PhotoLexicon, Volume 18, nr. 34 (October 2001) (en)

P.B. Kramer

Mirjam E. de Jonge


Piet Kramer succeeded his father as an architectural photographer in Groningen. His studio also produced photos of cityscapes and townscapes, landscapes, and photography commissioned by companies. At a later point, he was also active as a press photographer. Piet Kramer’s solid craftsmanship, transferred from father to son, assured him a competitive position throughout the region. While the work produced by this photographer family was not particularly innovative, the Kramers’ photographic legacy is indispensable for the study of the development of Groningen and its environs, as well as the history of architecture in the Netherlands.




Petrus Bernardus (Piet) Kramer is born on 2 February in Groningen as the son of Johannes Gerardus Kramer, photographer, and Jantje Everdina Nienhuis. He is the second of six children in the family. His sister, Anna Maria, is the eldest. Following Piet is his brother, Hendrikus, and three sisters: Elisabeth, Manny, and Johanna Marie. J.G. Kramer, the father, runs a photography studio behind his own father’s textile shop, located at A-Kerkhof H126 in Groningen.


The Kramer family moves to Broerstraat 80 (Academieplein) in Groningen.


The Kramer family moves to Visscherstraat 46, where they open an art dealership and a business specialised in photographic supplies, including a photography installation.


Piet Kramer departs for Enschede, where he begins working for the photographer S. Goudsmit.


Kramer returns to Groningen and departs several weeks later for Tournai (Belgium). He likely works here as an apprentice photographer.


In December, Kramer leaves Tournai and returns once again to Groningen.


Through a draft lottery, Kramer is exempted from serving in the National Militia.


Kramer departs once again for Tournai.


Kramer’s eldest sister, Anna Maria, departs for Tournai on 6 March. His brother, Hendrikus, departs for Brussels on 15 April.


Anna Maria returns to Groningen on 4 December, together with Hendrikus, who subsequently registers with the civil registry as a photographer (a subordinate). J.G. Kramer ‘s entire family moves to Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 37a in Groningen.


Piet Kramer’s brother, Hendrikus Kramer, dies on 18 January. Piet leaves Tournai on 29 April and moves in once again with his parents. He is listed with the civil registry as a photographer (subordinate). J.G. Kramer, Piet’s father, dies on 4 December.


Piet Kramer announces in an advertisement that the business of J.G. Kramer is to be continued under the following name: ‘Piet Kramer’s fotografie Nieuwe Ebbingestraat’. He is specialised in architectural photography.


On 2 August, Piet Kramer weds Cornelia Paulina van Zuijlen, born 9 December 1879 in Leeuwarden. The couple remains childless. Kramer and his wife move to Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 29a. His mother and sisters, as well as the studio, are still located at Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 37a. Kramer’s sister Anna Maria is listed with the civil registry as a ‘retoucheuze’ (‘retoucher’). Another sister, Hermanna (Manny), is listed as a ‘photographiste’ (‘female photographer’).


Kramer moves to Oude Boteringestraat 46/48.


Kramer’s mother, Jantje Everdina Nienhuis, dies on 22 July.


Kramer wins an award on the ‘photographers day’ of the NFPV (Nederlandse Fotografen Patroonsvereeniging, ‘Netherlands Photographers Guild) in Amsterdam.


Kramer wins an award on the NFPV ‘photographers day’ in Rotterdam.


Piet Kramer receives an honourable mention and a small bronze medal in the Architectural Photography competition, organised on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Vereniging tot bevordering van de bouwkunst (‘Association for the Promotion of Architecture’) in Groningen.


Cornelia Paulina van Zuijlen, Kramer’s wife, dies on 16 December.

Circa 1947

Kramer closes his business.


Kramer donates a share of his negatives to the Groninger Museum.


P.B. Kramer dies on 2 March in Groningen. He is buried at the Roman Catholic cemetery.


Piet Kramer was—like his father, J.G. Kramer—an artisanal photographer. His work was much broader in scope than his father’s, however, and he photographed primarily on location. The young Kramer enjoyed a fairly pleasurable lifestyle. He was, for instance, a big fan of automobiles and motorcycles. He is likely to have had an auto even before 1910­—a Spijker—which he also used as the company car. A photo of this Spijker exists, with Kramer and other photographers standing next to it and a small darkroom tent mounted on the back of the car. He was also an active fencer for many years. Sports photos by Kramer are nevertheless scarce.

Piet Kramer departed for Enschede in 1895 to become an apprentice with S. Goudsmit, a photographer originating from Groningen and a former neighbour of the Kramer family. When he returned to Groningen in 1896, Kramer registered with the civil registry as a photographer. Shortly thereafter, he left Groningen once again, this time traveling to Tournai (Belgium) to work as an apprentice for a photographer whose identity remains unknown. Between 1896 and 1902, Kramer remained in Belgium, with occasional extended interludes. In April 1903, he returned to Groningen for good, at which time he moved back in with his parents on the Nieuwe Ebbingestraat.

With the death of J.G. Kramer on 4 December 1903, Piet Kramer took over his father’s photography studio. One month later, an advertisement appeared in the Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (‘Newspaper of the North’): ‘Kramer’s Fotograf.-Atelier N. Ebbingestraat 37a is open daily. Reasonable prices, work that lasts. Specialty: architectural photography. Recommending: Piet Kramer.’ Kramer continued neither the art dealership or the photo supply store set up by his father: in all likelihood, these had already been shut down. He did maintain, however, his father’s working relationship with C.H. Peters, the Rijksbouwmeester (‘Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands’). Kramer referred to himself as ‘Rijks-architectuur Fotograaf’ (‘National Architecture Photographer’), a title appearing not only in his inventory catalogue of architectural photos, but also on his invoices as late as the 1930s.

In the time that P.B. Kramer owned his studio on the Nieuwe Ebbingestraat, he published a printed inventory catalogue: ‘Photographic shots old and new Architecture: Netherlands and East Friesland’. Among the shots depicting contemporary architecture of his day, many of the buildings shown are those designed by C.H. Peters. Most of the photos, however, feature historic architecture. A majority of the shots offered are taken in the provinces Groningen, Friesland, Overijssel, Gelderland, North and South Holland, and East Friesland (Germany). The catalogue also includes a number of shots featuring the church in Tournai. The photos presented are not only of buildings, but also of (museum) objects and items of topographic interest. The catalogue was continued for a while in the format of a notebook, but as far as is known, this supplement was never published.

Kramer’s series of photos commissioned by B. Kazemier, an architect in Groningen, is not mentioned in this catalogue. Kazemier was one of the founders of the Maatschappij tot Verbetering van Woningtoestanden (‘Society for the Improvement of Housing Conditions’), who regularly gave lectures on poor housing conditions in the slums of Groningen. These lectures were illustrated with images shot by Kramer, which today stand as an early example of social documentary photography. Whether Kramer himself was personally involved in the project, however, is a matter that cannot be determined.

Besides portraiture and architectural photography, ‘Fotografie Kramer’ as well took photos of groups, parties, and theatrical performances (‘shots taken with Artificial Light’). It was also ‘specially equipped’ for enlargements, groups, landscapes, and reproductions of paintings. Frames and passe-partouts were also available. In addition, Kramer could be ‘summoned anywhere’ for shots to be taken in one’s own personal surroundings.

A letterhead dating from the 1930s reveals that Kramer’s specialisations had shifted somewhat: portraits, enlargements and frames are still mentioned, but business now specifically concerns: ‘architecture, machines, interiors, etc. etc. animals, ships’. The photographing of ‘animals’ is likely to have chiefly referred to the photographic depiction of horse studs. In the winter, Kramer and an assistant drove around in his automobile to approach farmers. Cards were subsequently produced with the photos taken of horses, along with relevant information pertaining to that particular stud. These cards were then sent around to potential buyers. Kramer was also active as a press photographer, though this is not mentioned on his invoices or in his letterhead. He photographed for publications such as the Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (‘Newspaper of the North’), and is likely to have begun doing so in the 1920s.

After marrying in 1906, Kramer and his wife moved to Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 29a. The studio remained at number 37a, where his mother and sisters still resided. Kramer held great respect for the tradition of his family company, as virtually every member played a role in the business. The civil registry of 1910 lists Anna Maria as a ‘retoucheuze’ (‘retoucher’), and Manny as a ‘photographiste’ (‘female photographer’). Elisabeth, another sister, did the household work and helped out with the administration. In 1916, Kramer purchased the building at Oude Boteringestraat 46/48, as a home for himself, his wife, as well as his mother and sisters. In the garden, a daylight studio for portrait shots was constructed. The youngest sister married two years later and moved away; the other sisters remained unmarried and continued working in the business. Manny Kramer was likely the one who primarily ran the portrait studio.

Besides his sisters, Kramer employed various assistants over the years. From his early period, two names can be confirmed: C.A. de Jong, who was also a member of the amateur photographer’s association ‘Daguerre’, and T.J. Durville. Assisted by these two men, Kramer shot his architectural photos, both in the city and around the province of Groningen. C.A. de Jong later owned a collotype printing company). T.J. Durville left for Argentina in 1924. There are no known immediate successors. In the 1930s, a German photographer named Ernst Suffrian also worked for Kramer.

In 1932, Piet Boonstra, who would later become a well-known press photographer, entered employment with Kramer. Boonstra states that Kramer’s business had passed its peak during this period of economic depression. Specific sources of income, e.g. photographing wedding couples, had greatly diminished in number. In front of city hall, photographers jostled each other in the hope of taking a couple’s wedding photo, just to make a little extra money. Kramer’s portrait studio experienced a great deal of competition coming from J.A. Steenmeijer, a photographer frequently advertising ‘picture photos’, images akin to carte-de-visite portraits.

In the years 1919-1920, 1927 and 1930-1937, Piet Kramer is certain to have been a member of the NFPV. This was probably also the case in the intervening periods, though there are no sources to verify as such. Kramer participated in several of the exhibitions organised by the NFPV, the so-called ‘photographers days’, which often lasted only one day and were primarily intended for other professionals. One of Kramer’s entries was a photo taken at the sugar factory of Groningen. As far as is known, Kramer never held any board functions with the association. According to H. Wierts, Photographieën & Dynastieën (‘Photographs and Dynasties’, p. 23), he was indeed active in the Groningen chapter of the NFPV, but there is no source cited to verify this statement. During the war, Kramer photographed very little. As the war progressed, and in the years that followed, Kramer donated a share of his negatives to the Groninger Museum. Only in the museum’s annual report of 1946 is any mention made of the specific negatives concerned: photographic shots of the devastation in the city occurring in April 1945. Kramer is also known to have sold some of his negatives.

Opinions vary with regards to the exact date that Kramer’s business was permanently shut down. It appears the business died a slow death during the years 1945/47—a view likewise shared by the company’s former employee Piet Boonstra. Kramer died on 2 March 1952 in Groningen. The Nieuwsblad van het Noorden devoted a brief article to his passing: ‘(…) In the city and province of Groningen, Mr. Kramer was very well known. As a photographer, he went wherever there was something special to do. He recorded interesting things on the sensitive plate.’ It was particularly the memory of Kramer as a press photographer that the newspaper brought to its readers’ minds. This is not entirely accurate, when considering that the Groningen City Archives—via the Groninger Museum—today holds several thousand photos depicting other subjects. Because press photos were published in newspapers anonymously, an assessment of how significant or insignificant Kramer’s contribution might have been in this regard cannot be made.

The largest share of J.G. and P.B. Kramer’s legacy today found in public collections consists of architectural photos and cityscapes, interior photos, as well as photographic reproductions of paintings and museum objects. P.B. Kramer was a multi-faceted photographer whose work comprised a wider array of subjects than that of his father. In technical terms, however, he did not surpass his father. While from an artistic perspective—at the national level—the Kramers distinguished themselves to a lesser degree than their fellow townsmen F.J. von Kolkow and A.S. Weinberg, the regional importance of their oeuvre is indisputable.


Primary bibliography

(Advertentie) Nieuwsblad van het Noorden 3 januari 1904.

P. Kramer, Fotografische opnamen oude en nieuwe bouwkunst: Nederland en Oost-Friesland [catalogus van te bestellen foto’s], Groningen (Schut) z.j.


images in:

Groningsche Volksalmanak 1904, t.o. titelpag., t.o. p. 33, t.o. p. 48, t.o. p. 56 (foto’s verm. van P.B. Kramer).

C.H. Peters, Oud Groningen, Den Haag (Mouton&Co.) 1907.

C.H. Peters, Oud-Groningen. Stad & lande, Groningen/Den Haag (Scholtens en Zoon/Mouton & Co.) z.j. [1922].

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden 20 december 1929 Groningsche Volksalmanak 1941, t.o. p. 75, t.o. p. 87, 4 foto’s tussen p. 168-169.

A.T. Schuitema Meijer, Zó was Groningen 1919-1939, Groningen (Niemeijer) 1967, p. 2, 4, 8, 13-14, 17, 19-20, 22, 26-31, 36-37, 42, 46, 48, 50, 54-58, 60-61, 63, 65, 71-72, 75-76, 78, 80-81, 85-86, 88-89, 92, 94-95- 103, 105, 108, 116-119, 121, 123, 125-126, 131-132, 135, 137, 141/142, 145, 148, 150.

Peter Don (samenst.), De bouwkunst vereeuwigd. Fotografie voor monumentenzorg/ Architecture Immortalized. Photography for Conservation, Zwolle/Zeist (Waanders/Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg) 2000, p. 11, 75.


in De Prins der geïllustreerde bladen:

15 april 1911, omslag, p. 182.

30 maart 1918, p. 142.

23 november 1918, p. 248.

19 januari 1924, p. 36.

3 mei 1924, p. 212.

12 juli 1924, p. 20.

27 december 1924, p. 304.

4 april 1925, p. 157.

9 mei 1925, p. 220.

8 augustus 1925, p. 69.

4 september 1926, p. 112.

11 september 1926, p. 132.

30 (7 februari 1931), p. 65.

Secondary bibliography

A.B. [= Adriaan Boer], De N.F.P.V. tentoonstelling in Rotterdam, in Bedrijfsfotografie 14 (20 mei 1932) 10, p. 179-186.

Auteur onbekend, Rectificatie tentoonstellingsverslag Rotterdam, in Bedrijfsfotografie 14 (3 juni 1932) 11, p. 195.

Auteur onbekend, P.B. Kramer †, in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden 4 maart 1952, p. 3.

A.T. Schuitema Meijer, Fotografen in het 19e eeuwse Groningen, in Groningse Volksalmanak 1961, p. 149.

A.T. Schuitema Meijer, Zó fotografeerden zij Groningen, 1868-1918, Groningen (N.V. Dijkstra’s Drukkerij v/h Boekdrukkerij Gebroeders Hoitsema) z.j. [1964], p. 8, 33, afb. t.o. titelpag., afb. 12, 16, 20, 28, 32-33, 39, 41, 46, 48, 53-54, 58, 65, 68, 78, 83, 86, 91, 94-95, 98, 100 (met foto’s).

I.Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p. 100.

Catalogus tent. Fotografie in de Marne 1900-1930, Leens (Ommelander Museum) 1982, p. 22, 26, 30, 35.

Jan Coppens, De bewogen camera. Protest en propaganda door middel van foto’s, z.p. [Amsterdam] (Meulenhoff/ Landshoff) 1982, p. 155-157.

Robbert van Venetië en Annet Zondervan, Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse architectuurfotografie, Rotterdam (Uitgeverij 010) 1989, p. 11, 19.

Henk Wierts e.a., Photographieën & Dynastieën. Beroepsfotografie in Groningen 1842-1940, Bedum (Egbert Forsten & Profiel) 2000, p. 5, 17-18, 23, 37, 63, 77-81, 83, 88-92, 95-98, 100, 102-103, 105-114, 117, 133-134 (met foto’s).


NFPV 1919-1920, ca. 1927-1937 (tevens bestuurslid afdeling Groningen).


1932 Eervolle vermelding en bronzen medaille, wedstrijd architectuurfotografie uitgeschreven t.g.v. 50-jarig bestaan van de Vereniging tot bevordering van de bouwkunst te Groningen.


1927 (g) Amsterdam, Koopmansbeurs, De fotografie als wandversiering [tentoonstelling verbonden aan de Tweede Fotografendag der NFPV].

1927 (g) Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, [foto’s van de tentoonstelling De fotografie als wandversiering, aangevuld met werk van Rotterdamsche fotografen].

1932 (g) Rotterdam, Rotterdamsche Kunstkring, [tentoonstelling verbonden aan de Zevende Fotografendag der NFPV].

1933 (g) Groningen, [architectuurfotografie; tentoonstelling uitgeschreven door de Vereeniging tot bevordering der Bouwkunst te Groningen ter gelegenheid van haar 50-jarig bestaan).

1982 (g) Leens, Ommelander Museum, Fotografie in de Marne 1900-1930.

1995 (g) Groningen, Synagoge [Folkingestraat 60], Photographieën & Dynastieën. Beroepsfotografie in Groningen 1843-1940.

1996 (g) Veendam, Veenkoloniaal Museum, Photographieën & Dynastieën. Beroepsfotografie in Groningen 1843-1940.


Groningen, Groninger Archieven.

Leiden, Studie en Documentatie Centrum voor Fotografie, Prentenkabinet Universiteit Leiden.


Assen, Drents Museum.

Groningen, Groninger Archieven.

Groningen, Universiteitsmuseum.

Leeuwarden, Gemeentearchief Leeuwarden.

Leeuwarden, Ryksargyf Friesland.

Leiden, Studie en Documentatie Centrum voor Fotografie, Prentenkabinet Universiteit Leiden.

Zeist, Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg.