PhotoLexicon, Volume 25, nr. 39 ( March 2008) (en)

Kees de Graaff

Marijke Winnubst


In the 1980s and ’90s, Kees de Graaff made a name for himself as a photographer for avant-garde theatrical companies. He also made portraits of directors and actors. In addition, De Graaff was a photography instructor at various academies, where he introduced the use of the computer into study programmes. De Graaff’s current work consists of series of images produced on the computer, which he publishes on the internet and exhibits in printed form. He uses his own photos or existing images taken by others and turns them into new images. The most significant themes in De Graaff’s work include photographic portraits with a contemplative, autobiographical, or historical reference, nature (primarily trees and flowers), and still lifes with the emphasis on perspective.




Cornelis (Kees) de Graaff is born on 28 September in Rotterdam, as the third child of Pieter de Graaff (1918–2000), dealer in fruit and vegetables, and Etta Christina Velthuizen (1919), housewife.


At the age of thirteen, De Graaff is awarded first prize at the Marnix Gymnasium (a prep or grammar school) in Rotterdam, for a constructed photo made in a darkroom he built himself.

De Graaff switches from the Gymnasium to the HBS (Hogere Burgerschool, ‘Higher Civic School’).


De Graaff has his first solo exhibition at a school building of the Melanchton College (a secondary school) in Rotterdam. He also sells his first photo to the deputy headmaster, Mr. Visser.


Without completing his final exam, De Graaff leaves secondary school and enrols in the photography programme at the St. Joost Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten (‘St. Joost School of Fine Art’) in Breda.


After completing his studies at the academy, Kees de Graaff departs for Australia. He works for a couple of months as an advertising photographer with a studio in Adelaide. Hereafter, he earns his living as a construction worker.

De Graaff lives and works with the Aboriginals for two years on a reservation in the Northern Territory on ‘Groote Eylandt’ (‘Big Island’) in the Gulf of Carpenteria. Upon his return to the Netherlands, De Graaff establishes himself as an independent photographer, initially for a brief period in Rotterdam and thereafter in Amsterdam.


De Graaff is accepted into a follow-up study programme in the department of ‘Visual Communications’ (with Professor Jan van Keulen) at the RABK (Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘National Academy of Visual Arts’) in Amsterdam, based on an audio slideshow he puts together on the Aboriginals. He completes the programme with success. During his studies, De Graaff begins taking theatrical photographs for the Werktheater (‘Work Theatre’). Upon completing his art studies, De Graaff receives the Willem F.C. Uriôt Art Prize, an award presented by the RABK to the best student.


Together with his friend and colleague Hans Aarsman, who also attends the RABK for a brief period, De Graaff helps in setting up the photography magazine Plaatwerk (‘Plate Work’). De Graaff acts as the magazine’s editor for a period of two years, but eventually withdraws due to the countless meetings and his disappointment with the formation of internal cliques.

The city of Amsterdam grants De Graaff a project subsidy to do portrait photography. De Graaff teaches classes in basic photography, as well as portrait, theatrical, and still life photography at the CREA student cultural centre of the University of Amsterdam.


De Graaff collaborates with the monthly magazine Toneel Teatraal, a publication of the Nederlands Theater Instituut (‘Netherlands Theatre Institute’).


De Graaff teaches photography in the department of graphic design at the KABK (Koninklijke Akademie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘Royal Academy of Visual Arts’) in The Hague.


During this period, De Graaff is a teacher at the Rietveld Academy in the audiovisual department, under Jos Houweling, and in the department of graphic design, under Jan van Toorn.


Kees de Graaff begins living with the ceramics artist Saskia Scherjon (1958).


De Graaff works as staff photographer for the theatrical group ‘Toneelgroep Globe’. De Graaff receives a subsidy from the Ministry of WVC (Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Cultuur, ‘Welfare, Public Health and Culture’) to photograph and compile a travelling exhibition on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, directed by Gerardjan Rijnders.


De Graaff teaches photography in the department of ‘Graphic Design and Audiovisual’ at the Christelijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten (‘Christian Academy of Visual Art’) in Kampen.


De Graaff is a staff photographer for the ‘Publiekstheater’ (‘Public Theatre’).

De Graaff completes a study in desktop publishing (DTP) and digital photography.

In September 1987, De Graaff departs for Israel on his own initiative, where he makes a photo and audio reportage on the West Bank to mark the fortieth anniversary of Israel’s nationhood.

De Graaff transfers his photos to the news photo agency ‘Hollandse Hoogte’ and elsewhere.


On 18 June, De Graaff’s son, Christiaan Sasha, is born.


De Graaff works as the staff photographer of ‘Theater Persona’ in Amsterdam.


De Graaff is the staff photographer for ‘Toneelgroep Amsterdam’, under the artistic direction of Gerardjan Rijnders and others. In this period, he begins devoting his full time and energy to new electronic media. De Graaff sets up an electronic publishing company, called ‘De Bankwerker’. Not much comes of his publishing endeavours.


From August 1989 to June 1990, De Graaff lives in France, where he devotes his time to studying photographic perspective. These studies in colour are then printed in large format and exhibited at the ‘2½ x 4½’ Photo Gallery in Amsterdam. For this project, the magazine Focus awards De Graaff with the Taco Anema Award, a photo prize established by Taco Anema and Dirk van der Spek to honour those photographers deserving recognition who have never received an award.

De Graaff also receives a working subsidy from the city of Amsterdam to produce still lifes in the studio.


De Graaff gives a workshop on theatrical photography at the De Moor Cultural Centre in Amsterdam.


De Graaff is the staff photographer for ‘Theater Het Oosten’ in Arnhem. He works on various individual commissions for theatrical companies such as Hauser Orkater, Noordelijke Theatervoorziening, and Beweging Dans.


Via the advertising agency of Mario van Zijst, De Graaff receives large studio commissions for multinationals such as Akzo, DSM and Gist Brocades.

After eight years of living together, De Graaff and Saskia Scherjon part ways.

De Graaff closes his studio in Amsterdam and moves to Rotterdam. There he meets Ilse van Huisstede (1962), whom he weds in September 2000. In August, De Graaff and Van Huisstede set up the production agency DAMASK Prod. The firm designs and produces software programmes, provides IT services for businesses, and implements and maintains systems and networks. Besides Akzo, DSM, and Gist Brocades, DAMASK’s clients also include photographers, advertising agencies, and the IFFR (Internationaal Film Festival Rotterdam).


In collaboration with Lunatech Research, De Graaff earns his living by designing, maintaining and programming websites. In addition, he works as an autonomous photographer on various photography projects.

De Graaff and his wife move to Hoogland, a village near Amersfoort. On 26 January 1998, De Graaff’s second son, Job Arend, is born.


De Graaff teaches classes in digital photography at the UCK (Utrechts Centrum voor de Kunsten, ‘Utrecht Centre for the Arts’). On 30 November 2000, a daughter is born, Jansje Merel.


For the first time in ten years, De Graaff shows his autonomous photographic work in public. He launches the photography project Nothing Goes a Long Way on the internet, under the heteronym ‘Keith Rangi and the Travelling Studios’. Several months later, a new photography project appears, entitled The Arrival of Godot, under the heteronym KEEES. During the Breda International Photo Festival, a total of eighty images are selected from these two projects and exhibited at the Grote Kerk, under the title The Praying Popes.


Koos Termorshuizen and Jos Wassink commission De Graaff to take portrait photos for the book De Eem. Verborgen rivier (‘The Eem. Hidden River’).


‘There are two ways one can look at photos. An instinctive and a rational way. At the intersection where these cross each other, in this ‘blind spot’, I try to make my images. That intersection is “photographic realism”.’—From Kees de Graaff’s letter to a fellow colleague/friend, 2 July 2004.

Kees de Graaff’s oeuvre shows a clear preference for dramaturgy. In De Graaff’s early black-and-white photos, one can literally observe this in the powerful and carefully considered images of the theatre. Later, he discovers his own visual idiom with the help of computer technology. De Graaff merges ‘found’ portraits of celebrities with portraits of ordinary people—or his own face—in order to create new people. In his still lifes, he creates confusion by situating objects in such a manner that there appears something wrong with the perspective. His prints possess the colour and character of old frescos or mural paintings.

De Graaff grew up as the third child in a Protestant Reformed family of six in the vicinity of Rotterdam. Kees’ father obtained his drafting certificate during the war. When it was over, however, he proceeded to establish a number of greengrocers’ shops instead. One disadvantage of his father’s entrepreneurial spirit was the family’s frequent moves. Kees experienced the many transitions from one school to the next and the continual change in surroundings as unpleasant.

Because his boyhood dream was to travel around the world as a missionary, Kees De Graaff was initially sent to the Gymnasium (a prep or grammar school). He disliked the study, however, and subsequently changed to the HBS (Hogere Burgerschool, ‘Higher Civic School’). This too proved unsuccessful. During his years in secondary school, De Graaff took photos with his mother’s Twin-Lens 6×6 Zeiss Ikon (Ikoflex) Reflex camera. He began with making portraits of his sisters and shooting photos in the woods around Amersfoort, where he used to run about as a child on his own.

Of the approximately 300 candidates who applied to the St. Joost Academy in 1968, De Graaff was one of twenty-four students accepted in the department of photography. After the first academic year, the general rule was that half the class quit the study. During the four years that De Graaff studied at the St. Joost Academy, photography was solely an applied art. It was the era of democratisation in art education. Heated demonstrations, meetings, and protests took place. All of the study disciplines were in one large building, which allowed the students to exchange creative ideas with each other. De Graaff took photos together with students in the graphic arts, architecture, and fashion design departments. Many of his fellow classmates from the same academic year would also later make a mark on Dutch photography in their own special way, including Paul den Hollander, Pieter Laurens Mol, Monique Toebosch, Teun Hocks, Cees van Gelderen, and Thed Lenssen. During his study years, De Graaff’s role models were the photographers Edward Steichen and Richard Avedon: Steichen, for the drama in his early photos of about 1920; the young Avedon, for the inventiveness and aesthetic in his objectivist fashion photos and his portraits from the 1940s. De Graaff also admired Art Kane for his use of colour in his photography.

De Graaff gave his own ideas shape in the form of dramatized still lifes, or, as he refers to them himself, visualised poems. His fashion photos, which were part of his graduation project, were published in De Telegraaf. Upon seeing the results of his work, De Graaff was aptly admonished by his teacher, Hans Katan, with the remark that ‘he knew too much for his age’. De Graaff promptly stormed out of the academy and never returned to complete his other graduation projects. Shortly after, he departed for Australia, by his own account to literally and figuratively distance himself.

Through an acquaintance, De Graaff found employment with an advertising studio in Adelaide as a salaried photographer. His task was to photograph fast cars, a subject that did little to inspire him. Moreover, he disliked the pretentious atmosphere of the advertising world. De Graaff consequently left the studio, instead finding work as a construction worker. ‘There they at least taught me how to work,’ as he later observed. Besides his work, De Graaff took advantage of his free time to explore the rest of Australia, being particularly interested in the indigenous peoples on the reservations. For two years, De Graaff lived and worked on an Aboriginal reservation in the Northern Territory of Australia, on Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. With photos and audio cassette tapes, he documented the spectacle of painted bodies during the Aboriginal ceremonies and initiation rituals. He then processed this material to create an audio slideshow presentation, a project that subsequently gained him entry to a follow-up study at the RABK (Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘National Academy of Visual Arts’) in Amsterdam.

De Graaff’s current work reveals many elements from De Graaff’s years spent in Australia, such as with his photographs of masks, tattoos, and sacred stones. In these images, he likewise manages to capture the dark, mystical atmosphere of these archetypes. At the RABK, Professor Jan van Keulen’s personality and perspective on art (‘Elitist, in spite of oneself’) were to have a substantial impact on De Graaff. Likewise influential were three American photographers: Diane Arbus, Les Krims and Duane Michals, who can be seen as innovators in the way people thought about photography in the 1970s. In their own pronounced manner, they shifted the boundaries of photographic documentation from the exterior world to the personal, internal world.

Inspired by the narrative photo sequences of Duane Michals, in these years De Graaff philosophised about the place and significance of the individual within the larger whole, as well by means of photo sequences. He demonstrated this by making himself, or a model, partially dissolve into the surroundings or disappear into a vague white spot, such as found in the sequence To Be or Not (1978), or by literally and figuratively unmasking himself in his self-portraits. De Graaff incorporated classical and surrealist texts—breathing new life into them—for instance in (Hommage à Duane Michals) Ceci n’est pas une pipe (‘Tribute to Duane Michals, This is Not a Pipe’, 1978). Appearance and reality were interchangeable for De Graaff. It was a view perfectly suited to theatre, as affirmed by Jan van Keulen’s press release concerning De Graaff’s final project: ‘In his time at the National Academy, [De Graaff] grew, as it were, automatically in the direction of the theatre—an area of work that inspired him. This special contact, how could it be any other way, also had repercussions for his ‘free’ work, so that the element of theatre is usually—or indirectly—present.’

Kees de Graaff exhibited the final results of his study both at the RABK itself and the Fiolet Gallery. Following this exhibition, he was commissioned by Mieke Kolk (a professor of theatre sciences) to produce photographed theatre critiques on a monthly basis for the column ‘Foto Kritieken’ (‘Photographic Critiques’) in Toneel Teatraal, the house publication of the Theaterinstituut (‘Theatrical Insitute’). For this purpose, De Graaff did the layout himself and typically the cover as well. For several years, he also collaborated with the graphic designer Anton Beeke on the much talked about posters of Toneelgroep Amsterdam. Avant-garde theatre in the Netherlands placed particular emphasis on austerity, reduction, and abstraction. Barren spaces, the total lack of decor, and ‘natural’ acting were meant to create the conditions for a theatre in which the representation itself was the determining factor. For De Graaff’s part, this required both inventiveness and empathetic insight. He photographed numerous individual productions for a variety of theatrical companies and was the regular house photographer for Toneelgroep Globe, the Publiekstheater, and Theater Persona.

With the arrival of Toneelgroep Amsterdam—a new theatre company housed in the Stadschouwburg (civic theatre) in Amsterdam—De Graaff was chosen by one of its artistic leaders, Gerardjan Rijnders, to be the company’s house photographer in the spring of 1987. De Graaff saw this as a new challenge in his career. Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s philosophy when it came to theatre was: ‘Certain is that nothing is certain, or whosoever listens to his material finds the necessary treatment either intuitively or in a methodical manner’ (quote Gerardjan Rijnders). It was a statement that corresponded with De Graaff’s own vision of photography. The two men were also involved in a mutual struggle against the stubborn misconception that theatre (or, in De Graaff’s case, photography) was meant to be a representation of reality.

In terms of his working method, De Graaff stated the following in an interview with the photographer/writer Hans Aarsman in Plaatwerk (1986): ‘Once you finally accept that it’s not about finding the best camera angle, then you can start enjoying yourself when taking photos. At home, when you go to handle your material, you’re faced with the biggest problem: picking out negatives and the method to print. You can print a mediocre photo in a way that it still becomes exciting. The reality of the theatre, of that stage, has got to be broken. You have to preserve an illusion, a suggestion, so that you no longer know “is it real or not”.’

The prints were retouched in the darkroom, strengthened with specks of light or halos, or combined as a sequence. If De Graaff was generally satisfied with an image itself, but on closer examination still felt the story would fail to reach a wider public, he would then take a step back and work towards a simpler solution. Even when a show was already running with the photos already on display in the theatre showcases, De Graaff would occasionally take down a photo and replace it with that one shot ‘with the golden edge’.

As the years progressed, De Graaff’s theatrical photos became less sensational. When sensing this theme had been exhausted and that he had nothing more to contribute, he stopped with theatrical photography.

With De Graaff, the study—the experiment—is always the main motif. This is particularly the case with a series of still lifes he photographed during a stay in France in the late 1980s. For this project, he conducted an almost mathematical study of linear perspective, while reading books about history and music. De Graaff sketched out his design drawings on sheets of paper. His still lifes are typically simple in composition, comprised of everyday objects from his immediate surroundings, e.g. bricks, plastic building materials, roughly torn sheets of paper, tools, and—when in a more civilised environment—bottles and kitchen utensils. For the background and the underlying surface, he incorporates anything having texture, such as rough deteriorated walls, wood or marble, a rug, or the kitchen counter. With a snapped twig and a bit of tape, De Graaff takes a shot that resembles a child’s drawing of a house that one can look through, giving the flat surface an illusion of depth.

Other photos serve as studies of volume, scale, and the sense of weight and distance. He places robust forms, such as a bottle or a small bowl, next to a flat surface drawn onto the underlying base. The analyses of contrasts, surfaces, distance, form, and weight (as if suspended) become curious pictures, giving rise to optical confusion, and with further examination, creating the appearance of three-dimensionality and spaciousness. In his later portraits, De Graaff applies the literal meaning of perspective (from the Latin: perspicere = to look through). When taking one image and allowing a second image to faintly filter through in the background, the whole takes on the appearance of a combination print or a story within a story. A portrait from the series Natura Morta, History of this Photograph (2004) illustrates this well.

A description of De Graaff as a teacher, a role he fulfilled from 1980 to 1990, is provided by Johan van de Garde, a student who attended his classes at the Christelijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten (‘Christian Academy of Visual Art’) in Kampen for four years: ‘Kees de Graaff was one of the few genuine instructors that we had at that moment. And when someone knows his profession that well, there’s no distinction between philosophy and technique. At such a moment, they are, as it were, balled up together in a perfect mastery of the medium. (…) He instilled in all of us the love for photography. And when you love something, then you cherish all of it. Technique, visual idiom, and observation. Especially observing and then deciding how you’re going to solve it technically. Large format, small format, or whatever.’

De Graaff’s work can be divided into three phases and developments. The first phase is one of experimentation with analogue and photochemical technique. His images were staged in advance, then shot, and worked out later in the darkroom. The second phase is one of contemplation, study, interpretation, and assessment, in order to arrive at a distinctive form and a creative visual idiom. During this phase, De Graaff made designs in a sketchbook, which he never showed to the public. He earned his living by designing websites for third parties. The third phase is one of digitisation, or rather ‘the period of immateriality’—the term De Graaff uses to describe digital image manipulation. He takes a conceptual thought and then works it out. He photographs his portraits on colour negatives with a 6×6 Hasselblad or a 4×5 inch Sinar technical camera. A selection of the shots is made and subsequently scanned, processed, and ultimately printed by a laboratory on photographic material (Lambda prints, Kodak Endura paper).

In a moment of reflection—while waiting for the price of digital cameras to go down—De Graaff studied art history. He discovered several key moments and a number of key figures who inspired him. At the top of his list were the Italian Renaissance and the painter Masaccio (Tommaso Cassaio). According to De Graaff’s logic, this Florentine painter (1401–1428) may be considered to be the very first photographer, based on his treatment of light and shadow and the application of a mathematically calculated one-point perspective. Moreover, when considering Masaccio’s dramatic expressiveness, he may also be viewed as the first theatrical photographer. De Graaff honours Masaccio in his series of self-portraits entitled I am. The photo We are KEEES Masaccio (The Naughty Thomas) of 2005 is a photo diptych, in which De Graaff incorporates a detail from Masaccio’s fresco The Distribution of Alms. In the left half of the photo, a beggar woman holds up a hard disk in her hand as a large glittering eye, while her own face is covered: as if he means to suggest that the small disk dictates the unconscious, thus replacing the human eye. In the right half of the diptych, the same beggar woman holds the ‘eye’ of the camera in her hands, this time in the form of a Hasselblad. In a second photo, entitled I am 170 lire (2005), De Graaff begins with a portrait of Masaccio on a postage stamp. On top of this, he projects a portrait of himself, holding his daughter in his arms, as a symbol of one’s continuous movement in time: past, present, and future.

The second key moment in art history for De Graaff is French Impressionism, with Paul Cézanne emerging as the central figure. In the work of Cézanne, he recognises the search for an object’s distinctiveness. De Graaff repeatedly photographs the same object, while searching for another form of contour, depth and volume. The subject itself is given very little significance.

The third important benchmark is the present time: the digitisation or the immaterial character of the photographic medium, where the tool has become completely mechanical and, as with painting, an image can be built up slowly.

The first series of images that De Graaff created digitally was made public on the Internet in the spring of 2005, under the title Nothing Goes a Long Way. Simultaneous with his shift to this new technology, De Graaff gave himself a new name: ‘Keith Rangi and the Travelling Studios’. Shortly thereafter, his first follow-up project, entitled The Arrival of Godot, appeared under the heteronym ‘KEEES’. Collectively, these series of images form a photographic scenario, each comprising approximately eighty images, divided into seven acts. Together they share an associative cohesion. De Graaff investigates the same themes as when he started out: the passing of time, perspective, and seeking an identity. When the photographer Desiree Dolron derisively enquired ‘Who the fuck is Kees de Graaff?’, De Graaff responded—aware of his own weaknesses, but also his own strength—in the form of a series of ironic self-portraits entitled I am: I Am My Own Horizon, I am Einstein—but also I am… Brigitte Bardot, Marlon Brando, Vincent van Gogh, Sarah Bernhardt, Bob Dylan, Samuel Beckett­­—or I Am a postage stamp. De Graaff takes the liberty of combining unearthed and existing images and laying his own image on top of, for instance, that of Einstein. He then reworks the images until an astounding resemblance arises. Searching for an answer to the question ‘Who am I?’ is something that De Graaff shares with Duane Michals. In the book QUESTIONS without answers (2001), Michals states: ‘I am what is being experienced, the universe focused in the eye of the beholder. All descriptions of me are like barnacles attached to me, for nothing is really mine. My name is a word like any other sound, which when repeated blurs to babble.” In other words: the ego means nothing, a name is irrelevant.

What started out as a game, however, has now become a workable reality for De Graaff, who according to medical science suffers from a bipolar disorder, better known as manic depression. He divides his personality into various forms of expression: Kees de Graaff the partner, father, brother, friend of, etc., who takes regular photos and snapshots. Keith Rangi (and the Travelling Studios) is the unreserved Australian photographer who holds not the slightest interest in convention and who purports being afraid of nothing. Rangi is fairly manic and is responsible for apocryphal and gruesome works that De Graaff dares not to show. The ‘Travelling Studios’ stands for those around Rangi responsible for the digital technique and presentation on his behalf: web constructions, typography, design, etc. KEEES is the photographer in whom the two aforementioned personalities come together. In his case, reasoning, refinement, passion for tradition, history and philosophy are predominant. De Graaff uses humour to ‘depersonalise’ himself in his photos, combining his own self-image with that of a famous personality, thus transforming both figures into one non-existent person. The same occurs in the series Sing Song of Rangi and The Praying Popes. With a newspaper photo of the pope that radiates an ethereal atmosphere through his devoutly folded hands and his eyes closed, De Graaff ponders whether a similar radiance can be achieved in himself or his neighbour when assuming the same pose. He devotes his attention to the expression in the eyes and hands, transforming ten portraits of ordinary people into devout believers, who appear to be in touch with higher spheres. The portraits are the sum total of views taken from various angles that overlap each other, with the face occasionally shown in profile but the eyes still looking directly at you, just as in Egyptian painting or Picasso’s painting Young Ladies of Avignon.

These manipulated portraits are comparable to those by the photographer Wim Hardeman (1958). Just as Hardeman does in her own work, De Graaff distorts, alienates, and discolours his figures. They are given another, new identity, though remnants of the initial portrait remain visible. Language, either spoken or sung, is important for De Graaff. He devotes ample attention to conceiving his titles and texts, which are often references or associations. In this manner, De Graaff’s first heteronym—Keith Rangi (and The Travelling Studio’s)—immediately brings to mind an association with the early years of photography. Pioneering photographers, carting around their extremely heavy equipment and glass negatives, plodded across the country with their horse-and-wagon. How different things are today, now that bits and bytes can be sent via a glass fibre network like a flash of light—they too are in fact travelling studios. De Graaff celebrated his return to the photography world for the first time in ten years with his Arrival of Godot, a work inspired by Samuel Beckett’s most famous theatrical piece, Waiting for Godot. De Graaff dedicated this work piece to his son, Christiaan, and the photographer Johan Vigeveno.

Several of De Graaff’s more recent images—produced with the heteronym KEEES—are reactions to the painful realities of the world and society, such as the Hand van Van Gogh (‘Hand of Van Gogh’), Prey (in reference to the Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004), and the series Kamp Amersfoort (‘Camp Amersfoort’).

The nature of Kees De Graaff’s oeuvre is groundbreaking. He was one of the first instructors to bring the technological evolution to students’ attention and was also the one who taught them how to work with these new techniques. De Graaff fully understood the nature of digital photography as a new visual idiom and the freedom that comes with this technology. His photos contribute to the way people think about the photographic medium and its place in a broad (art historical) context. Many of De Graaff’s photos are composed like paintings, and accordingly, create the illusion that they have indeed been painted. He shows how the new digital medium provides opportunities for portrait art, facilitating a kind of metamorphosis.

Despite influences of classical and modern art, De Graaff’s work is particularly indebted to theatre, in which appearance and reality are interchangeable and self-evident. As once formulated by the art historian Emile Meijer (1921–2002): ‘Naked truth versus draped illusions: where else can one better gauge these concepts in relation to each other than in the theatre?’


Primary bibliography

(eigen publicaties: tekst, eventueel met foto’s, maar ook fotoboeken e.d.)

Het café, in Plaatwerk (1980) 1 [=0-nummer], p. 16-21.

Catalogus tent. Foto in Vorm. Raakpunten van fotografie en grafische vormgeving, GKf fotografen (1981) 5, p. 15.

Het Nederlands Theaterboek 32 (1982-1983), p. 38, 44-45.

Catalogus tent. 2=1. ‘Over de som der delen’. Foto’s in combinatie, Amsterdam (Nederlandse Kunststichting) 1983, ongepag.

Treincompartimenten, in Plaatwerk 1 (augustus/september 1983) 3, p. 13-15.

Nederlands Theaterboek 33 (1983-1984), p. 29, 70, 103.

NRC Handelsblad 6 juni 1984.

Trouw 18 september 1984.

Trouw 16 april 1985.

NRC Handelsblad 18 oktober 1985.

Frouke Fokkema, Vier keer Fokkema, Amsterdam (International Theatre Bookshop i.s.m. Toneelgroep Amsterdam) 1987, p. 5.

B. Hunningher, Shakespeare en het theater van zijn tijd, Amsterdam (Nederlands Theater Instituut) 1987.

Nathalie Sarraute, Waarom… daarom (Pour un oui ou pour un non)/ Plannen en dromen, Amsterdam (Toneelgroep Amsterdam/ International Theatre Bookshop) 1987, p. 42-81.

Amsterdams Jaarboek Beeldende Kunst/ Amsterdam Art-Annual/ Annuaire des beaux arts d’Amsterdam/ Jahrbuch bildende Künste Amsterdam ’87, p. 359.

NRC Handelsblad 2 maart 1987.

Janny Donker (inl.), Pictorial. Mickery – 1965-1987 – A photographic history, Amsterdam (Stichting Mickery Workshop/ International Theatre Bookshop) 1988, p. 320-321.

Robert H. Leek, Shakespeare in Nederland. Kroniek van vier eeuwen Shakespeare in Nederlandse vertalingen en op het Nederlands toneel, Zutphen (Walburg Pers) 1988, p. 329.

Coos Versteeg, Guido de Moor. Portret van een Haagse komediant, Den Haag/ Rijswijk (Sijthoff Pers) 1989, p. 93, 107-108.

Holland Foto-agenda 1990, Lochem (Lochemdruk) 1989.

(Programmaboekje) Theater van het Oosten 1990-1991, Arnhem (Theater van het Oosten) 1990.

P. van Gogh e.a., Euripides Medea, Groningen (Wolters-Noordhoff) 1991, 2de [gew.] dr., p. 233.

(Programmaboekje) Toneelgroep Amsterdam ’91-’92, Amsterdam (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) 1991.

NRC Handelsblad 28 augustus 1991, p. 8.

Nico van Rossen, De roes en de rede. Over Gerardjan Rijnders, z.p./ Amsterdam (Nederlands-Vlaams Instituut voor de Podiumkunsten/International Theatre & Film Books) 1992, p. 10, 23, 30-31, 38, 42, 44-45, 47-48, 65, 69, 73, 84, 96.

Trouw 27 februari 1992, Kunst, p. 2.

NRC Handelsblad 22 mei 1992, p. 6.

Trouw 18juni 1992, Kunst, p. 2.

NRC Handelsblad 20 augustus 1993, CS, p.8.

Judith Herzberg e.a. (selectie), Jac Heijer. Een keuze uit zijn artikelen, Amsterdam (International Theatre & Film Books/ Stichting Pensioenfonds van het Nederlands Toneel) 1994, p. 531, 541, 609, 615, 655, 703.

Dennis Meyer, Tomaat in perspektief. Theatervernieuwing in de jaren ’60 en ’70, Amsterdam (Theater Instituut Nederland) 1994, p. 204.

Het Parool 11 maart 1994, p. 8.

NRC Handelsblad 3 november 1995, CS, p. 6.

Toneel Theatraal 117 (1996) 9/10, p. 158-161.

de Volkskrant 24 mei 1996, p. 15.

Trouw 28 december 1996, p. 17.

NRC Handelsblad 21 maart 1997, p. 2.

Het Parool 17 december 1997, Kunst, p. 4.

de Volkskrant 28 januari 1999, p. 21.

Janine Brogt e.a. (red.), Liefhebbers. 13,5 jaar Toneelgroep Amsterdam (International Theatre & Film Books) 2000.

Hans Vogel, Wacht maar tot ik dood ben. Annie M.G. Schmidt. Haar leven en werk voor theater, radio en tv, Amsterdam (Theater Instituut Nederland) 2000, p. 101.

Trouw 23 september 2000, p. 29.

Xandra Knebel, Peter Oosthoek. Theatermaker, Amsterdam (Theater Instituut Nederland) 2001, p. 96 (serie: Portretten van Nederlandse theatermakers, 5).

NRC Handelsblad 4 augustus 2001, p. 35.

de Volkskrant 18 augustus 2001, p. 7S.

de Volkskrant 25 augustus 2001, p. 9S.

de Volkskrant 24 augustus 2002, p. 21.

Jesse Goossens, Dit is theater, Rotterdam (Lemniscaat) 2003, p. 26.

Trouw 4 juni 2004, p. 14.

NRC Handelsblad 15 september 2004, p. 23.

Trouw 18 februari 2005, de Verdieping, p. 4.

J.W. Mathijssen, The breach and the observance [proefschrift], Utrecht (Universiteit Utrecht) 2007, omslag.

Koos Termorshuizen en Jos Wassink, De Eem. Verborgen rivier, Barneveld (Regioboek) 2007.


in Toneel Teatraal/T.T. Toneel Teatraal/Toneel Theatraal:

102 (1981) 1, p. 4-7, 26.

102 (1981) 2, p. 24, 26, 30-31.

102 (1981) 3, p. 15, 21-23.

102 (1981) 4, p. 25-29.

102 (1981) 5/6, p. 15, 17.

102 (1981) 7, omslag, p. 12-13.

102 (1981) 8, p. 8-9, 19, 21.

102 (1981) 9/10, p. 26-27.

103 (1982) 1, p. g-i 1, 13-16.

103 (1982) 2, omslag, p. 8-9, 24-25.

103 (1982) 7,p. 31-32.

103 (1982) 8, p. 3-5, 17-19.

103 (1982) 9, p. 2, 29-31.

104 (1983) 1, p. 15, 30-33, 44, 46.

104 (1983) 2, omslag, p. 6-7, 14-15, 28.

104 (1983) 3, p. 12,24-25,38-39.

104 (1983) 4, omslag, p. 4, 23-25.

104 (1983) 5/6, p. 12-13, 16.

104 (1983) 7, omslag, p. 7, 14.

104 (1983) 8, omslag, p. 8, 12, 18-19.

104 (1983) 9. omslag, p. 7-8, 15-17, 21.

105 (1984) 1, p. 8-14.

105 (1984) 2, p. omslag, 4, 10, 19-21, 23.

105 (1984) 3, p. 3-8, 10-11.

105 (1984) 4, p. 13, 15-16, 19, 33-35,37-38.

105 (1984) 5/6, p. 11, 14-15.

105 (1984) 8, omslag, p. 3-5, 28-29.

105 (1984) 9/10, omslag, p. 5, 7, 9, 14,30-31, 33.

106 (1985) 2, p. 10-12.

106 (1985) 3, p. 24.

106 (1985) 5, p. 36, 38-39.

106 (1985) 7, p. 7.

106 (1985) 8, p. 17, 51-52, 92 (= Nederlands Theaterboek 34 (1984-1985)).

106 (1985) 10, p. 12-13.

107 (1986) 3, p. 45.

107 (1986) 7, p. 13-14.

107 (1986) 8, p. 54, 93 (= Nederlands Theaterboek 35 (1985-1986)).

107 (1986) 10, p. 20, 22-23, 32-35. 37.

108 (1987) 5, p. 14-15, 28-31, 39.

108 (1987) 8, p. 49, 60-62 (= Nederlands Theaterboek 36 (1986-1987)).

108 (1987) 10, p. 30.

109 (1988) 1, p. 20-21.

109 (1988) 3, p. 26.

109 (1988) 4, p. 3, 5-6, 13-14, 40-41.

109 (1988) 6, p. 32.

109 (oktober 1988) 8, p. 6-7, 14-15, 19, 24, 52, 55-56, 63, 104 (= Nederlands Theaterboek 37 (1987-1988)).

109 (1988) 9, p. 3, 17.

109 (1988) 10, omslag, p. 27.

110 (1989) 2, p. 33, 38-39, 44.

110 (1989) 3, p. 28, 32, 45.

110 (1989) 4, p. 3, 23.

110 (1989) 7, p. 3, 12.

110 (oktober 1989) 8, p. 30, 23 (= Nederlands Theaterboek 38 (1988-1989)).

110 (1989) 9, p. 29.

111 (1990) 1, p. 33-37.39.

111 (1990) 2, p. 35. 38.

111 (1990) 3, p. 32-33.

111 (1990) 4, p. 18,39.

111 (1990) 5, p. 32.

111 (1990) 7, p. 15, 31.

111 (oktober 1990) 8, p. 19, 69, 80 (= Nederlands ‘Theaterjaarboek 39 (89/90)).

111 (1990) 10, p. 42.

112 (1991) 2,p. 35.

112 (1991) 9, p. 38.

112 (1991) 10, p. 23.

114 (oktober 1993) 8, p. 120 (= Nederlands Theaterjaarboek 42 (92/93)).

Secondary bibliography

(publications about the photographer and his work)

Kees Kuil, Kees de Graaff, in Perspektief (maart 1981) 6, omslag, p. 20-25 (met foto’s).

Gert Staal, Kees de Graaff, in Bijvoorbeeld 15 (1983) 3, p. 14-18 (met foto’s).

Hripsimé Visser, Documentaire en monumentale foto-opdrachten in Nederland na 1945, in Perspektief (juni 1987) 28/29, p. 1 16.

Hans Aarsman, Het gefriemel van Kees de Graaff, in Plaatwerk 3 (juni 1986) 15, p. 34-43 (met foto’s).

Sonja Geerlings, Theater fotografie. Gerardjan Rijnders, die deel uitmaakt van de artistieke leiding van de Toneelgroep Amsterdam in gesprek met Kees de Graaff, GKf-fotograaf, in Foto 42 (september 1987) 9, p. 76-83 (met foto’s).

Harry van Gelder, Kees de Graaff: ‘Ik zoom graag in op menselijke kracht’, in De Journalist 41 (22 oktober 1990) 19, p. 39-41 (met foto’s).

Anoniem, Kees de Graaff, in NRC Handelsblad 29 december 1990, p. 6.

Herman Keppy, Kees de Graaff. Het ei is rond en wit, in Focus (februari 1991) 2, p. 28-32 (met foto’s).

Taco Anema e.a. (red.), 50 Jaren fotografie. GKf 1945-1995, Amsterdam (De Verbeelding) 1995, p. 196, 198.

Johan van de Garde, Urbi et Orbi. Kunst in de kelder, in VPRO interne post (maart 2006) 66, p.1-2.


1964 Eerste prijs fotowedstrijd Marnix Gymnasium, Rotterdam.

1980 Willem F.C. Uriót-Prijs van de Rijksakademie Amsterdam.

1990 Taco Anema Award (Anema wisseltrofee) van het tijdschrift Focus.


GKf 1981-1995


1968 (e) Rotterdam, Melanchton College.

1979 (g) Eindhoven, Stadschouwburg, Theaterfoto manifestatie [theaterfoto’s seizoen ’78/’79] (reizende tentoonstelling: 1979 Maastricht, Cultureel Centrum; 1980 Groningen, Stadsschouwburg; Arnhem, Stadsschouwburg; Enschede, Stadsschouwburg; Apeldoorn, Schouwburg Orpheus; Rotterdam, Rotterdamse Schouwburg).

1980 (e) Amsterdam, Galerie Fiolet, Kees de Graaff.

1980 (e) Amsterdam, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Theater en fotografie Kees de Graaff exposeert.

1981 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Foto in Vorm (GKf).

1981 (e) Rotterdam, Perspektief.

1982 (e) Den Haag, Kijkhuis.

1983 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Kijken in de tijd. 50 Fotografen in het Stedelijk (GKf).

1983 (e) Den Haag, Kijkhuis.

1983 (g) Amsterdam, Nederlandse Kunststichting, 2=1 ‘Over de som der delen’. Foto’s in combinatie.

1984 (e) Amsterdam, De Moor.

1985 (e) Amsterdam, Nederlands Theater Instituut.

1986 (e) Amsterdam, Galerie Harde Koppen.

1986 (e) Amsterdam, Stadschouwburg, Hamlet (reizende tentoonstelling).

1987 (e) Amstelveen, Cultureel Centrum, [overzichtstentoonstelling Kees de Graaff].

1988 (e) Amsterdam, Frascati, Mrozeh.

1989 (e) Amsterdam, Frascati, Shepard.

1989 (g) Amsterdam, Hollandse Hoogte, Foto Holland.

1989 (g) Amsterdam, De Moor.

1989 (g) Amsterdam, Stadhuis, Foto 89.

1990 (e) Amsterdam, Fotogalerie 2½x4½, [stillevens].

1990 (g) Amsterdam, De Moor.

1990 (g) Groningen, USVA Fotogalerie, Dubbeldruk (Fotomanifestatie Noorderlicht).

2003 (e) Amersfoort, Fotogalerie 202, Natura Morte.

2005 (e) Amersfoort, Fotogalerie 202, The Praying Popes.

2005 (e) Breda, Grote Kerk, The Praying Popes.

2006 (e) Hilversum, Gebouw VPRO, Urbi et Orbi.

2007 (e) Amsterdam, Universiteit van Amsterdam. Gebouw Vakgroep Theaterwetenschap.


Amsterdam, Johan van de Garde, schriftelijke informatie.

Amsterdam, Mieke Kolk, schriftelijke informatie.

Amsterdam, Theater Instituut Nederland, bibliotheek.

Hoogland, Kees de Graaff, documentatie en mondelinge informatie.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek

Leiden, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Leusden, Jan Wingender (collectie nederlands fotoboek).

Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotomuseum.


Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum.

Amsterdam, Theater Instituut Nederland.

Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotomuseum.

Rijswijk, Instituut Collectie Nederland.