PhotoLexicon, Volume 7, nr. 14 (September 1990) (en)

Julius Perger

Robbert van Venetië

Annet Zondervan


Julius Perger’s photographic oeuvre, which arose in the years 1864 to 1888, includes chiefly shots of bridge and railway construction. Although he lived in The Hague, he was a specialist in the field of construction photography and therefore did most of his work in the vicinity of the cities Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Perger is one of several nineteenth-century photographers in the Netherlands that combined quality craftsmanship with artistic feeling.




Georg Carl Julius Perger is born on 9 May in Barmen (Prussia) as the son of Ludwig Stanislaus Joseph Maria Perger and Maria Catharina Krebs.


On 17 September, Perger moves to The Hague at the age of twenty-one and settles at Juffrouw Idastraat 20, based on a travel and residence permit (source: The Hague City Archive, Civil Registry 1850-1860, fiche 348, Section 12, Neighbourhood E). In the civil registry, his profession is listed as: ‘photograaf’ (‘photographer’).


On 29 October, Perger weds Virginie Georgette Becker (8 August 1834 Delft–?) in The Hague. The marriage certificate states Perger’s place of residence as Rotterdam (his name is not listed in this city’s registry), where the marriage also takes place on 12 and 19 September (source: The Hague City Archive, Civil Registry, fiche 1862, Sept. 24 [no. 488] no. 430). According to the city address book of The Hague for this year, Perger resides at Juffrouw Idastraat 49.

Prior to the couple’s official wedding dates, their first son is born on 27 June, Victor Hugo Julius. Several months later, on 6 November, the baby dies.


A second son, Louis Hugo Julius, is born on 20 July.


At the address Pastoorswaranda 52 in The Hague, Perger opens an ‘Atelier voor Photographie’ (‘Studio of Photography’).

A daughter, Maria Barbara Virginie, is born on 9 December.


Perger moves to Frederikstraat 30 in The Hague.


During this twelve-year period, Perger photographs bridges and railway lines being built in the vicinity of the cities Dordrecht and Rotterdam. This work is linked to the expansion of the Dutch railway network.

Starting in 1867, Perger lives at Kerkstraat 37 in The Hague.


In 1873 and 1875, Perger photographs the construction of harbour works in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Feijenoord. In 1874, Perger reproduces five ‘situation drawings’ commissioned by the ‘Rotterdamse Handelsvereniging te Feijenoord’ (‘Rotterdam Trade Association of Feijenoord’) for use in an album. These drawings present an overview of the urban expansion taking place in this part of the city.


Perger documents the progress of the construction of the ‘Waterweg van Rotterdam naar Zee’ (‘Waterway from Rotterdam to the Sea’), the present-day ‘Nieuwe Waterweg’ (‘New Waterway’).

According to the city address books and civil registry of The Hague, Perger resides at Kerkstraat 37a in 1875, and at De Riemerstraat 26 in 1876.


Perger once again moves to different addresses in The Hague: in 1883, he resides at Zuidwal 44; in 1884, at Rembrandtstraat 161; in 1886, at Paulus Potterstraat 402; and in 1887, at No. 350 on the same street.


Perger quits his work as a photographer. In the address books of The Hague, which also lists people by profession starting in 1877, Perger’s name is no longer found under the heading ‘fotografen’ (‘photographers’).


In 1895, Perger resides at Van Ravesteijnstraat 171 in The Hague. In 1899, he moves to Paulus Potterstraat 381.


Perger now resides at Doedijnstraat 79.


Julius Perger dies in The Hague at the age of 84.


In the 1860s, Julius Perger developed himself as a specialist in engineering architecture photography. He was also known for running a reputable portrait studio in The Hague. On 11 July 1866, the Dagblad voor Zuid-Holland en ‘s Gravenhage (‘Newspaper of South Holland and The Hague’) made the following response to a portrait that Perger had taken of Count Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp, distributed for sale by H.J. Gerritsen, a bookseller in The Hague: ‘…while we assuredly dare recommending a visit to the studio of Mr. Julius Perger, with whom this impeccable photography has been produced.’

Perger also made his mark in another area: during a lottery organised in 1870 on behalf of the Dutch Red Cross, he photographed the items to be lotted, which had been placed on display at the ‘Gothic Hall’ of Kneuterdijk Palace in The Hague. These interior photos were offered for sale as stereo photos.

After leaving Germany, Perger settled in The Hague. Already at this time, he referred to himself as a photographer. It is not known who taught him how to photograph. Perger was willing to share his knowledge and craftsmanship, as conveyed in an advertisement in the Dagblad voor Zuid-Holland en ‘s Gravenhage on 23 July 1864. In this advertisement he announces the opening of his studio, but proclaims that he: ‘…does not doubt whether he will gain through his work the Public’s sympathy, to which the examples in his possession will also contribute.’ He ends his advertisement with the following notice: ‘There is also opportunity for a respectable young person to thoroughly learn photography.’ We do not know if Perger did in fact ever provide instruction to anyone.

At the present time, Perger’s known oeuvre consists of shots that depict canal-building projects, harbour works, as well as railway and bridge construction. Shots of his immediate surroundings in The Hague are not to be found: there were simply no major construction projects in the field of engineering architecture—Perger’s area of specialty—carried out in the vicinity of the city where he lived n the 1860s and ’70s. The expansion of the railway network in the Netherlands focused primarily on bridging the country’s major rivers, which, up until this time, had formed the biggest obstacle in establishing a national railway transport network. Besides photographing in the neighbourhood of Arnhem, Perger did much of his photographic work in the vicinity of Dordrecht and Rotterdam.

A number of Perger’s construction photographs were included in the ‘Het Vaderlandsch Album ter Welkomstgroet van H.M. de Koningin der Nederlanden’ (The Fatherland Album of Salutation of H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands’), an album compiled by Dutch academics, writers, and artists as a gift to Queen Emma, who was coming to live in the Netherlands following her marriage to the Dutch king, William III. Presented to the Queen on 22 April 1879 at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, it comprised a total of 434 entries, assembled in nine separate portfolios that were encased in a custom-designed art display cabinet. The chairman of the committee that had initiated the compilation of this gift, Mr. F.C. Tromp, had hoped ‘… to show H[er] M[ajesty] what her new Fatherland was and is, what it could and can achieve, what great works and important objects of art and science it possesses, which are admired and followed in foreign countries.’ With this aim in mind, the committee had assembled various works, which—besides prose, drawings, musical pieces, and architectural designs—also included ’75 images of major works in the Netherlands, 90 images of Dutch railways, and 15 photographs of artworks’. The album included a catalogue text, in which all of the works submitted were briefly summarised. Under the category of ‘Photographs of artworks, photographs as examples of photography’, it states that A. Greiner, J.W.F. Offenberg, P. Oosterhuis, and M. Verveer made contributions. As one can read in the catalogue description, the photo was valued as a visual medium and the photographer as an ‘inventor’.

While the term ‘image’ in the catalogue’s description indeed refers to the photographs themselves, in the album itself they function as documents of achievements made in the areas of hydraulic engineering and railway construction. Consequently, it is not the photographers who are cited, but rather the names of the building projects depicted: e.g. the ‘North Sea Canal’, the ‘Orange Sluices’, the ‘New Rotterdam Waterway’, the ‘[Railway] Line Groningen­–Winschoten’, and the ‘Bridge over the Lek [River]’ at Culemborg. For each building project, the photos are precisely described and dated. It is sometimes possible to ascertain a photographer’s name based on the signature found on a given photo. Besides Von Kolkow, Oosterhuis, and Hameter, there are also photographs taken by Perger: specifically, shots of the ‘Waterweg van Rotterdam naar Zee’ (‘Water Way from Rotterdam to the Sea’)—the present-day ‘Nieuwe Waterweg’ (‘New Waterway’)—while under construction.

Perger’s oeuvre is likely to have arisen primarily through commissions. Presumably, he was approached by one of the parties involved— be it the national government, a city, a manufacturer, an engineer—to photograph the progress of a specific building project. Unfortunately, the cardboard mounts onto which Perger’s photos are pasted provide no information in this regard.

For various projects and locations, Perger took photographs over a period of many consecutive years. One cannot always ascertain whether photographing an entire series was carried out based on a pre-conceived plan. Only in the series of photos depicting the construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg, built in the years 1875-’78, does one encounter a uniformity in the subtexts that accompany Perger’s photographs—a characteristic that might suggest the work was done with a series in mind. The detailed technical data recorded in these subtexts confirms that Perger’s client specified the exact locations from which the photos were to be taken. Two shots taken respectively in the years 1875 and 1876 convey the following information: ‘the Southern Dam 1150 m[eters] from the foot of the dune in the Sea’ and ‘extension of the Southern Dam at the Hook of Holland, from 1150 to 2300 meters in the Sea’. When comparing these two photos, one can directly observe the advances that had been made in the intervening period.

Undoubtedly, Perger was obliged to meet his customers’ demands in obtaining clear registrations of these objects. At the same time, however, he wanted images that were also of interest in photographic terms. This last aspect is particularly evident in his striving for well-rounded, balanced compositions. The photo Brug te Dordrecht (‘Bridge in Dordrecht’) of 1871 demonstrates this well. In this image, the vertical lines of the beams end in a horizontal line, in this case part of the railway. Because they follow the line of perspective, the beams draw the eye towards the actual subject at hand: the bridge under construction in the background. In Perger’s desire to achieve compositions that are almost mathematically accurate, he introduced human figures to enliven the image and perhaps also as an indicator of scale. Two shots of the Dordrecht train station taken in 1872 illustrate the elaborateness of his approach. The first thing one notices is the way in which the people appear in the image. By precisely determining who was to stand where and in what manner, Perger staged the entire scene in the manner of a film director. The same figures appear in both photos, sometimes standing in an identical pose and at the same approximate spot. This gives the photos a mirror-like effect, further accentuated by the use of the same framing and lighting in both. To achieve the latter, Perger would had to have waited at least a half-day for the sunlight to reach the desired angle. By choosing the same camera angle, he was able to ensure that a maximum number of verticals and horizontals in the architecture—cornices, corner pilasters, and chimneys—extended from one photo into the other.

Perger’s shots of engineering architecture—all are albumen prints of glass negatives—are printed in a large format. In the nineteenth century, architectural photos were printed either in the carte-de-visite or cabinet card formats, or sold as souvenirs in the stereo photo format. These were typically cityscapes or shots that, in any event, were more picturesque than depictions of engineering architecture under construction. This latter category appears to have been intended more for specialised, documentary use. Shots of engineering architecture, such as bridges, were also printed and distributed for sale in small format. In this case, however, the point was to show a newly completed bridge in its full glory as an example of the latest building technology. Pieter Oosterhuis’ stereo photos of the bridge near Culemborg taken shortly after its completion in 1868, published by a local businessman, A.J. Blom, are one known example. As far as can be ascertained, Perger’s photos—taken chiefly during various phases of construction—were never offered for sale in this manner. Two of his albumen photos, both featuring a bridge under construction in Dordrecht (1866), have irregular dimensions. Pasted next to each other on cardboard, they provide a panoramic overview of the state of construction at the time. In general, Perger signed his photos by hand directly on the negative. In most cases, he placed the words ‘Phot. Julius Perger, ‘s Hage’ (Phot[ographer] Julius Perger, The Hague) in a spot that was clearly visible on the photo, sometimes following the direction of a visual element in the image, and occasionally on an evenly dark or light background.

Perger is one of several nineteenth-century photographers whose oeuvre arose during the building boom that took place between 1860 and 1880. Pieter Oosterhuis, perhaps Perger’s most important competitor in the area of construction photography, never worked in the locations where Perger took his photos. Contemporary photographers such as Carl Philip Wollrabe and Jacobus van Gorkom, by contrast, did. Consequently, the building of the Nieuwe Waterweg was documented by all three photographers, but in three different periods: by Wollrabe in 1868-1869, by Van Gorkom in 1866 and 1869-1871, and by Perger in 1875-1878. Both Perger and Van Gorkom photographed the building of the railway viaduct ‘Binnen Rotte’ in Rotterdam.

Perger’s oeuvre, which, in terms of subject choice and style, is similar to that of Van Gorkom (perhaps the reason why he was chosen as a suitable successor to Van Gorkom), is not only valuable because it documents a specific period in Dutch architectural history. It is also important because it exemplifies how a photographer doing commissioned work managed to combine his client’s wishes with an interpretation that was photographically intriguing.


Primary bibliography

Advertenties in Dagblad voor Zuid-Holland en ‘s Gravenhage:

(23 juli 1864) 172, p.4.

(10/11 mei 1866) 135, p. 2, bijblad p. 1.

(11 juli 1866) 161, p. 2, 4.


images in:

Het Vaderlandsch Album ter welkomstgroet van H.M. de Koningin der Nederlanden, te Amsterdam, op den 22sten april 1879 aangeboden.

Kees Nieuwenhuijzen (samenstelling), Rotterdam gefotografeerd in de 19de eeuw, Amsterdam (Van Gennep) 1974, p. 53-55.

Jan Coppens (samenstelling), Een camera vol stilte. Nederland in het begin van de fotografie 1839-1875, Amsterdam (Meulenhoff) 1976, afb. 81, 141.

H. Besselaar, Geboortefeest van de duizendpoot. Het Rotterdamse spoorwegvraagstuk en de Amerikaans vooruitstrevende oplossing, in NRC Handelsblad 26 april 1984, p. 16.

Secondary bibliography

J.E.J. Geselschap, De fotografie te ‘s-Gravenhage. (lijst van 19de eeuwse fotografen in Den Haag), ongedateerde, getypte lijst in Gemeentearchief Den Haag.

H.M. Mensonides, Een nieuwe kunst in Den Haag. Encyclopedisch overzicht van de eerste Haagse fotografen, in jaarboek Die Haghe 1977, p. 92, 104.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p. 62, 103 (met foto’s).

Mattie Boom, 150 jaar fotografie. Een keuze uit de collectie van de Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, Den Haag (SDU) 1989, p. 38, 98 (met foto).

Robbert van Venetië en Annet Zondervan, Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse architectuurfotografie, Rotterdam (Uitgeverij 010) 1989, p.6, 9-10, 12, 47-48, 57, 138 (met foto’s).

Jan Coppens, Laurent Roosens en Karel van Deuren, „…door de enkele werking van het licht…”. Introductie en integratie van de fotografie in België en Nederland, 1839-1869, Antwerpen (Gemeentekrediet) 1989, p. 244.


1975 (g) Rotterdam, Gemeentearchief, Rotterdam vergeeld in beeld. Foto’s van 1850 tot 1910.

1978 (g) Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Belicht Verleden. Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920.

1989 (g) Utrecht, Jaarbeurs Beatrixhal, De Tweede Dimensie, 150 jaar spoorwegen 150 jaar fotografie.

1989 (g) Rotterdam, Historisch Museum Het Schielandshuis, Het Luchtspoor, foto’s van haven- en spooraanleg 1870-1877.

1989 (g) Rotterdam, Archiefwinkel, Bedrijvige fotografie, industriële bedrijfsfotografie.

1989 (g) Rotterdam, Tentoonstellingsruimte Oude Binnenweg 113, Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse architectuurfotografie.


Den Haag, Gemeentearchief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Rotterdam, Gemeentearchief.

Sassenheim/Leiden, Robbert van Venetië en Annet Zondervan (ongepubliceerde doctoraalscriptie: Architectuurfotografie in Nederland: 1839-1900. Een bronnenonderzoek naar functie en vorm binnen de negentiende-eeuwse documentairefotografie, april 1989).


Delft, Technisch Tentoonstellingscentrum (T.T.C.).

Den Haag, Gemeentearchief (o.a. stereofoto’s).

Den Haag, Koninklijk Huisarchief.

Den Haag, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst.

Dordrecht, Gemeentearchief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit Leiden.

Rotterdam, Gemeentearchief.

Rotterdam, Atlas van Stolk.

Utrecht, Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum.