PhotoLexicon, Volume 15, nr. 30 (September 1998) (en)

Jan Kamman

Lienke Moerman


For a brief period, Jan Kamman stood at the forefront of New Photography. He was one of the first to introduce the photogram in the Netherlands and he experimented as well with combination printing. Kamman was also known for his commissions in advertising and his architectural photography. He captured the characteristics of Modern architecture in photos like no other. Kamman was a photography instructor for more than thirty years at the ABK (Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘Academy of VisualArts’) in Rotterdam. During the bombardment of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940, Kamman’s house burned down, resulting in the complete loss of his studio and archive. After the Second World War, he withdrew from his work as a photographer, choosing instead to develop his skills as a drawer and painter.




Johan Willem Hendrik (Jan) Kamman is born on 6 November 1898 in Schiedam as the son of Henricus Martinus Josephus Kamman and Jacoba Hendrika Pols. His father is a lithographer (later photographer). The family lives in the centre of the city at Lange Singelstraat 43.


Following primary school, Jan Kamman attends the HBS (Hogere Burgerschool, ‘Higher Civic School’) in Schiedam. He receives drawing instruction from Jan Hingman (1864-1954), a painter and drawer in Schiedam.

Ca. 1916-‘22

Kamman attends night school at the ABK (Academie van Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen, ‘Academy of Visual Arts and Technical Sciences’) in Rotterdam. It is likely that he works with his father during the day. Eventually, Kamman decides to follow a full-time day study in the painting department. His most important teachers are A.H.R. van Maasdijk and Herman E. Mees. Among his fellow students: Hendrik Chabot and Paul Schuitema. Kamman attends meetings of the architectural association, Opbouw.


From 17 February to 11 March, paintings by Jan Kamman, Hendrik Chabot, and Adrie van der Plas are exhibited at De Rotterdammers (‘The Rotterdammers’), an artists’ association.


From 16 February to 9 March, Kamman, Chabot and Van der Plas exhibit their paintings at the Rotterdam artists’ association De Branding. Together with his father, Kamman attends meetings of the Rotterdam branch of the NFPV (Nederlandse Fotografen Patroonsvereeniging, ‘Netherlands Photographers’ Guild).


Kamman distances himself from his painting career. He establishes himself as a professional photographer in his parental home at Lange Kerkstraat 70 in Schiedam. He makes chiefly portraits.


Kamman receives commissions primarily from his circle of contacts at Opbouw. At the request of the architect, L.C. van der Vlugt, he photographs buildings designed by the architectural firm, Brinkman and Van der Vlugt.


Kamman collaborates with Paul Schuitema.


Cees van de Leeuw, director of the Van Nelle factory, asks Kamman to document the building process of the Van Nelle factory.

In July, Kamman and his father participate in the members’ exhibition of the NFPV in the exhibition space on the Witte de Withstraat in Rotterdam. Kamman Jr. shows four photograms.

In December, Kamman and Schuitema display their works for the first time together at the exhibition “13Tentoonstelling van schilderijen en beeldhouwwerk (’13’ Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture’), at the ABK. Kamman shows only photos.


On 3 March, Jan Kamman and Leen van Oudgaarden are both chosen to be members of the managing board of the Rotterdam branch of the NFPV. Kamman presents a lecture on modern movements in photography for a number of (professional) photographers’ associations.

Willem Gispen, a lamp and furniture designer, commissions Kamman to take photographs for lamp catalogues Nos. 25 and 26. Kamman also provides the photo for the Giso-lamp poster. Gispen illustrates his article on ‘Techniek en kunst’ (‘Technique and Art’) in the magazine Wendingen with Kamman’s photograph Groep Lenzen (‘Group Lenses’).


Kamman is the most important artistic contributor at the exhibition Moderne Fotokunst (‘Modern Photo Art’), held from 5 to 19 January at the exhibition room of the Rotterdamsche Kring (‘Rotterdam Society’) at Eendrachtsweg 12.

At the invitation of Piet Zwart, Kamman participates (with fourteen photographs) in Film und Foto (Fifo, ‘Film and Photo’), an international exhibition of the Deutsche Werkbund (‘German Work Federation’) in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result of the Fifo, Kamman’s photo Architecture is published in Franz Roh and Jan Tsichold’s book Foto-Auge (‘Photo-Eye’).

Ca. 1930-‘63

Jan Kamman is hired at the ABK in Rotterdam as an instructor of photography and ‘Toepassing van Fotografie in de Reclame’ (‘The Application of Photography in Advertising’). He will hold this position until his retirement in 1963.


On 17 July 1930, Kamman marries the twenty-three year old typist, Dina Petronella (Dine) Isaacs of Rotterdam. The wedding takes place in Schiedam. They live together at Coolsingel 4 in Rotterdam. Kamman keeps his studio at Lange Kerkstraat 70 in Schiedam.

Kamman attends the Permeke exhibition in Brussels with Hendrik Chabot.

From 7 to 9 November, Kamman takes part in the Mimosa-tentoonstelling (‘Mimosa Exhibition’) in Rotterdam in the building of the Rotterdamsche Kunstkring (‘Rotterdam Art Society’) on the Witte de Withstraat. Kamman designs the poster for the exhibition, which can be seen in the display windows of his fellow colleagues.


Kamman’s commissioned advertising for Handelsmaatschappij R.S. Stokvis & Zonen is discussed extensively and shown in the article ‘Industrieele Fotokunst’ (‘Industrial Photo Art’), written by the critic Otto van Tussenbroek in the De Groene Amsterdammer.


Jan Kamman has a one-man exhibition at Studio 32 in Rotterdam. He exhibits mainly documentary work, such as commercial photos of screws, light switches and lamps. Reviews of the exhibition are published in the newspaper Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant and Bedrijfsfotografie (‘Commercial Photography’).

Kamman participates in the Exposition Internationale de la Photo et du Cinéma (‘International Exhibition of Photography and Cinema’) in Brussels. He designs the cover for the advertising magazine Meer Baet.


Kamman and Isaacs move to Kruiskade 112A in Rotterdam.

In the magazine De 8 en Opbouw, photos taken by Kamman are published in an article on the projects of the architectural firm Brinkman and Van der Vlugt.

Kamman designs advertisements—with his name cited—for the construction company Volker Bouwindustrie NV, which are published in De 8 en Opbouw from 18 August 1934 through the end of 1935.


The construction and contracting firm ‘NV bouw- en aannemingsbedrijf v/h gebr. Kwaaitaal’ in Rotterdam commissions Kamman to design the brochure 15 jaar bouwen, 1920-1935 (‘Fifteen Years of Building, 1920-1935’).

Kamman works for the Schiedam architect Leppla, with the photos published in De 8 en Opbouw.

Kamman becomes a member of the artists’ association R33.


Kamman’s parents leave Schiedam. Kamman moves his studio to his own home in Rotterdam.


Kamman advertises in the Zakenadresboek van Rotterdam (‘Business Address Book of Rotterdam’). Under the classified heading ‘Fotobureaux’ (‘Photo Agencies’), he describes his activities as ‘Specialist in architectural and advertising photos’.


With his painting De oude Diergaarde in den winter (‘The Old Zoo in Winter’), Kamman is represented at the annual exhibition of the Kunstenaarssociëteit (‘Artists’ Society’) and R33, which is held from 27 April tot 27 May in the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam.

On 14 May, during the bombardment of the Rotterdam city centre, Kamman’s home is destroyed. His studio and archive are completely lost: nothing can be saved from the fire.

Kamman moves to Dr. de Visserstraat 129. He photographs the demolished centre of Rotterdam.

On 7 December, during the official opening of Diergaarde Blijdorp (the Rotterdam Zoo), Kamman makes a photo reportage on behalf of the architect S. van Ravesteyn. The photos are published in a commemorative book.

Kamman photographs the various ‘exigency stores’ that have sprung up around Rotterdam on behalf of several architects.


With the submission of a large number of his architectural photos, Kamman plays a major part in the exhibition Nederland bouwt in baksteen (‘The Netherlands Builds with Bricks’), held from 26 July to 15 November at the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam.


Kamman takes photos of the liberation celebrations in Rotterdam.


Kamman photographs the entire process of the restoration of the dockside walls in the Rotterdamse Zeehavens (‘Rotterdam Sea Harbours’)—from the cleaning up to the project’s completion—for a commemorative book on this subject. The book is published in 1949.

Kamman ceases all his activity as a photographer in order to further develop his skills as a drawer and painter. He actively participates in the post-war art scene, and stays abreast of various topics, e.g. the discussions concerning the construction of a new building for the artists’ society, ‘t Venster, in Rotterdam.


Kamman takes several trips to Spain and exhibits his drawn and painted travel impressions at the Rotterdamse Kunststichting (‘Rotterdam Art Association’) in the Schielandshuis.


Kamman retires as an instructor at the ABK. On 3 December, he moves to Koepoortstraat 1 in Woudrichem (North-Brabant).


An interview with Jan Kamman appears in the Christmas issue of Nieuwsblad (a local door-to-door newspaper for Woudrichem and environs).


As of 15 April, Kamman moves to Weth de Joodestraat 2 in Woudrichem.


Jan Kamman dies in the hospital on 26 July in Gorinchem.


We will never have a complete overview of Jan Kamman’s photographic oeuvre in its entirety. During the bombardment of the centre of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940, Kamman’s home was completely destroyed. With it, his studio and archive were also lost. Only at the last moment did he manage to get himself, his wife Dine, and their cat Siem into safety. It was such a traumatic experience for Kamman that he never took the trouble to fully organise his photographic work from during and after the war. Instead, he preferred to draw and paint.

Kamman was the son of a photographer and learned the profession from his father. His desire, however, was to be an artist. He therefore chose for a solid education in painting at the ABK (Academie van Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen, ‘Academy of Visual Arts and Technical Sciences’) in Rotterdam. During his study, he participated in all kinds of artists’ initiatives in the city. Together with Hendrik Chabot, Adrie van der Plas, Wout van Heusden and Leendert Bolle, Kamman followed the developments in painting and sculpture such as found in the work of artists’ groups such as Die Brücke (‘The Bridge’) and Der Blaue Reiter (‘The Blue Knight’), German artistic movements that were not yet well known in the Netherlands. Together with Chabot and Van der Plas, Kamman came into contact with various artists’ associations. They placed their work on exhibit at De Rotterdammers in 1923 and at De Branding in 1924. Their exhibitions received important publicity. Of the three men, however, Chabot’s work drew the most attention.

It was Paul Schuitema who introduced Kamman to the meetings of the Opbouw. This association was founded in 1920 in Rotterdam by the architect Willem Kromhout. Its purpose was to serve as a meeting point for architects and artists. In its early period, the association’s primary concern was a mutual exchange of ideas through lectures, exhibitions, and field trips. It remains unclear whether Kamman was actually a member of Opbouw.

The new concepts and visions that were discussed within the association are certain to have affected Kamman greatly. They are possibly influential for the turning point in his life when, in 1925, he ended his painting career and established himself as a professional photographer. Initially, Kamman’s portrait photos were taken at his studio. He also made portraits of his friends on special occasions, such as the engagement portrait of Hendrik Chabot and Antonia Tolenaars in 1927. As time progressed, Kamman began to receive numerous commissions mainly through his circle of contacts at Opbouw, but with mixed success. As such, Kamman worked very closely with Paul Schuitema for several years. Schuitema was experimenting with photography’s implementation in advertising. He rarely took photographs himself, and for this reason, Kamman took photos for him.

For the advertising booklet De lokkende magneet trekt koopers (‘The Attracting Magnet Draws Buyers’), released by the company Toledo-Berkel, Kamman took photos of weighing scales, which Schuitema then cut into pieces, combining them with other images and coloured surfaces. Kamman was not the one to execute these compositions, but it was through this work that he became aware of the photomontage technique. There is some doubt regarding the duration of Kamman’s collaboration with the lamp and furniture manufacturer Willem Gispen. What is known is that Kamman photographed the lamps for catalogue Nos. 25 and 26 and that he made the photo for the Giso lamp poster in that same year. Gispen clearly showed his admiration for Kamman’s photography by using the photo Groep Lenzen (‘Group Lenses’) to illustrate his article ‘Techniek en kunst’ (‘Technique and Art’), which was published in the magazine Wendingen.

One recurring element in Jan Kamman’s oeuvre are the architectural photos that L.C. van der Vlugt commissioned him to take starting around 1926. Kamman photographed the most important buildings designed by the architectural firm of Brinkman and Van der Vlugt until about 1940. The purpose of the photos was to document the construction process. Kamman did this by taking a number of shots during construction, from the foundation to its completion, and several images of the interior. The photos were intended primarily as working material for the architectural firm. It is for this reason that, even to this day, the photo albums are still referred to as workbooks. The photos were also used as presentation material. The most characteristic shots were selected to show the firm’s building accomplishments. They were also frequently used as illustration material for various publications, such as the magazine, De 8 en Opbouw. In the early years, Kamman’s name was not mentioned with the photos. This did occur several times starting in 1934, but not consistently.

Although Kamman was bound to creating a ‘respectable’ representation of the architecture, he also displayed his own vision in line with the ideas of New Photography. Typical of his work is the perspective-like angle from which he photographed the object: they appear to be influenced by the perspective drawings of his clients. Kamman tended to place the building in a stark light-and-dark contrast, which he intensified with a perfect print quality. In so doing, the pure building volumes and sharp contours of the constructions of Modern architecture were represented optimally. Kamman’s manner of photographing suited the taste of many of the architects who were involved in Modern architecture. Consequently, he was an influential architectural photographer in great demand. When at the beginning of the 1930s a trend seemed to be emerging in which children were being used to represent Modern architecture’s optimistic vision of the future—e.g. as demonstrated by Schuitema’s cover for De 8 en Opbouw, No. 13, 24 June 1932—Kamman introduced this concept almost immediately in his own photographic images.

Several photos of the Parklaan apartment building that Kamman shot for the architects Van Tijen and Van der Broek feature Van Tijen’s daughter, Willemien. The little girl is standing on the building’s roof terrace overlooking the harbour of Rotterdam, with two prestigious passenger ships of the Holland America Line docked at the Wilhelmina Pier. Kamman had no need of photomontage, but instead combined the architecture of the Modern movement with symbols of dynamic modern living in the very same image, as well including himself as a silhouette directing the shot. Admittedly, Willemien is likely to have spent a great deal of time posing for this image: different shots are known that were published in several architectural magazines. The reportage on the Parklaan apartment building as well included informative photos, such as images of the entire building seen from street level, a detail of a stairway railing and interior photos.

Through his activities for the architectural firm Brinkman and Van der Vlugt, Jan Kamman came into contact in 1927 with the director and builder of the Van Nelle factory, Cees van der Leeuw. The new addition of this modern construction to this factory for coffee, tea and tobacco was already well under way. In 1925, Van der Leeuw had commissioned Evert van Ojen to document the factory’s construction. It would not stop him, however, from commissioning Kamman to photograph the building process. Documenting and recording the same building structure in such great detail over a period of a number of years is certain to have inspired Kamman to make combination prints. He applied this technique not simply to illustrate the transition from the old brick factory building to a new, transparent structure made of glass, steel and concrete, but rather to accentuate the characteristic visual language of the Modern movement in architecture.

Kamman’s experiment was based on a simple technique using only a few negatives. He laid two or three glass plate negatives on top of each other and then exposed them to light. In doing so, he was able to mirror or repeat an architectural detail that he had chosen. The total image negative was always his starting point. The manner in which the negatives overlapped or were shifted in relation to each other was what determined the final product.

Much of Kamman’s commissioned advertising work has been lost. Thanks to the article ‘Industrieele Fotokunst’, which the critic Otto van Tussenbroek published in De Groene Amsterdammer, a number of examples have survived of the product presentations that he made for the trading company Handelsmaatschappij R.S. Stokvis en Zonen. The direct client who commissioned this work was the advertising head, E. van Moerkerken. Kamman worked with his approval. The photographic images that he made were completely in the style of New Photography. By arranging the objects in a clear way, the photographic image gained a dynamic appearance. Regardless of whether the subject concerned sharpening stones, wood screws or bike lights, Kamman ordered the individual objects in rhythmic series in order to illustrate these mass-produced, industrial products. As such, each individual object—piece by piece—is recognisable down to the very last detail: the raw surface of the sharpening stones, the spiralling threads of the upright flat-top screws and the shining head lamps. Now matter how preconceived the composition may appear, nothing is more important than the objects depicted. In later commissions, Kamman appears to be somewhat less ‘commercial’. Such as an advertisement for Stokvis using a staged tabletop photo: a landscape with a wooden toy train crossing over a pile of sand with several dry branches on either side. (This photo belongs to the collection of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the advertisement itself has not been found).

The advertisements that Kamman designed for a number of contracting firms resemble each other significantly. He applied photomontage, which enabled him to especially show the technical and dynamic aspects of building. The page spread was filled with fragments of the building skeleton, steel mesh for reinforced concrete and the formwork. Labourers bending down at their work completed the image. Such was the look of the full-page advertisements for Boele & van Eesteren that appeared in De 8 en Opbouw in 1934. One year later, Kamman implemented practically the same compositional elements in the advertisements for the Rotterdam building contractor, Volker.

In 1935, Kamman was also commissioned to design the brochure 15 jaar bouwen, 1920-1935, in the same style for the Rotterdam contractor NV bouw- en aannemingsbedrijf v/h Kwaaitaal. C. Chevalier did the printing, the printing company that Kamman worked for and the firm that was likely to have arranged this commission. In the brochure’s fifteen double-page spreads—with a photomontage on the left and a description on the right—Kamman provided insight into the wide range of activity provided by this contracting company. He was at his best when providing examples of architectural design in the style of Modern architecture: implementing photomontages to combined with characteristic details of the structure with parts of the formwork, the building skeleton, and toiling labourers. The churches and schools that were built by the same client in a more traditional style inspired Kamman to a lesser degree.

Several years later, in 1938, Kamman began making advertisements once again for the contracting firm Van Eesteren. Here he chose for a less complicated approach, by simply taking a building designed by a leading architectural firm that sparked the imagination, and using it as an eye-catcher, such as the Plaslaan apartment building in the Kralingen neighbourhood of Rotterdam, designed by the architects, Van Tijen and Maaskant.

Kamman exhibited his work primarily at group exhibitions. Time and again he was able to distinguish himself from his fellow exhibitors. The first exhibition in which he participated was the annual members’ exhibition of the Rotterdam branch of the NFPV (Nederlandse Fotografen Patroonsvereeniging, ‘Netherlands Photographers’ Guild’), held on 8 July 1927. It was here that Kamman first exhibited several photograms, something that had never been done before within this conservative association. An article in Bedrijfsfotografie (‘Corporate Photography’) devoted significant attention to the young photographer’s entry.

Jan Kamman outlined his ideas on the new possibilities that photography had to offer in the article ‘De ontwikkeling der fotografie in vrije aesthetische richting’ (‘The Development of Photography in a Free Aesthetic Direction’), appearing in the magazine Bedrijfsfotografie. He called photography: ‘Light-Image Art [‘Lichtbeeldkunst’]. Therefore, by means of light, images, that is, creating something on material that is sensitive to light. The use of the camera, lens, etc., doesn’t detract from this, nor does it matter. The image is formed by light and the absence of light, with gradual, different, successive tints in between.’ His arguments also included concepts such as ‘abstract beauty’, ‘pure aesthetics’ and ‘picture-free images’. The tenets of New Photography’s propagators—Moholy Nagy and Man Ray—can be heard throughout. Kamman knew his classics.

In the same issue of Bedrijfsfotografie, a photogram was also included. It was the photograms that drew the largest response, and consequently, in a second article Kamman explained extensively how he made the photogram, step by step. He took further advantage of this interest in his work by having the same article published once again in the magazine, Focus.

In these years, Kamman was actively involved in photographic trade associations. During a board election of the Rotterdam branch of the NFPV, held on 3 March 1928 at Café Restaurant La Paix on the Coolsingel, Kamman Sr. made his appeal for ‘young energy on the board’. Leen van Oudgaarden and Jan Kamman Jr. were subsequently chosen as board members, dividing the various tasks between each other. Kamman felt it was extremely important to keep his fellow photographers up to date regarding the newest innovations in photography. In the lecture ‘Een fotografische cocktail’ (‘A Photographic Cocktail’), presented to a number of (professional) associations, including the NAFV (Nederlandse Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, ‘Netherlands Amateur Photographers Association’), Kamman addressed primarily the modern movements.

Kamman’s commissions for the furniture and lamp designer Gispen would also lead to an exhibition. In his position as the chairman of the Rotterdamsche Kring (‘Rotterdam Society’), Gispen pushed for an exhibition of Kamman’s work. The view of the art committee, however, was somewhat subtler. Berssenbrugge, Van Oudgaarden, and Schuitema were subsequently also invited to participate. The exhibition Moderne Fotokunst (‘Modern Photo Art’) was held from 5 to 19 January 1929 in the exhibition space of the Rotterdamsche Kring at Eendrachtsweg 12 in Rotterdam. Gispen opened the exhibition with the lecture ‘Fotokunst’ (‘Photo Art’). Not all the reviews were positive. One exception was the chief editor of Bedrijfsfotografie, Adriaan Boer, who described the work of Kamman and Schuitema as ‘modern’. In Kamman’s article, ‘Moderne Fotografie’ (‘Modern Photography’), which was featured in the December 1928 issue of Lux-De Camera, Kamman criticised the negative reactions to his and Paul Schuitema’s work: ‘With modern photography, we are supposed to think of it, not so much as a genre, but rather as a complex of possibilities. It includes the product of the photo-machine just as easily as microphotography, and both the reportage photo and the portrait. Modern photography throws all the previously learned conventional concepts of aesthetics, all the rusty old perspectives, overboard. The consequence of this is: to see each thing in the most characteristic way possible within the spiritual and social relationship of the moment (…) What is impossible today, can happen tomorrow. The modern photographer sees and acknowledges this. Consequently, his work is experimental for the most part. The point of modern photography is not just about producing prints that are more or less pleasing, but about making studies. (…) It can make the flowing currents of life tangible through its suggestive possibilities. Its motto is: “Everything is a source of beauty, nothing is inferior.” To do this, however, we must observe things with new interest, with an open-minded eye.’

Four months later, Jan Kamman took part—at the invitation of Piet Zwart—in the international exhibition Film und Foto (Fifo, ‘Film and Photo’), which was being organised by the Deutsche Werkbund (‘German Labour Federation’) in Stuttgart, Germany. Kamman’s entry comprised fourteen photos. The actual photos have not been preserved, but the exhibition listings still exist. Based on titles such as Architectuur (‘Architecture’), Gloeilampen (‘Light Bulbs’), and Machineonderdelen (‘Machine Parts’), we are able to form an idea of Kamman’s entry. As a result of this exhibition, the photo Architectuur—a combination print depicting the Van Nelle factory—was published in Franz Roh and Jan Tsichold’s groundbreaking book Foto-Auge (‘Photo-Eye’).

Kamman’s first and only solo exhibition in 1933 at Studio 32 in Rotterdam signalled a breakthrough in appreciation for New Photography in general, but also for his own work. The critic of the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant observed: ‘(…) in the hand of the artist, the camera is just as much a tool of his creative ability as paint and brush or whatever implement. (…) It is the gift of the artist that Kamman is, that he has indeed done more than photograph bottles, nuts and wrenches, that he has placed these representations in such a manner within the photographic plane, that they form only ideal proportions (…)’ While the photos were described as being ‘abstract’ in the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, the reviewer in Bedrijfsfotografie provides a description of the works displayed in a concise wording showing that he knew better: ‘An abstract photo is, namely, a photogram. And at the exhibition only good documentary work was to be seen, no photograms.’ The review was illustrated with four photos: Waschtafelhoek (‘Wash Basin Corner’), Schakelaars (‘Switches’), Portret (‘Portraits’) and Radiozendlampen (‘Radio Transmitter Tubes’). In retrospect, it seems that with this convincing presentation, it was as if Kamman was saying goodbye to his free, experimental work.

Around 1930, Kamman was hired as an instructor of photography and ‘Toepassing van Fotografie in de Reclame’ (‘The Application of Photography in Advertising’) at the ABK in Rotterdam. This position enabled him to pass on his knowledge, vision and craftsmanship to countless numbers of students for generations to come (including Steef Zoetmulder, who took his classes in 1933). In doing so, Kamman contributed—just as Zwart, Schuitema and Gerrit Kiljan—to the dissemination of a modern view of photography in the Netherlands. It is possible that Kamman made his autonomous work secondary to his teaching, perhaps explaining why he chose not to participate in Foto ’37, the retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Certain is that the exhibition committee requested that Kamman submit work for the category De foto in dienst van de mode, reclame en propaganda (‘The Photo in the Service of Fashion, Advertising and Propaganda’), to be held in exhibition space No. 4. Nowhere is there any mention, however, of Kamman’s name in the catalogue and reviews.

The second half of the 1930s was a relatively calm period for Kamman, with no events of significance. In 1937, his parents left Schiedam, and subsequently, he moved his photo studio into his own home in Rotterdam.

Kamman consciously promoted himself as a specialist in architectural and advertising photography. He also resumed with his painting. As a member of the artists’ association R33, Kamman took part in the annual retrospective held at the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam in April 1940, presenting the painting De oude diergaarde in den winter (‘The Old Zoo in the Winter’).

During the bombardment of the Rotterdam city centre on 14 May 1940, Kamman lost all of his possessions. This dramatic event would prove to influence the further course of his life. After a while, he returned to his work. Initially, he worked with a borrowed Rolleiflex, taking photos of the destruction in the city, such as the piles of debris surrounding the St. Lawrence Church, which had been spared. After the clean-up, plans were made for new construction projects. Exigency stores emerged at a rapid tempo. The style of this specialty architecture contrasted with that of Modern architecture. Although Kamman was commissioned to photograph these structures, his personal involvement appears to have changed. Another consideration was that, with a growing number of architectural photographers, there was now greater competition.

On 7 December 1940, Kamman made a reportage during the official opening of Diergaarde Blijdorp (the Rotterdam zoo) on behalf of the architect Van Ravesteyn. The photos were published in a commemorative book. Revealing distinct camera angles and a noticeable light and dark contrast, Kamman convincingly proved himself capable of registering Van Ravesteyn’s idiosyncratic architectural style. His wife Dine can also occasionally be seen in these photos. Should this be interpreted as an example of human scale or a personal tint introduced by the photographer?

The managing board of the Maatschappij Havenherstel NV commissioned Kamman to take photos for a book commemorating the rebuilding of the Rotterdam sea harbours. During the bombardments of September 1944, the docksides of the harbours had been completely destroyed. For the city’s economy, the reconstruction of the harbours was paramount. It was a large-scale project involving various building contractors. Kamman took photographs of the destruction: desolate landscapes filled with large pieces of concrete, twisted rails and collapsed storage buildings. His next step was to photograph the reconstruction itself. Just as in his previous work, Kamman emphasised the dynamics of building. In all probability, it was one of the last commissions he received. The book was published in 1949.

Stemming from a tremendous public interest in architecture, architectural photos these days are studied from all kinds of angles. Architectural photography has become a popular genre within the overall field of photography, with its history being described extensively around the world. Because Jan Kamman’s architectural photos are what draws the greatest attention when it comes to his overall photographic productivity, in today’s publications he is described primarily as an architectural photographer. As such, the Photographers’ Gallery in London exhibited a combination print of the Van Nelle factory in 1991. In 1993, the graphic designer Wim Crouwel, chose a similar photographic experiment for his farewell exhibition 1928: schoonheid en transparantie, logica en vernuft (‘1928: Beauty and Transparency, Logic and Ingenuity’).

The description of Cervin Robinson and Joel Herschman perhaps best illustrates how Jan Kamman has been perceived up to this time. Their 1987 book, entitled Architecture Transformed, features not a single reproduction of Kamman’s work. No, instead, they illustrated the statement ‘ (…) whose negatives and apparently all prints were destroyed in the bombing of Rotterdam (…)” with the magazine Casabella from 1938 opened to a page with Kamman’s photo of the roof terrace of the Parklaan apartment building curling up along the edges. The caption accompanying the photo is inaccurate, while the text itself requires correcting. After all, a presentation in this form suggests there is no longer any trace of Jan Kamman’s original photo material to be found. But nothing could be farther from the truth! Dispersed over a number of collections, approximately 300 original photos and dozens of negatives still exist. Once this material is assembled for comparison, a more accurate examination of Kamman’s oeuvre will be possible. When it comes to Kamman’s commissioned architectural photos, the recent donation made by the architectural firm Van den Broek and Bakema of the Geljon/Vrijhof Archive (the photo collection of their founders, Brinkman and Van der Vlugt) to the Nederlands Fotoarchief (‘Netherlands Photo Archive’) is an important first step in the right direction.

Locating Kamman’s advertising commissions, his autonomous work, and the photos he took of friends in the Rotterdam art world is a prerequisite for any reputable body of research. As long as this material is overlooked, the accent will continue to be placed on the architectural photos in Jan Kamman’s oeuvre.

The question that remains is how Kamman’s career would have looked had he not been living in the part of Rotterdam where the bombs were dropped. After all, it seems like such a small step from that photo on the rooftop terrace of the Parklaan apartment building to the photography of the Reconstruction in the 1950s.


Primary bibliography

De ontwikkeling der fotografie in vrije aesthetische richting, in Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (27 augustus 1927) 18, p. 441.

De ontwikkeling der fotografie in vrije aesthetische richting, in Focus 14 (3 september 1927) 18, p. 491-493.

De ontwikkeling der fotografie in vrije aesthetische richting, in Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (10 september 1927) 19, p. 469-470.

Moderne Fotografie, in Lux-De Camera 40 (28 december 1929) 26, p. 494-495.

Foto-Auge, 75 foto’s der Zeit [boekbespreking], in Focus 17 (1 februari 1930) 3, p. 72 (idem, in Bedrijfsfotografie 12 (2 mei 1930) g, p. 158).

(Advertentie), in Zakenadresboek van Rotterdam 1939.


images in:

(Brochure) De lokkende magneet trekt koopers, z.p. (Toledo-Berkel) zj. [ca. 1926].

Fakkel januari 1926.

Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (30JUH1927) 16, p. 396.

Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (13 augustus 1927) 17, p. 421.

Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (27 augustus 1927) 18, p. 450.

J.W. Boon (voorw.), Veertig jaar fotografie. Gedenkboekje uitgegeven door de Nederlandsche Amateur-Fotografen-Vereniging ter gelegenheid van haar veertig jarig jubileum 7 sept.-5 nov. 1927, Amsterdam 1927, p. 99.

Wendingen (1928) 2, p. 2.

Focus 15 (3 maart 1928) 5, p. 138.

Franz Roh en Jan Tsichold (samenstelling), Foto-Auge. 76 Fotos der Zeit, Stuttgart (Wedekind & Co.) 1929, afb. 59 (verschillende keren ongew. herdrukt, o.a.: Tübingen (Ernst Wasmuth) 1973; Londen (Thames and Hudson) 1974).

Das Atelier des Photographen 36 (1929).

Bedrijfsfotografie 11 (7 februari 1929) 6, na p. 66.

Bedrijfsfotografie 11 (21 februari 1929) 8, na p. 90.

Lux-De Camera 40 (28 december 1929) 26, p. 500-501,503-506.

Internationale Revue i 10 2 (1929), p. 79, 82, 113.

Bedrijfsfotografie 12 (28 november 1930) 24, p. 452.

MeerBaet februari 1933, omslag.

Bedrijfsfotografie 15 (30 juni 1933) 13, p. 247-250.

Filmliga 6 (juli 1933) 8, p. 228.

De 8 en Opbouw 4 (4 augustus 1933) 16, p. 140.

(Advertenties Boele & van Eesteren), in De 8 en Opbouw 5 (1934).

De 8 en Opbouw 5 (12 mei 1934) 10, p. 77-80.

(Advertenties Volker Bouwindustrie NV), in De 8 en Opbouw 5 (21 juli 1934) 15 t /m 6 (21 december 1935) 26.

Op de hoogte 31 (september 1934), p. 278.

(Brochure) 15 jaar bouwen, 1920-1935, Rotterdam (N.V. Bouw- en Aannemersbedrijf v/h gebr. Kwaaitaal) 1935.

De 8 en Opbouw 6 (2 februari 1935) 3, p. 33-34.

W. van Tijen, Flatgebouw aan de Parklaan te Rotterdam, in Bouwkundig Weekblad Architectura 6 (9 februari 1935) p. 58, 60-61.

Nederlandse film- en toneelalmanak “NEFIT0″2 (1936).

(Themanummer Architect L.C. van de Vlugt), in De 8 en Opbouw 7 (16 mei 1936) 10, p. 109-110, 112, 115-116, 118-119.

De 8 en Opbouw 8 (31 juli 1937) 15, p. 142.

Casabella 1938.

P.J. Oud (voorw.), Rotterdam, Amsterdam (Contact) 1938 (serie: De schoonheid van ons land, deel 6).

(Advertenties J.P. van Eesteren), in De 8 en Opbouw 9 (4 juni 1938) 11 t/m 11 (3 februari 1940) 3.

De 8 en Opbouw 9 (4 juni 1938) 11, p. 99, 102.

(Advertentie Volker Bouwindustrie NV), in De 8 en Opbouw 10 (18 februari 1939) 4/5.

(Advertentie Gusto Staalbouw), in De 8 en Opbouw 10 (18 februari 1939) 4/5 t/m 11 (2ojanuari 1940) 2.

(Advertentie Volker Bouwindustrie NV), in De 8 en Opbouw 10(15 april 1939) 8.

De 8 en Opbouw 10 (3 juni 1939) 11, omslag, p. 110-113.

(Advertentie Volker Bouwindustrie NV), in De 8 en Opbouw 10 (15 augustus 1939) 14.

(Advertentie Volker Bouwindustrie NV), in De 8 en Opbouw 10 (30 september 1939) 20.

(Advertentie Volker Bouwindustrie NV), in De 8 en Opbouw 10 (23 december 1939) 26.

J.G. Wattjes en W.Th.H. ten Bosch, Rotterdam en hoe het bouwde, Leiden (Sijthoff) 1940.

De 8 en Opbouw 11 (3 februari 1940) 3, p. 21-23.

Het Kompas 15 december 1940.

WJ. van Balen e.a. (tekst), De steden, Amsterdam (Contact) 1941, geh. Herz en verm. dr., afb. 121 (serie: De schoonheid van ons land, deel 2).

Fotogedenkboek Diergaarde Blijdorp Rotterdam, Rotterdam (Bureau Ir. S. van Ravesteyn) 1941.

Catalogus van de tentoonstelling Nederland bouwt in baksteen 1800-1940, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans) 1941.

A. Plate (inl.), Woonmogelijkheden in het nieuwe Rotterdam, Rotterdam (W.L. &J. Brusse) 1941.

De 8 en Opbouw 12 (januari 1941) 1, p. 3, 7.

De 8 en Opbouw 12 (september 1941) 9, p. 118, 120-121, 130.

De 8 en Opbouw 13 (april 1942) 4, p. 53.

H.M. Kraayvanger, Hoe zal Rotterdam bouwen?, Rotterdam (Rotterdamsche gemeenschap) 1946, omslag (serie: Hoe bouwen wij Rotterdam?, no. 2). W. van Tijen, Rotterdam anno 2000.

Werk- en woonstad, Rotterdam (W.L. &J. Brusse) 1947 (serie: Hoe bouwen wij Rotterdam?, no. 3).

Auteur onbekend, Het herstel der kademuren in de Rotterdamsche zeehavens, Rotterdam (Maatschappij Havenherstel) 1949.

G. Friedhoff (inl.), Nederlandse architectuur. Uitgevoerde werken van bouwkundige ingenieurs, Amsterdam (Argus) 1956, p. 60, 73.

Marie-Anne Asselberghs e.a., De trein hoort erbij, Utrecht (A.W. Bruna & Zoon) 1964, p. 112-113 (serie: Zwarte Beertjes, no. 800).

J.B. Bakema, L.C. van der Vlugt, Amsterdam (Meulenhoff) 1968.

[interview met Jan Kamman], in Nieuwsblad [huis-aan-huisblad voor Woudrichem en omstreken] 1979, kerstbijlage.

Karl Steinorth, Typofoto oder Die Geburtsstunde des Foto-Designs. Über eine Retrospektive der “Fifo 1929” in Stuttgart, in Hugo Schöttle (samenst.), Fotokunst und Fotodesign International, Keulen (DuMont Buchverlag) 1980, p. 234-241 (serie: Dumont Foto 2).

Leo Ott, Hendrik Chabot, leven en werk, Rotterdam (Ad. Donker) 1981,afb. 10 (serie: Historische werken over Rotterdam. Grote reeks, 26).

Catalogus tent. Het nieuwe bouwen in Rotterdam 1920-1960, Delft/Rotterdam (Delft University Press/Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) 1982.

Jeroen Geurst en Joris Molenaar (tekst en samenst.), Van der Vlugt, architect 1894-1936, Delft (Delftse Universitaire Pers) 1983.

Joh. de Vries, Ir. S. van Ravesteyn. Diergaarde Blijdorp, Rotterdam (De Hef) 1986, p. 67.

Ton Idsinga en Jeroen Schilt, Architect W. van Tijen 1894-1974. ‘Ik ben een rationalist, maar er is meer op de wereld…’, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) z.j. [1987], p. 36 (serie: Cahiers van het Nederlands documentatiecentrum voor de bouwkunst, deel 7).

Max Bruinsma (tekst), Een leest heeft drie voeten. Dick Elffers & de kunsten, Amsterdam (De Balie/Gerrit Jan Thiemefonds) 1989, p. 15, 73.

Catalogus tent. Foto-89. 3e Internationale Foto-manifestatie in Amsterdam, Den Haag (SDU) 1989, p. 29.

Ida Jager (tekst), Willem Kromhout Czn., 1864-1940. Architect, Rotterdam (Uitgeverij 010) 1992, afb. 73.

W. van Zoetendaal, Rotterdam Centraal, in Het Parool 5 juni 1993.

Wiederhall 14 (1993), p. 11,21, 29, 44, 46.

Barbara Laan en André Koch (red.), Collectie Gispen, meubels, lampen en archivalia in het NAi, 1916-1980, Rotterdam (NAi) 1996, p. 29.

Secondary bibliography

A.B. [= Adriaan Boer], De tentoonstelling van foto’s, bijeengebracht door Nederlandsche vakfotografen te Rotterdam, in Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (16 juli 1927) 15, p. 364-367.

W.J.P. Muns, Het organisatorisch resultaat van de Rotterdamsche tentoonstelling, in Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (16juli 1927) 15, p. 367-368.

W.J.P. Muns, Mededeeling, in Bedrijfsfotografie 9 (16 juli 1927) 15, p. 368.

Auteur onbekend, Kersttentoonstelling van schilderijen, in Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant 25 december 1927, Ochtendblad B, p. 1.

Leo R. Krijn, Notulen van de tweede maandelijksche vergadering op woensdag 22 februari 1928 [NAFV], in Focus 15 (3 maart 1928) 5, p. 149.

P. Brandsma, Bijeenkomst der Rotterdamsche fotografen op dinsdag 13 maart 1928, in Bedrijfsfotografie 10 (24 maart 1928) 6, p. 140-141.

C.G.L., Een mooie vergadering [NFPV], in Bedrijfsfotografie 10 (3 november 1928) 22, p. 563-564.

Catalogus tent. Film und Foto, Stuttgart (Werkbund) 1929, p. 34, 64.

A.B. [= Adriaan Boer], Tentoonstelling Moderne Fotokunst te R’dam, in Bedrijfsfotografie 11 (17 januari 1929) 2, p. 21-23.

Auteur onbekend, Tentoonstelling in den “Rotterdamsche Kring”, in Lux-De Camera 40 (1929), p. 23-24.

Auteur onbekend, Tentoonstelling van moderne fotokunst te Rotterdam, in Focus 16 (19 januari 1929) 2, p. 33.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen in dit nummer, in Bedrijfsfotografte 11 (7 februari 1929) 6, p. 64.

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen in dit nummer, in Bedrijfsfotografie 11 (21 februari 1929) 8, p. 92.

Auteur onbekend, Onze platen, in Lux-DeCamera 40 (28 december 1929) 26, p. 491-492.

Otto van Tussenbroek, Nieuwe wegen in de fotografie, in Focus 17 (4 januari 1930) 1, p.5-10 (met foto’s).

Auteur onbekend, Bij de platen, in Bedrijfsfotografie 12 (28 november 1930) 24, p. 441-442.

O. v. Tussenbroek, Industrieele Fotokunst. Georganiseerde reclamecampagnes voor handel en industrie door middel van foto’s, in De Groene Amsterdammer 56 (6 februari 1932) 2853, p. 10-11 (met foto’s).

Auteur onbekend, Foto’s van Jan Kamman. Studio 32, in Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant 3 juni 1933, Avondblad E, p. 2.

Auteur onbekend, Tentoonstelling Jan Kamman, in Bedrijfsfotografie 15 (16 juni 1933) 12, p. 225-226.

D.B., Tentoonstelling van Jan Kamman, in Bedrijfsfotografie 15 (30 juni 1933) 13, p. 253-254.

Claude Magelhaes (samenst.), Nederlandse fotografie. De eerste honderd jaar, Utrecht/Antwerpen (Bruna & Zoon) 1969, p. XX, XXII, afb. 85, 88 (serie: Zwarte Beertjes, no. 1257).

Johan Huijts, De Venstergroep. De geschiedenis van een mythe in Rotterdams cultuurhistorie. Een collage, Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Kunststichting) 1977, p. 13, 16, 22, 36-37, 139.

Vrij Nederland (15 mei 1976) 20, bijlage ‘Het jaar 1933’, p. 4-7 (met foto’s).

Flip Bool en Kees Broos (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1920-1940, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1979, p. 30-34, 36, 38, 132-134, 152 (met foto’s).

Catalogus tent. Film und Foto der zwanzigerjahre, Stuttgart (Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt) 1979.

Mariëtte Haveman, Dutch Architecture Photography/Nederlandse Architectuurfotografie 1930-1960 ’30/’60, in Perspektief (september 1986) 25, p. 12-13.

Auteur onbekend, Selected curricula vitae, in Perspektief (september 1986) 25, p. 66.

Cervin Robinson en Joel Herschman, Architecture Transformed. A History of the Photography of Buildings from 1839 tot the Present, New York/Cambridge/Londen (The Architectural League of New York/The MIT Press) 1987, p. 115-116.

André Koch, Industrieel ontwerper W.H. Gispen (1890-1981). Een modern eclecticus, Rotterdam (De Hef) 1988, p. 54, 58-59, 62-64, 66, 70 (met foto’s).

Kees Broos en Flip Bool, De nieuwe fotografie in Nederland, Amsterdam/ Den Haag/Naarden (Fragment/SDU/ V+K Publishing) 1989, p. 11-12, 15-16, 19,43-44,98, 139 (met foto’s).

Robbert van Venetië en Annet Zondervan, Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Architectuurfotografie, Rotterdam (010) 1989, p. 15, 17, 84, 88, 94-95 (met foto’s).

Floris M. Neusüss en Renate Heyne, Das Fotogramm in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Die andere Seite der Bilder – Fotografie ohne Kamera, Keulen (DuMont) 1990, p. 202,453-454.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf e.a. (tekst), Het beslissende beeld. Hoogtepunten uit de Nederlandse fotografie van de 20e eeuw, Amsterdam (BIS) 1991, p.142, 196.

Flip Bool, Moderne fotokunst in Rotterdam/Modern photographic art in Rotterdam, in Album. De fotoverzameling van/The photographic collection of Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Rotterdam, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) 1995, p. 93-103, 223.

Hripsimé Visser (red.), 100 x Foto. 100 Foto’s uit de collectie van het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum) 1996, p. 64, 68-69.

Kees Broos (tekst), Piet Zwart [1885-1977], Amsterdam (Focus Publishing BV) 1996, p. 21, 28-29 (serie: Monografieën van Nederlandse fotografen/ Monographs on Dutch photographers 5).


NFPV, 1927-1938.

R33,vanaf 1935.


1927 (g) Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, (foto’s van de tentoonstelling De Fotografie als Wandversiering, aangevuld met werk van Rotterdamse fotografen).

1927 (g) Rotterdam, Academie van Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen, “13 ” Tentoonstelling van schilderijen en beeldhouwwerk.

1929 (g) Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kring, Moderne Fotokunst.

1929 (g) Stuttgart, Ausstellungshallen Interimtheaterplatz, Film und Foto (Fifo) [rondreizende tentoonstelling].

1930 (g) Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, Mimosa-tentoonstelling.

1933 (e) Rotterdam, Studio 32.

1933 (g) Brussel, Palais des Beaux Arts, Exposition Internationale de la Photographie et du Cinéma.

1941 (g) Rotterdam, Museum Boymans, Nederland bouwt in baksteen.

1979 (g) Den Haag, Haags Gemeentemuseum, Foto 20-40.

1979 (g) Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Film und Foto der zwanziger Jahre [rondreizende tentoonstelling].

1986 (g) Rotterdam, Westersingel 9, Nederlandse architectuurfotografie 1930-1960.

1989 (g) Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, De Nieuwe Fotografie in Nederland (Foto ’89).

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

1991 (g) Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, Het beslissende beeld. Hoogtepunten uit de Nederlandse fotografie van de 20e eeuw (Collectie Stichting Dunhill Dutch Photography).

1991 (g) Londen, The Photographers’ Gallery, Site Work, Architecture in Photography since early modernism.

1993 (g) Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1928: schoonheid en transparantie, logica en vernuft.


Rotterdam, Architectenbureau Van den Broek en Bakema (werkboeken uit de Kamman-periode).

Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotoarchief (nu Nederlands Fotomuseum).


Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum.

Amsterdam, Stichting Dunhill Dutch Photography.

Den Haag, Haags Gemeentemuseum.

Rotterdam, Architectenbureau Van den Broek & Bakema.

Rotterdam, Gemeentearchief.

Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotomuseum

Rotterdam, Koninklijke Douwe Egberts.

Bedrijfshistorische collectie. Van Nelle archief.