PhotoLexicon, Volume 23, nr. 38 (September 2006) (en)

Winfred Evers

Onno Schilstra


Winfred Evers has been practicing a form of staged photography since the late 1970s. His visual idiom and working style are similar to that of the Bauhaus and geometric abstract art. Evers aims to transform what occurs in front of his lens into autonomous images, be it intuitively or according to a preconceived plan.




Winfred Evers is born on 5 June in Haarlem, as the youngest son (unexpected) of Leonardus Hermanus Evers and Johanna Maria Lodder in a family of four children. His father is employed as a ship’s purser, including the whaling ship Willem Barentz. The family lives in Heemstede. Winfred is four years old when his father buys the hotel ‘De Geleerde Man’ in Bennebroek.


In 1965, Evers’ father decides to resume his career at sea. His father sells the hotel, but dies immediately after. Winfred is eleven years old at the time. His mother moves with her children to a house bought prior to this time. The older children eventually leave home one by one, leaving Winfred behind, alone with his mother. He attends the Don Bosco MULO (Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs, ‘Advanced Primary Education’) school in Sassenheim.


Following the completion of primary school, Evers attends the HAVO (Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs, ‘Higher General Secondary Education’) at the Fioretti College in Lisse. A major Dali exhibition at the Boymans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam in late 1970/early 1971 makes a big impression on him. He adds a number of self-invented book titles to his required reading list for his final exams, which his teachers fail to notice. Evers experiments with hashish in search of spiritual enlightenment.


At the age of seventeen, Evers receives his HAVO diploma (secondary school graduation). He decides to enrol at the Film Academy, but is found be too young. Evers subsequently applies to the Vrije Academie (‘Free Academy’) in The Hague, to which he is accepted. Here he devotes most of his time to video, photography, and film.


Evers moves to a small room in Amsterdam. He develops an interest in Eastern philosophy. The department of Gemeentelijke Kunstaankopen (‘City Art Acquisions’) in Amsterdam purchases several of Evers’ photographic silkscreens and puts them on display at the Fodor Museum. With this acquisition by the city, Evers becomes eligible for a house through the SWWK (Stichting Woonwerkruimte Kunstenaars, ‘Living/Working Space for Artists Foundation’). He moves to the Gerard Douplein, where he lives for the next seven years.


Evers is forced to earn a living doing all kinds of work. He misses the support of the academy and ends up living on public welfare. He begins a series of abstract photographic works, which he calls ‘Tabula Rasa’ (‘Blank Slate’). Evers reads a lot, writes poems, and becomes interested in mysticism. When his girlfriend Yvonne finds a house of her own, she allows him to use her home as a studio. He begins photographing ‘constellations’, which fall midway between still lifes and installations. These new photographic works are inspired by the motto ‘Rondom de Leegte’ (‘Around the Void’) of the philosopher Cornelis Verhoeven.


During this period, Evers’ career takes off. He has successful exhibitions in Rotterdam and Paris.


Evers becomes friends with artists involved in the magazine Perspektief (‘Perspective’), including José Rodrigues and Eric van der Schalie.


In the early 1980s, Evers takes advantage of the BKR (Beeldende Kunstenaars Regeling, ‘Artists Subsidy’). In 1983, however, he is refused this government subsidy after having submitted abstract, intensely turbulent photographic works, in part stemming from the (then) accepted notion that photography is not art.


In these years, Evers receives working grants from the Ministry of WVC (Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Cultuur, ‘Welfare, Public Health, and Culture’).

In 1984, Evers purchases a technical camera.


Evers’ relationship with Yvonne comes to an end. He enters a new relationship with the Polish painter, Baska Hempel. This step is not without consequences for his art: ‘I felt the need to explode with imagery,’ he says about this period. After nine years of working exclusively in black and white, Evers now erupts in an ‘orgasm of colour’, as one friend describes it (source: Winfred Evers). Hempel has a daughter, whom Evers considers as his own child. The relationship ends, however, as suddenly as it began. Evers’ work develops in a more harmonious direction under the influence of Wout Notenboom, a teacher of anthroposophy.


Winfred Evers accepts a position as a guest instructor at the RABK (Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘National Academy of Fine Arts’) in Amsterdam.

Evers participates in the art event Kunst over de Vloer (‘Art Across the Floor’), with an installation built in a warehouse (‘pakhuis’) on the Entrepotdok in Amsterdam.


Evers receives a working grant from the BKVB (Fonds voor Beeldende Kunst, Vormgeving en Bouwkunst, ‘Fund for Fine Art, Design and Architecture’).

Evers is invited to come and work for a month as artist-in-residence by ‘Light Work’ in Syracuse, New York. As an artist-in-residence, Evers receives access to the studio facilities of the Robert B. Menschel Media Center at the University of Syracuse in order to produce new work. In exchange, the artist donates several of his works.


Evers receives a working grant from the BKVB. In the period 1995 to 2002, he receives three additional basic stipends, which allow him to invest in his work.


Evers finds a new love in the painter Annemie Sijstermans. Two daughters are born from this relationship.


In 1992, Evers works for the first time on an Apple Mac computer. In 1997, he purchases his first Mac unit. The highly labour-intensive activity of photographing spatial installations is replaced by scanning images, which he subsequently manipulates on the computer. After these installations, Evers spends some time taking shots of reflections, which he digitally combines with linear drawings.


Evers is commissioned to make a monumental relief in metal, glass, and light for the De Kaap elementary school in Amsterdam East, made possible by the Commissie Kleinschalige Opdrachten (‘Committee of Small-Scale Projects’) of the AFK (Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, ‘Amsterdam Fund for the Arts’). After this project, Evers works on a ‘sketch assignment’ for a sculpture at the Andersen primary school in Woerden, organised by the foundation ‘Herman Molendijk Stichting’ in Amersfoort. The Stichting Onderneming en Kunst (‘Business and Art Foundation’) in Amsterdam selects Evers to carry out a commission with a photographic motif for Rabobank Netherlands.


Evers makes a sixty-minute video called Flowever Flow, for ‘Park-4-DTV’ in Amsterdam.


Due to the social and financial obligations that come with being a father, Evers works primarily for international photo libraries (stock photography for book covers, advertisements, etc.), including ‘Photonica’ in London (taken over by Getty Images in 2005) and Monsoon Images in New York, under the name ‘Eversofine’. As a result, during this period Evers is less visible as an autonomous artist.

In 2005, the video Flowever Flow is released on DVD via the Torch Gallery in Amsterdam. Evers’ work gains international recognition and is included in various seminal publications on abstract and concrete photography. His oeuvre evolves from a polychrome spiritedness into a more serene black-and-white idiom.


Winfred Evers’ oeuvre can be viewed as a limb on the trunk of experimental and staged photography. His photographic works often appear abstract, but are never this entirely. They always include photographed figuration. By means of (initially) analogue and (later) digital techniques, Evers manipulates this figuration into autonomous compositions.

‘De Geleerde Man’ (‘The Learned Man’) in Bennebroek, a seventeenth-century hotel run by Winfred’s parents, was always busy with guests. As s a young boy, he was therefore often his own. He would withdraw to the large attic of the house, where he played with the items stored up in the attic. He would also use them to assemble all kinds of objects. At the age of eight, he made large, wild chalk drawings. His parents never saw his drawings and building creations: he destroyed them as soon as they were completed. Around his fourteenth year, Evers began to write stories and film scenarios and he considered becoming a journalist. His stories went unappreciated by those in his surroundings: people sometimes refused to believe he had written the stories himself.

At the Vrije Academie (‘Free Academy’) in The Hague, Evers was taken under the artistic arm of the filmmaker Frans Zwartjes, who familiarised him with the highly innovative world of the ‘art movie’ (small-scale, low-budget films), and, somewhat later, performance art. Producing art turned out to be an essential, almost therapeutic activity for Evers. It was a dynamic period, during which he experimented extensively with methods and techniques. He made new friends originating from many different countries, including the Portuguese painter Vitor Pomar and the British painter Peter Frohlick. Even after their days at the academy, these friends still kept up a lively exchange regarding their individual outlooks on life.

The Lazy Man ‘s Guide to Winfred Evers is the title of a book that Winfred Evers published in 1984 in collaboration with the Torch Gallery in Amsterdam. It offers an interesting approach to the photographer’s oeuvre. On page four is a photo that can be viewed as a metaphor of Evers’ personal take on life: the photo South Pole, in which one sees a lonely iceberg floating around on the calm surface of body of water. The cycloptic block of ice resembles the ruin of a medieval abbey, with melting cavities like gothic arched windows. It allows us not only a glimpse of the deepest interior of the iceberg, but also provides a view into the distance, towards the endless polar sea that surrounds it. The photo of the iceberg was taken around 1950 by Evers’ father, during one of his sea voyages. It draws the eye to the empty centre of the image: the heart of the iceberg that has melted away. On an intriguing level, the observer can identify himself with this peculiar clump of ice: this is precisely what concerns Evers the most. A similar compositional theme is found in a substantial number of his photographic works: many of his photos are composed around an empty surface, which Evers refers to as a ‘white void’.

In about 1970, in the early years of his artistic career, Evers was greatly impressed by the book Rondom de Leegte (‘Around the Void’), written by the philosopher Cornelis Verhoeven (1965). This book is a collection of essays on the human condition in the era following Friedrich Nietzsche’s proclamation of ‘God is dead’. Verhoeven’s book addresses the premise that the ‘death of God’ has caused a vacuum in the spiritual life of the modern individual, an emptiness longing to be filled once again.

The iceberg photo in The Lazy Man’s Guide and the comparable compositional scheme found in many of Evers photographic works depict the spiritual existence of humanity after ‘Nietzsche’: a lonely entity, floating around in the cold sea of life, with a deep, but unfulfilled longing in the heart for the wholeness of being. Evers’ photos guide and catalyse a searching for the answers to existential questions. His images are references to that which is mystical and esoteric; they are not directly related to the contemporary photographic discourse. Evers states, for example, that he feels less of a connection with photographers than with present-day composers, such as Simeon ten Holt and Philip Glass, with whom ‘knowing and feeling unite’, as he puts it.

On his own website (, Evers presents an overview of his photographic works, divided into categories with titles such as ‘Lucid Alchemy’, ‘Mind over Matter’, and ‘Mindscapes’. His photography can be characterised as image manipulation, with the purpose of allowing the spirit to transcend matter, so that spiritual landscapes become visible. Evers always departs by photographing the materiality. While this matter always remains more or less visible, through ingenious modifications it becomes invariably detached from its material connotations. One example is Line of Thought (1977), a serene composition in tints of grey with diagonal lines. A closer examination reveals it to be a photo of four tiles, on which lies a book with empty pages, on top of which, once again, lies a photo of the same tile tableau. Without any emphasis, the photo has a strong metaphorical effect, even if its exact symbolic meaning remains open for interpretation. It is precisely this apparent abstraction, and in the second place, visual figuration, that give this work an intriguing character.

Winfred Evers’ oeuvre is filled with artistically pioneering work, in turn made possible by the steadily developing capabilities of photographic technology.

In the 1970s, Evers was looking for a photographic interpretation of the geometric/abstract tendency in painting, as it has existed without interruption since the advent of Mondrian. In the 1980s, Evers as well seems to be influenced by—whether intentionally or not—the Arte Povera movement: in his studio, he built large spatial installations with ‘poor’ materials: pieces of wood, cardboard, plastic, and just about any other material he could find. He directed light at this material in such a manner that, when seen through the lens of the camera, they began to resemble abstract compositions in black and white. Just as with the building creations that Evers made in his attic in his youth, no one was permitted to see these installations. An exception to the rule was the event Kunst over de Vloer (‘Art Across the Floor’) in 1987, during which he exhibited one of his sculptural installations at an Amsterdam warehouse. Starting in 1984, Evers began to experiment with a technical camera. He was able to achieve subtle effects by ‘editing in the camera’, as he described it himself, a complex technique by which he photographed his installations multiple times on one negative: parts of each installation were lit and photographed one by one. Once Cibachrome technology became available in the 1980s, Evers switched more often from manual black-and-white prints made on baryta paper to colour prints produced in the photo lab. Shortly thereafter, he was one of the first photographers to explore digital image manipulation. The technical camera and the darkroom were exchanged for a scanner and a high-end printer.

Evers’ photographic production at the onset of the twenty-first century looks different than his very earliest work. As always, however, it still includes those elements that have characterised his images from the very start: toying with abstraction and figuration, as well as concentric compositions. After a period of relative reserve—with works like the aforementioned Line of Thought—a period followed in the 1980s, when Evers gradually turned from geometric abstraction to a more chaotic and complex idiom. Colour entered into the picture, making room for variegated, hectic images with a predominantly golden lustre. Many of these photos included curling, linear visual elements, reminiscent of metal chasing.

Around the year 2000, a new stylistic shift again arose. Now that images could be made entirely on the computer, there emerged a flowing visual idiom, which, in a certain sense, was a synthesis of the two preceding periods. Once again, one observes oscillating, curving forms with a metallic gloss. Here, however, the rich colours have once again vanished from the photos. The figurative elements are still present—sometimes very clearly, at other times almost hidden.

During this period, Evers was seeking to find mathematic geometry in organic forms, sometimes literally: in one of his images, the calyx of a flower merges with a graphically depicted pentagon. Fragments of (mostly female) body parts merge in a world full of forms that roll and curve, giving the work an almost explicitly erotic tenor. For Evers, these images represent Eastern and anthroposophical principles: the cyclical forms allude, for instance, to the Buddhist wheel of life or an image of the dancing Shiva. Within anthroposophy, the pentagram is a meaningful symbol of life mathematically linked to the golden ratio encountered throughout the animal and plant kingdoms.

Over the years, Evers made a distinctive contribution to photography, leading to widespread admiration, especially in the 1980s. Through exhibitions in museums and galleries in Europe and the United States, his work ended up in prominent collections and was included in monographs on abstract photography. Curators categorised Evers’ production as part of the trend in staged photography, as seen for example at the high-profile travelling exhibition Fotografia Buffa in 1986.

In the 1990s, it seems as if Winfred Evers’ art historical momentum has come to a standstill, perhaps due to the waning interest in abstract art occurring at this time. Where Evers himself is concerned, public success is less important than his own personal development. Anyone that follows his work from the beginning to the end sees that such fault lines—in spite of shifts in style and technique—are shallow. The artist Winfred Evers will continue to follow his own path, circling the empty centre in the icy sea of existence.