorspel van een wedstrijd, in Focus 23 (1936) 15, p. 437.

Kerstsalon der A.A.F.V., in Focus 24 (1937) 1, p. 11.

Het Oliedruk-procédé, in Focus 24 (1937) 13, p. 347-349.

Beschouwing over den 4den Amsterdamschen Kerstsalon der A.A.F.V., in Focus 25 (1938) 2, p. 38-39.

Vorm en inhoud van fotografisch werk, in Focus 26 (1939) 1,p. 14-15.

Zesde Amsterdamsche Kerstsalon der A.A.F.V., in Focus 27 (1940) 2, p. 57-59.

“t Ongrijpbare’, in Focus 27 (1940) 6, p. 170-171.


images in:

Lux-De Camera 43 (1932) 12, p. 191.

Lux-De Camera 44 (1933) 7, p. 104.

Die Galerie 1 (1933) 4, plaat 74.

Die Galerie 2 (1934) 9, plaat 169.

Cosmorama 1934, proefnummer, plaat 169.

Bedrijfsfotografie 16 (1934) 3, p. 46.

Bedrijfsfotografie 19, p. 302.

Het Veerwerk 1937, p. 201.

Mr. Ch.P. van Eeghen e.a., De Tuin van Amsterdam, Amsterdam (Uitg. Strengholt) 1939, p. 36, 37, 49, 62.

NRC-Handelsblad 7 januari 1980.


in Focus:

17 (1930) 14, p. 376.

18 (1935) 3, p. 76.

18 (1935) 9, p. 253.

18 (1935) 13, p. 363-364.

18 (1935) 16, p. 452.

18 (1935) 26, p. 739.

19 (1932) 1, p. 17.

19 (1932) 6, p. 176.

19 (1932) 16, p. 473.

19 (1932) 24, p. 711.

20 (1933) 5, p. 141.

20 (1933) 11, p. 327.

21 (1934) 10, p. 283.

23 (1936) 6, p. 174.

23 (1936) 14, p. 415.

24 (1937) 6, p. 153.

24 (1937) 8, p. 221.

24 (1937) 24, p. 676.

25 (1938) 11, p. 328.

26 (1939) 12, p. 368-369.

26 (1939) 26, p. 794.

27 (1940) 1, p. 17.

27 (1940) 9, p. 263.

29 (1942) 12, p. 229.

31 (1946) 13/14, p. 196.

33 (1948) 15, p. 276.

Secondary bibliography

Auteur onbekend, Focus-prijsvraag: ‘vrije onderwerpen’, juni, in Focus 17 (1930) 12, p. 308.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 17 (1930) 14, p. 359.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 18 (1931) 3, p. 61.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 18 (1931) 9, p. 237-238.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 18 (1931) 13, p. 353.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 18 (1931) 16, p. 437.

A.B. (= Adriaan Boer), De Fotoschouw der N.A.F.V. II, in Focus 18 (1931) 23, p. 642.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 18 (1931) 26, p. 727.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 19 (1932) 1, p. 1; 6, p. 161.

Adr.B., De Fotokunstsalon van ‘klank en beeld’, in Focus 19 (1932) 9, p. 260.

Auteur onbekend, Onze platen, in Lux-De Camera 43 (1932) 11, p. 173.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 19 (1932) 16, p. 461; 24, p. 699.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen ‘tegenlicht’, in Focus 20 (1933) 5, p. 129.

Auteur onbekend, Jubileumtentoonstelling Kennemer Fotokring, in Focus 20 (1933) 7, p. 194.

Adr.B., Jubileum-tentoonstelling van den Kennemer Fotokring, in Focus 20 (1933) 7, p. 202.

F.G., De Haarlemsche jubileums-tentoonstelling, in Lux-De Camera 44 (1933) 7, p. 95.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen uit den wedstrijd ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’ der

N.A.F.V., in Focus 20 (1933) 11, p. 317.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Bedrijfsfotografie 16 (1934) 3, p. 39.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Focus 21 (1934) 10, p. 268.

Auteur onbekend, Mevrouw Haasbroek-Hessels, éénpersoons tentoonstelling, in Focus 21 (1934) 24, p. 664-665.

G. Jorna, Verslag van vergadering van 7 november ’34, in Focus 21 (1934) 24, p. 689-690.

A.P.W. van Dalsum, De jaarlijksche wisselprijs ter herinnering aan de Ned. Club voor Fotokunst, jaar 1934, in Focus 22 (1935) 3, p. 69.

Th. Boogaard, Haagsche A.F.V., in Focus 22 (1935) 4, p. 92.

A.B., Fotoschouw N.A.F.V. op ‘mooi Nederland’, in Focus 22 (1935) 11, p. 313.

D.W. v.d. Weel, Verslag vergadering van de Nederlandsche Amateur Fotografen Vereeniging in het Geb. Heystee te Amsterdam op Woensdag 2 Oct. 1935, in Focus 22 (1935) 21, p. 626.

D.W. v.d. Weel, Nederlandsche Amateur-Fotografen-Vereeniging te Amsterdam, in Focus 22 (1935) 22, p. 658; 23, p. 691-692.

P. Pijnenburg, Fotografische Kring ‘Iris’ Alkmaar, in Focus 23 (1936) 5, p. 156.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen in dit nummer, in Focus 23 (1936) 6, p. 168; 14, p. 410.

Auteur onbekend, Werkavonden, in Focus 23 (1936) 8, p. 248.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen in dit nummer, in Focus 24 (1937) 8, p. 220; 24, p. 674.

Bern.F. Eilers, Hoe moeten wij de tegenwoordige foto bezien ?, in Focus 25(1938) 2, p. 41.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen in dit nummer, in Focus 25 (1938) 11, p. 326.

Auteur onbekend, 7 December, in Focus 26 (1939) 1,p. 42.

Auteur onbekend, NAFV nieuws in Focus 26 (1939) 3, p. 107.

Auteur onbekend, Verslag der vergadering van woensdag 5 april 1939 in de groote vergaderzaal, in Focus 26 (1939) 8, p. 266.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen in dit nummer, ‘m Focus 26 (1939) 12, p. 366; 26, p. 796.

Adriaan Boer, Foto’s met inhoud, Bloemendaal (N.V.Focus) 1940, p. 38-39.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen in dit nummer, in Focus 27 (1940) 1, p. 12.

D.B. (=Dick Boer), N.A.F.V.Salon ‘Het Baken’. 27 april tot 5 mei 1940, in Focus 27 (1940) 9, p. 257.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen in dit nummer, in Focus 27 (1940) 9, p. 262.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen in dit nummer, in Bedrijfsfotografie 23 (1941) 19, p. 295-296.

Auteur onbekend, Beknopte analyse der platen, in Focus 29 (1942) 12, p. 229-230.

Auteur onbekend, Analyse der platen, in Focus 31 (1946) 13/14, p. 192.

Auteur onbekend, Analyse der platen, in Focus 33 (1948) 15, p. 272.

Flip Bool en Kees Broos (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1920-1940, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1979, p. 24, 26, 27, 150.

Auteur onbekend, Prentenkabinet toont foto’s Truus Haasbroek, in De Leidse Post 22 januari 1986.


NAFV, vanaf ca. 1930, erelid vanaf 1947.

Haarlemsche AFV, erelid vanaf 1939.


1930 (juni) Eervolle vermelding (klasse juniores), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1930 (november) Bronzen Focusplaquette (klasse juniores), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1931 (maart) Verzilverde Focusplaquette (klasse B), Focusprijsvraag ‘Kunstlichtopnamen’.

1931 (juni) Verzilverde nieuwe Focusplaquette (klasse A), Focusprijsvraag ‘Lente’.

1931 (juli) Eervolle vermelding (klasse A), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1931 (december) Derde prijs (klasse A), Focusprijsvraag ‘Genrebeelden’.

1932 (juli) Eerste prijs (klasse A), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1932 (november) Eerste prijs (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Tegenlicht’.

1933 (mei) Eerste prijs (meesterklasse), Onderlingen wedstrijd der N.A.F. V., ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1934 Erediploma (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Groot Formaat’.

1934 Herinneringsplaquette Nederlandsche Club voor Fotokunst.

1936 (januari) Erediploma (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1936 (juni) Erediploma (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1936 (december) Erediploma (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1937 (augustus) Erediploma (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’.

1938 (mei) Erediploma (meesterklasse).

1939 (mei) Erediploma (meesterklasse), Focusprijsvraag ‘Winter’.

1939 (juni) Eerste prijs (klasse seniores), eersten Vondelparkwedstrijd.

1940 Herinneringsplaquette Nederlandsche Club voor Fotokunst.

1940 Tweede prijs (klasse seniores), Nationalen Fotowedstrijd Kennemer Fotokring (afd.B, ‘Vrije Onderwerpen’).

1947 (september) Plaquette 7de Internationale Focus-N.A.F.V. Fotosalon.


1931 (g) Amsterdam, Gebouw Heystee, N.A.F.V. Fotoschouw.

1932 (g) Den Haag, Gemeente-archief, Jubileumtentoonstelling H.A.F. V.

1932 (g) Amsterdam, Rai, Fotosalon Klank en Beeld.

1933 (g) Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlemsche Jubileums-Tentoonstelling.

1934 (e) Amsterdam, NAFV-gebouw.

1935 (g) Amsterdam, Verenigingsgebouw AAFV, 2e Amsterdamsche Kerstsalon van Fotografische Kunst (AAFV).

1935 (g) Amsterdam, Apollohal, N.A.F. V.-Fotoschouw (gehouden tijdens tentoonstelling Mooi Nederland).

1936 (g) Amsterdam, Verenigingsgebouw AAFV, 3de Amsterdamsche Kerstsalon van Fotografische Kunst (AAFV).

1936 (g) Düsseldorf, Film und Foto.

1937 (g) Jagerndorf (Tsjech.), D.L.V., 4. Gauausstellung des Gaues Mahren-Schlesien.

1937 (g) Amsterdam, Arti et Amicitiae, Nationale Gouden Fotoschouw der N.A.F. V.

1939 (g) Amsterdam, gebouw Leesmuseum, Nederland fotografisch gezien en 5e Amsterdamsche Kerstsalon van Fotografische Kunst (AAFV).

1939 (g) Amsterdam, Paviljoen Vondelpark, Eerste tentoonstelling van fotowerk uit de Vondelparkwedstrijden (t.g.v. 75-jarig bestaan Vondelpark).

1940 (g) Amsterdam, Gebouw Leesmuseum, 6de Amsterdamsche Kerstsalon van Fotografische Kunst (AAFV).

1940 (g) Amsterdam, Gebouw Heystee, NAFV-Salon ‘Het Baken’.

1942 (g) Amsterdam, Arti et Amicitiae, 11e Lustrum Fotoschouw NAFV.

1947 (g) Amsterdam, Arti et Amicitiae, 7e Internationale Focus-N.A.F. V.Fotosalon.

1979-’80 (g) Den Haag, Gemeente-museum, Foto 20-40.

1986 (e) Leiden, Prentenkabinet.


Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit.