PhotoLexicon, Volume 25, nr. 40 ( December 2008) (en)

Frank Scholten

Teresa Lidia Kwiecień


Frank Scholten goes down in history as the photographer who tried to visualise the entire Bible by means of photography. Scholten started out as an amateur photographer in the Netherlands as well as other countries of Europe. After this, he photographed in Palestine until 1923. The variety of subjects, and above all his interest in people from every social and religious stratum of the population, provide a unique impression of Palestine. Scholten’s photography is true to nature with an abundance of feeling for the artistic product. The value of his oeuvre lies in his strikingly modern approach to photographic documentation. Scholten’s legacy consists of loose photos, two photobooks, photo albums, negatives, correspondence, and documentation.




Francois (Frank) Scholten is born on 30 August in Amsterdam as the son of Petrus Wilhelmus Scholten (1835), commission agent in securities, the director of the stock brokerage firm Wed. Tjeenk & Co. in Amsterdam, and the noblewoman (‘jonkvrouwe’) Elisabeth Maria Anna Henrietta van Bevervoorden tot Oldemeule. Frank has an older sister, Helena Gerardina (born 26 August 1876).


Scholten’s mother dies.


Scholten’s father marries the noblewoman (‘jonkvrouwe’) Maria Anna Ploos van Amstel (1854) on 16 May in Baarn. The family resides in Amsterdam.


Scholten’s father and stepmother produce a daughter, Maria Anna, born on 9 July 1891.


On 2 November, Scholten’s parents produce a son, Petrus Wilhelmus.

On 3 November, Frank Scholten deregisters from the Amsterdam public record office and departs for Noordwijk-Binnen, where he is accepted into the home of one P. (?) van Slooten.


On 22 December, Scholten departs for Berlin, where he studies art, music, and philosophy at the conservatory for a significant period of time. It is unclear whether he completes his studies.


Frank Scholten’s father dies on 29 August in Zeist.


With the outbreak of World War I, Scholten leaves Berlin and returns to the Netherlands.


Scholten undertakes an extensive trip across Europe during a pilgrimage to Palestine, his final destination. He travels to Rome via Cologne, Germany. During a stay in Rome that lasts a couple of months, Scholten takes photographs, visits churches, and establishes contacts with people in Catholic circles.


At the beginning of the year, Scholten travels to Palestine via Brindisi, Italy, and Athens. He enters the country at Jaffa, which is seen as the entryway to ‘Het Heilige Land’ (‘The Holy Land’)—the title he eventually bestows on the first volume of his photobooks published later.


Scholten spends three years in Palestine, traveling around with his camera to places of biblical significance, e.g. Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Haifa, Jericho, Lifta, Magdala, Lydda, and Gezer.

In early 1923, Scholten returns to Europe.


On 25 February, the exhibition Palestine in Transition opens in London, featuring 2,200 photos shot by Scholten in Palestine. The exhibition receives overwhelming publicity in various British and foreign newspapers, such as The Palestine Weekly, The Times, The Jewish Guardian, The Universe, the Romanian newspaper Adevërul, and in the Dutch weekly Het beloofde land (‘The Promised Land’). The British photography world also attends the exhibition, which leads to a brief reaction in the 29 February 1924 issue of The British Journal of Photography. This is the only time the photography world devotes attention to Scholten’s work.


In November, Scholten loses a great deal of money during the stock market crash.


The first two volumes of a series of photobooks that Scholten intends to realise appear in 1929, under the title La Palestine Illustrée (‘Palestine Illustrated’). Following this French edition, a German and British edition are published in 1930 and 1931 respectively.


The first volume of Scholten’s photobook on Palestine is published in the Dutch language by the Sijthoff publishing company in Leiden. The second volume is never realised.


In his will and testament, Frank Scholten states that funds are to be bequeathed to the city of Leiden for an as yet to be established ‘Frank Scholten Institute’. The institute’s tasks are to ensure the continuation of Scholten’s work and to oversee his legacy. All of Scholten’s possessions—including his photo archive—are to go to the NINO (Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, ‘Netherlands Institute of the Near East’), an organisation established in 1939. Scholten is in contact with F.M.Th. Böhl, a Dutch orientalist conducting research into clay tablets related to the Bible. After the NINO’s founding in Leiden, Böhl becomes actively involved in the institute. The possibility that this connection played a role in Scholten’s financing of the NINO cannot be ruled out.


Frank Scholten dies on 29 August in Leiden.


‘It behoves the author to establish the context of that which is investigated, to sort the information accurately, and to examine the details of each event carefully. 2 Maccabees 2:31 (Arn).’ – quote from the apocryphal Books of the Maccabees from the Bible, Scholten’s choice for the introduction to the Dutch-language book edition on Palestine.

In the world of Dutch photography, Frank Scholten is a completely unknown figure. This is in sharp contrast to the impressive photographic oeuvre he left behind. Most of Scholten’s photos were shot during the 1920s. They would serve as the basis for his project to photographically illustrate the Bible. Realised at a later point in the form of photobooks, the project is likely to have been conceived by Scholten himself, a man of adequate financial means who evidently did not have to work and who wanted to give meaning to his life. Scholten possessed a range of qualities required to realise such an audacious plan, such as diligence, patience, perseverance, and familiar with numerous languages. He was very well read in the three holy scriptures (Quran, Torah, and the Bible) and also possessed a knowledge of photography. Scholten’s photos betray the mark of an inspired amateur photographer. At the same time, the organisation of his photos and documents suggests the working method of a professional documentalist. Scholten maintained a systematic and highly detailed photo registration: he administered and applied his visual material with formidable expertise.

Scholten’s endeavour would keep him preoccupied for the rest of his life. In his will, he expressed his wish that the work he had initiated be carried on after his death. Scholten was a bachelor and had no permanent home address. He remained a restless man throughout his life, continuously traveling and never sitting still. Scholten lived in Leiden and Katwijk prior to his becoming ill in 1942, only to die alone. The last six months of his life are documented in a small journal. Each day he noted down—always with a pencil and always systematically—what days he was sick and what days he had spent sorting out his photo material.

Frank Scholten and his elder sister were brought up in a well-to-do Catholic family. By his own account, part of his childhood was spent in Portsmouth, England. Scholten lost his mother at a young age. With his father’s remarrying and the arrival of a half-sister and a half-brother, the family’s living situation had changed. Immediately after the birth of this last child, Scholten departed from his parental home. Additional information concerning his youth and education are likely to come to light in his private correspondence, which as part of Scholten’s archive, preserved at the NINO (Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, ‘Netherlands Institute of the Near East’), has not yet been systematised.

An article in the 9 July 1931 issue of Israelitisches Familienblatt (‘Israeli Family Magazine’) provides a glimpse of Scholten’s background: ‘Frank Scholten was born in Amsterdam, comes to Berlin attending a conservatory, studies music, art and the history of literature, is driven back to Holland because of the war, gives up a study of the Bible and a desire to investigate the motifs found in paintings, music and the Sufis, notices that as exhausted as the material also seems, there still exists no pure and yet artistic illustration of the Bible, goes to Palestine (…) photographs 500,000 pictures.’

How and where Scholten learned to photograph is unknown. In all likelihood, he was an autodidact. Scholten lived at a time when photography, though technically within virtually anyone’s reach, was still an expensive hobby. He belonged to that category of well-to-do amateur photographers who were able to afford such a costly endeavour, including self-study, travel, and photo material. Scholten himself was able to cover all of these expenses through the family capital on which he lived. In his correspondence, Scholten always referred to his photos as ‘kieken’ (‘snapshots’). From this, one may conclude that he considered himself to be an amateur photographer. At this time, amateur photographers formed a highly active group in Dutch photography. Scholten apparently felt no connection with others like himself, as his name appears nowhere in the amateur magazines of the day or in the records of the then existing photography associations. He shot portraits, landscapes, and cityscapes—subjects that were then very popular in amateur photography. Scholten’s oeuvre consists in part of photos from the Netherlands and other European countries that likely date from the period 1914 to 1921. After this, his interest shifted to Palestine, where he photographed between 1921 and 1923.

Around 1900, the Near East was developing into a tourist destination. The travel agencies and the local population were exerting much effort to draw in tourists. Darkrooms were even being set up in hotels and boarding houses to be used by photographers. After World War I, the flow of tourists began to pick up once again.

Scholten was a passionate traveller with an interest in foreign cultures. In addition to magazines such as L’Illustration, The Illustrated London News, and Orbis Terrarum, his archive includes numerous maps of the Middle East. Such artefacts confirm Scholten’s interest, which was specifically oriented to The Holy Land.

The new political situation in which Palestine that had arisen starting in 1917 served to stimulate not only tourism, but also the immigration of primarily impoverished Jews from all corners of the world—the ‘third alia’—to the Holy Land. Prior to this time, the region had been part of the Ottoman Empire. Under Turkish domination, it had become a destitute and forsaken part of the world. The people were plagued with continual illness due to unhygienic sanitation conditions and the poor quality of the drinking water. The flow of Jewish immigrants brought with it an increase in the number of violent conflicts with the Arabs. Another area of tension lay in the clashing interests of the various ethnic and religious groups, as well as those of the world powers. The region was of strategic importance, both for the French and for the British in their expansive geopolitical ambitions. The actual problems inherent to Palestine were far removed from the romantic, idealised image that the West had of the world’s oldest civilization, where the religions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims had their origins. Such perceptions were based on the widely disseminated representation of the region in works of literature, painting, and graphic art. It was a picture that was difficult to associate with the actual situation of neglect and terror. Notwithstanding, the historical and biblical significance of this part of the world had a tremendous drawing power for travellers from the West—a pull that was much stronger than the threats that existed.

The growing tourism awakened a demand for visual material, while the political changes occurring at the time stimulated the need for propaganda photos. Palestine was being visited by huge numbers of foreign photographers—chiefly British, German, French, and American (the ‘American Colony’ photographers). As far as is known, Scholten was the only Dutchman shooting photographs in the Middle East. He was not interested, however, in capturing travel impressions or in photographing tourist attractions. His strong Catholic faith and his displeasure with the absence of an objective image of the Holy Land were what had motivated him to travel to Palestine in order to photograph the country. Scholten used these images for religious purposes. It is this, which makes his work interesting: prior to this time, religion had never been a subject addressed in photography on such a large scale.

Shortly prior to Scholten’s arrival, the photographer Leo Kann (1885-?) had also visited Palestine in order to shoot photos. Kann was an Austrian journalist sent to Palestine on assignment for the Jüdische Zeitung in 1912 to supply the newspaper with photos of the region. Scholten’s photo archive includes several large collotypes of Kann’s shots. The presence of these photographic reproductions in Scholten’s archive indicates that he was familiar with Kann’s work and is likely to have used it as an inspiration for his own photography. The same likewise applies for other photographers whose work is found in Scholten’s archive, including: Auguste Salzmann; Charles Nègre’s photogravures of photos by L. Vignes en Jardin; and Eug. Ciceri’s photolithographs of shots by L. Vignes, Henri Sauvaire, and Charles Groeben.

Scholten’s idea of visualising the Bible by means of photography was exceptional because of the size of the project and the timing of his trip to Palestine. At this time, Palestine was in a transitional phase. The region, which had existed under centuries of Ottoman dominion, had been placed under a British mandate just prior to his arrival. The emerging Zionism added a substantial dynamic in the political arena. As a result, the country, which in many ways was still in tact, experienced a rapid modernisation. For Scholten—with his Catholic background—the fascination for this religious place currently undergoing significant changes was the basis for his photography. It was also a time when there was great deal of interest in a new translation of the Bible among religious circles. Scholten saw photography as an excellent medium to realise an interpretation of ‘The Holy Book’ as never seen before.

In the period 1921 to 1923—the years he spent in Palestine—Scholten shot approximately 27,000 photos on every conceivable subject and aspect of the country. Even at this stage, the idea must have already taken root of using his images not only to visualise the Bible photographically, but also to incorporate texts from the Quran and the Talmud. In an interview with the Evening Standard of 21 February 1924, Scholten remarked: ‘My photographs deal with practically every place of scriptural interest. What I am particularly proud of is that I managed to get inside churches of all denominations, so that I have photographs showing the interiors of mosques, with the Moslems at prayer, synagogues with the priests officiating, and so on. This I believe is unique.’ Scholten’s approach was unique not just because he had obtained free access to the holy sanctuaries of the different religions, but even more so because of his idea to link these photos to excerpts from the Quran and the Talmud—two holy scriptures in which the use of images was forbidden.

To present these images in the context of verses from these holy books—texts that he had chosen himself—Scholten required vast quantities of photos. His aim was to show that the stories from the Bible were anything but fictitious and that the past lived on in the present. The books were intended to be used as study material for students starting out at seminary school, clergymen, catechism teachers, and anyone else interested in the subject.

In Palestine, Scholten aimed his camera at virtually everything: people, landscapes, nature, monuments, historical sites of biblical significance, the rich composition of people, the life of the colonists, and the modern developments within Palestine. He shot individual photos as well as series of photos on the same subject. He also made photo reportages.

Taking portraits of people appears to have been one of Scholten’s favourite activities, as if he was using photography to establish contacts with others. He portrayed individuals as well as groups large and small (usually in the open air), originating from every ethnic and religious segment and at all levels of society. From these individual and group portraits—striking are the number of images featuring children and young people—a typology emerges that reflects the diversity of the population and the faiths in Palestine. Those photographed typically look directly into the lens and are well aware of the solemnity of the shot. For some of these social groups, the confrontation with the camera was their first contact with this modern technology.

Besides portraits, Scholten also took numerous landscape photos, with or without people. Where no people figure, Scholten played with the line of the horizon as a way to represent the spaciousness of the landscape in varying ways. In those landscape shots where people are be observed, one sees that Scholten applied two different approaches found within the European tradition of photographing landscapes: the British and the French. In the British approach, the presence of the human figure in the landscape functioned as a subtle detail to emphasise the expansiveness of the area and to accentuate the scene’s beauty. French photographers, by contrast, photographed a landscape with people in the foreground, as an integral component.

It was Scholten’s goal to photograph the archaeological remains and virtually every location that was found in the Bible or that had historical or mythological importance. In doing so, he established a connection between these biblical stories and the actual situation as it existed at the time. Some of these locations have failed to survive the test of time and today live on exclusively in the photos that Scholten had shot.

A remarkable element found in Scholten’s photographic oeuvre are his corporate reportages, e.g. such as those produced for a tannery and a melon gathering company. The reportage on the harvesting of oranges serves as a perfect example of his photojournalistic ability. Scholten captured the entire process, ranging from the oranges growing on the tree, the harvesting, packaging, and transport, followed by the loading of the fruit onto ships at anchor in the middle of the sea.

Immediately upon returning to the Netherlands, Scholten began making preparations for the publication of his Palestine photos, as well as the scriptural texts that would accompany the images. His plan was to produce a series of book volumes illustrating the entire Bible—verse after verse—in photographs. The books were then to be translated into various languages. Because of the ambitious and time-consuming nature of the project, Scholten’s plan was only ever partially realised. To complete the first two volumes, it took him five years. It was a major task: on one hand studying the Bible, the Quran, and the Talmud, finding the suitable passages and the photo material to accompany it; on the other hand, negotiating with the printer and all of the practical problems and obstacles occurring in the process. At the age of forty-seven, Scholten himself experienced a major personal setback. In a postcard sent from Paris on 9 February 1928 to his pen pal Geertje Pooyer, a disabled woman from Volendam with whom Scholten had corresponded for years, he wrote: ‘Dear Geert, Received a terrible message from Palestine, that, due to a blunder made by customs, all of my things, all of the chests with 6,000 books ! have been sold. I am completely in a daze, a real disaster, that’s incalculable. Bye then. Your Frank.’ On 11 February 1928, Scholten posted the following message: ‘Dear Geert, So terrible is the loss of all these books (6,000 volumes) that it has made me totally sick. I’d spent twenty years collecting them, all works of art and literature. Bye then. Your Frank.’

One-and-a-half years later, Scholten was struck by another calamity. For the first time in his life, he was in financial trouble. The year 1929 had been a disastrous year for all stockholders—Scholten was no exception. On 3 November 1929, he again wrote from Paris: ‘Dear Geert, Bad news from my uncle’s office, something’s happened there. I myself have no money, can only get it in a couple days, have to borrow money from acquaintances. But don’t worry. Your Frank.’ Notwithstanding, Scholten remained undeterred in carrying out his ambitious plans to illustrate the Bible with the photos he had taken in Palestine and to publish them in different languages. By this time, the first edition, published in French under the title La Palestine Illustrée (‘Palestine Illustrated’), had already been completed. Two volumes featuring 820 photos were published that same year in Paris. Scholten himself had personally selected each photo from among the vast number of shots (circa 27,000). The corresponding negatives had served as the basis for the reproductions, which were printed in copper intaglio. Applying this technique, the prints acquired a beautiful, velvety effect. Traces of retouching, used to accentuate important details, are still visible in the emulsion layer.

All parts of the book were printed on quality Alfa film paper for an edition of at least 1,000 copies. The size of the edition was by no means arbitrary and in fact a deliberate decision: the costs of preparing the copper printing plate were profitable for an edition of 1,000 copies. Both books have a format of 27.2×23.3 cm, with the photos and texts printed on separate pages. The German edition was printed in Stuttgart by Julius Hoffman in 1930. One year later, in 1931, the English edition was realised by the publisher G. Robinson Lees M.A. and printed by Longmans, Green & Co.

Apparently, publishing a second edition so soon after the first landed Scholten in financial trouble. He sought help from his well-to-do stepmother, but this only ended in a fiasco, with her resolutely turning down his request. In a postcard sent from Berlin dated 9 September 1931: ‘Dear Geert, There are such difficulties concerning money matters that it makes me sick. My mother has more than one million guilders in her possession and won’t even contribute a penny towards my work. What hate can lead to…? Your Frank.’ Evidently, Scholten’s relationship with his stepmother was marred. Embittered, but not broken, Scholten went in search of an alternative solution. He established contacts with seventy-two prominent academics, including: the rector of the University of Louvain, Prof. J. Coppens; the rector of the Institut Catholique (‘Catholic Institute’) in Paris, A. Baudrillart; the author of the book Op Bijbelschen Bodem (‘On Biblical Ground’), Prof. H.Th. Obbink; and the Dutch orientalist, F.M.Th. Böhl. Each of these men co-signed a letter of recommendation, which Scholten used to raise investment capital for his project. The first Dutch-language volume was released in 1935 by the Sijthoff publishing company in Leiden, featuring 449 photos. The second volume of the Dutch edition, however, never came to fruition. It was also at this time that Scholten’s frequent visits to Berlin came to an end. With the growth of National Socialism and the rise of Hitler’s regime, Scholten is likely to experienced difficulties in Germany when it came to the work he was doing with respect to Palestine.

Letters and newspaper clippings that have been preserved indicate that Scholten’s photobooks received positive reviews in the world press. They also garnered admiration from the political and academic elite of his day, including King George in the United Kingdom, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, the German emperor Wilhelm II, Pope Pius XI, the archbishop of Canterbury, the president of Germany Von Hindenburg, Mussolini, the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf, the rector of the aforementioned Institut Catholique in Paris, Alfred Baudrillart, the Chief Rabbi of France, Israël Lévi, and Nahum Sokolow, the president of The Executive World Zionist Organization. Scholten was copied everywhere, received a royal distinction, and was invited by Emperor Wilhelm to have breakfast in Doorn. The interest in Scholten’s photobooks and the recognition for his work proved to be short-lived, however, most likely due to the political situation at the time.

Besides photobooks, Scholten also made photo albums, which were probably used to organise, manage, and annotate the vast number of photos in his possession. The Dutch albums were named according to where the photographs were taken: The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Vlissingen, Middelburg, Scheveningen, Drenthe, Leeuwarden, as well as North Holland, Friesland, and Limburg. An exception to these is one album concerning ‘Letterkunde in Nederland’, which holds a collection of photographic depictions of buildings related to Dutch literature found in various locations. Scholten’s approach in this album a harbinger of his systematic approach to categorising his photos of Palestine as he saw fit. On his way to the Holy Land, Scholten also shot photos in Rome and Greece. These were also organised into two separate photo albums.

For his shots of Palestine, Scholten assembled forty-eight albums, compiled from approximately 3,200 images selected from his total output. The photos are divided into geographic regions and organised in series according to a given theme. In a number of albums, the photos have been furnished with highly detailed captions. These albums with annotated photos tell a story all their own. Because of the context in which they are presented, they communicate something different when compared to loose photos or the photos featured in Scholten’s books. The sequence of the photos is in part determined by Scholten’s own preference, but as well in part by his systematic approach. The albums function as interesting study material for Palestine as well as Scholten himself as an individual. They are not family photo albums, but rather a preparatory stage in the production of photobooks as a means of presentation for showing pictures to third parties. Scholten compiled the following series of photos (listed by the original title):

Jerusalem: 9 albums – Jerusalem I to Jerusalem IX (one album missing)

Judaea: 18 albums – Judaea I to Judaea XVIII (one album missing)

Transjordanië: 3 albums – Transjordanië I t/m Transjordanië III

Galilaea: 1 album – Galilaea I

Samaria: 5 albums – Samaria I t/m Samaria V and Haifa Acca (two albums missing)

Sanctuairs (‘Sanctuaries’): 6 albums – Sanctuairs I t/m Sanctuairs VI (one album missing)

Choses interessantes (‘Topics of Interest’): 3 albums – Choses interessantes I t/m Choses interessantes III

History: 2 albums – History I and History II

Vie des Saintes (‘Life of the Saints’) I: one album

Maisons religieuses (‘Religious Houses’): one album

One album is without a title;

Three albums have no flyleaves, making it difficult to determine to which series they belong.

Frank Scholten left no written information behind concerning his working method and the choices he made with respect to photographic tools available to him. Yet the photos that do exist speak for themselves and provide us with information regarding the technology he applied. Scholten photographed on nitrate negatives, from which he made contact prints on gaslight paper, such as Velox photo paper. A working approach of this nature was typical for amateur photographers at the start of the twentieth century. In addition to Velox, one also finds other gaslight paper logos on the reverse of the unpasted photos, such as Radix, Agfa LUPEX, or Agfa SELO. Scholten photographed with an old 9×12 camera for sheet film (nitrate negatives with a gelatin base). This simple and effective photographic process was most suitable for the travel-oriented Scholten. The required darkroom supplies, e.g. photo material, contact frame, chemicals, and developing trays, were easy transportable to any destination, ensuring that the shots taken could be developed and printed on the spot. This as well explains how Scholten managed to achieve such an immense production of photos within a relatively short period of three years.

Scholten used a travel camera or a reflex camera of an unknown brand. It is likely to have been the same ‘oude kiekkast’ (‘old snapshot box’) that he had used previously back in the Netherlands. The only thing that can be said about his camera with certainty is that it could only be used for shooting horizontal shots—all of Scholten’s photos are horizontal in format. The contact prints of these images are in the format 7.7 (7.9)x10.6 cm. To vary the crop, he blocked out parts of the negative with black tape originally intended for taping off lantern plates. He also used round masks for this purpose. Contact prints made from parts of negatives reworked in this manner resulted in smaller photos of various dimensions and shapes: oblong, vertical, or round.

Scholten’s camera is unlikely to have had interchangeable lenses. The effect of the telephoto lens was accomplished by taking repeated shots of the same object from an increasingly shorter distance, a method as well applied by the pioneers of photography. Examples of such a working approach can be found in the photography of Auguste Salzmann, of whom Scholten had numerous photos in his possession. In 1923, towards the end of his stay in the Middle East, Scholten received three new ‘kiekkasten’ (probably mirror reflex cameras) from Germany. The sheet film format for these cameras was somewhat larger than that of his old camera, perhaps as well with objectives of a higher quality, as these larger photos are visually sharper and have a better exposure.

For Scholten, the camera proved to be not only an extension of his eye, but also a reflection of his knowledge, his emotions, and his soul. It was not just a medium to register, but more than anything to communicate and draw attention to the diversity of the physical surroundings.

Many of Scholten’s photos confirm the value he placed on the aesthetic representation of the photographed scenes. The location of a photo’s visual elements, its composition, and the application of the golden ratio were all given consideration. Scholten was equally attentive to elements specific to photography, e.g. framing, the interplay of light, diagonal composition, and motion blur.

Characteristic of Scholten’s work is that, in most situations, he photographed his subjects frontally—something that could be confrontational. His Palestine photos possess a social documentary quality and reveal a photographic working method that is remarkably modern, e.g. focusing on contemporary aspects of life, incorporating diagonal visual compositions, close-ups, as well as photographing from differing lines of sight and vantage points in order to achieve a variety of visual effects. Scholten employed both worm’s-eye and bird’s-eye views. From the worm’s-eye view, Scholten was able to show the object photographed from below. In doing so, the object appeared distorted, giving the composition a certain dynamic. By applying the bird’s-eye perspective, Scholten was able to convey an overview of the situation at hand. In addition to loose shots, he made reportages as complete visual narratives. Scholten’s journalistic approach to working is exceptional, as reportage photography was relatively new at this time. It was not until the late 1920s, following the introduction of the Leica and later other 35 mm cameras, that journalistic photography began to blossom.

Frank Scholten’s photographic oeuvre is unique because of the purpose he assigned to photography. Thanks to his perception of the medium’s possibilities, he was able to realise an extraordinarily impressive and ambitious project: the visualisation of the Bible. The choice of Palestine as his working territory is particularly special, because the Middle East lay outside the Netherlands’ sphere of influence. The economic/ political interest of the Netherlands with respect to this region was minimal at the time. In striving towards the realisation of his primary aim, he succeeded in creating a complete visual map of the Holy Land at the onset of the twentieth century. He portrayed Palestine as the country of the biblical tradition—the birthplace of the religions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims—as a country where all faiths and ethnic groups live side by side in peace, whereas the political reality was in fact often very different. Scholten intentionally took a neutral stance in photographing what he saw. His position was additionally strengthened by the absence of any written remark with regards to himself and his work. For Scholten, the photo was the intermediary that was given the right to speak. The photographer’s role was reduced to that of someone simply carrying out his job, i.e. it shifted to the background, thus creating a subtle balance between subjective observation and objective truth. Scholten’s photos and his ideas concerning the application of photography brought new insights to the history of photography. His conceptual vision with respect to surveying the Holy Land, as well as the way in which images were then combined with text fragments from the Bible, the Quran, and the Talmud, may be compared to two other captivating projects in the history of photography: first, the typology of German ethnic groups compiled by the German photographer, August Sander (1876-1964); second, the systematic photographic registration of Native American culture in North America, produced by the American photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952).


Primary bibliography

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

François Scholten, La Palestine Illustrée. Tableau complet de la terre Sainte par la photographie, Évoquant les souvenirs de la bible, du talmud et du coran, et se rapportant au passé comme au présent (…). I. La Porte d’entrée Jaffa, Parijs (Budry) 1929 (idem Duitse ed.: Palästina. Bible, Talmud, Kora. Eine vollständige Darstellung aller Textstellen in eigenen künstlerischen Aufnahmen aus der Gegenwart und Vergangenheid des Heiligen Landes. I. Die Eingangspforte Jaffa, Stuttgart (Julius Hoffmann) 1930 ; Engelse ed.: Palestine Illustrated. Including references to passages illustrated in the Bible, the Talmud and the Koran. Volume I. The Gate of Entrance, Londen etc. (Longmans etc.) 1931; Ned. ed.: Palestina. Bijbel Talmud Koran. Een volledige illustratie van alle teksten door middel van eigen artistieke foto’s uit het heden en verleden van het Heilig Land. I. Jaffa de toegangspoort. De toegangspoort Jaffa I, Leiden (Sijthoff) 1935).

François Scholten, La Palestine Illustrée. Tableau complet de la terre Sainte par la photographie, Évoquant les souvenirs de la bible, du talmud et du coran, et se rapportant au passé comme au présent (…). II. Jaffa la Belle, Parijs (Budry) 1929 (idem Duitse ed.: Palästina. Bible, Talmud, Koran. Eine vollständige Darstellung aller Textstellen in eigenen künstlerischen Aufnahmen aus der Gegenwart und Vergangenheid des Heiligen Landes. II. Jaffa, die Schone, Stuttgart (Julius Hoffmann) 1930; Engelse ed.: Palestine Illustrated. Including references to passages illustrated in the Bible, the Talmud and the Koran. Volume II. Jaffa the Beauty, Londen etc. (Longmans etc.) 1931)

Secondary bibliography

(publicaties over de fotograaf en zijn werk)

Anoniem, [tekst in Hebreeuws], in Ha’aretz (The Palestine news) datum onbekend.

Arif al-Azzuni, [verslag van Scholtens verblijf in Palestina, tekst in Arabisch], in La Palestine datum onbekend [ca. 1923].

Anoniem, [verslag van Scholtens verblijf in Palestina, tekst in Arabisch], in Al Lataif al Musawara [geïllustreerd Egyptisch tijdschrift] datum onbekend [tussen 1923 en 1929].

Anoniem, Jaffa si imprejurímile ei [Jaffa en zijn omgeving; tekst in het Roemeens], in Adevërul 27 april 1923.

Anoniem, Bible pictures. Eight hundred photographs in first volume of big work, in The Universe. The catholic newspaper 13 februari 1924.

Anoniem, [bespreking tentoonstelling], in Evening Standard 21 februari 1924.

Charles H.L. Emanuel, Palestine in transition, in The Jewish Guardian 22 februari 1924.

Anoniem, “Palestine in transition” exhibition, in Daily Graphic 26 februari 1924.

Anoniem, Life in Palestine. Photographs of modern Jaffa, in The Times 26 februari 1924.

Anoniem, “Palestine in transition.” Over two thousend photographs of Jaffa, in The Christian Endeavour Times 27 februari 1924.

Anoniem, Exhibitions. Palestine in transition, in The British journal of photography 29 februari 1924.

Anoniem, “Palestine in transition”, in The Jewish Chronical 29 februari 1924.

Anoniem, 22000 Photo’s van Palestina, in Het beloofde land maart 1924.

Anoniem, Illustrating the Bible. Photographer’s 22,000 pictures of Palestine, in The Universe. The catholic newspaper 7 maart 1924.

Anoniem, Palestine photographs, in The Palestine weekly 21 maart 1924.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée, in Het Centrum datum onbekend [ca. 1929].

Anoniem, Les Beaux Livres du Pays d’Israel. La Palestine illustrée (J. Budry, Editeur), in La Terre Retrouvée 25 november 1929.

Paul Gounelle, La Palestine illustrée, in Le Christianisme au XXe siècle 58 (12 december 1929) 50.

Anoniem, Palestina in platen. Een prachtwerk van foto’s en teksten, in Nieuwe Amsterdamsche Courant. Algemeen Handelsblad 31 december 1929.

Anoniem, “La Palestine illustrée”, in Falastin (Palestine newspaper). Arab national organ. English edition 18 januari 1930.

Anoniem, [boekaankondiging, tekst in Arabisch], in La Palestine 21 januari 1930.

R.P., La Palestine illustrée, in Journal de Genève 9 februari 1930.

A.T., La Palestine illustrée, in De Nederlander. Dagblad tot verbreiding van de christelijk-historische beginselen 15 februari 1930.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée, in Evangile et Liberté 19 februari 1930.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée. Une riche encyclopédie, in La Croix 51 (28 februari 1930) 14416.

J.L., La Palestine illustrée, in Journal des Ecoles du Dimanche 43 (maart 1930) 3.

Anoniem, Het Heilige Land, in De Maasbode [Avondblad] 6 maart 1930.

R.N., La Palestine illustrée, in Journal des Débats politiques et littéraires 30 april 1930.

Jeanne-E. Durand, Images Palestiniennes, in La Vie Catholique 31 mei 1930.

Louis Jalabert, Francois Scholten. La Palestine illustrée, in Etudes. Revue catholique d’intérêt général 5 juni 1930.

Anoniem, Palestina, in Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant 6 juni 1930.

V.Z., La Palestine, illustrée par Francois Scholten, in Het Vaderland 18 juli 1930.

André Courtet, François Scholten. La Palestine illustrée, in Gazette des Beaux-Arts augustus 1930.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée, in La Libre Belgique 2 augustus 1930.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée, in La Nation Belge 7 augustus 1930.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée, in Le Bien Public 12 augustus 1930.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée de Francois Scholten, in L’indépendance Belge 22 augustus 1930.

Otto Cohausz, Ein neues Palästinawerk, in Germania. Zeitung fü̈r das Deutsche Volk 3 september [jaar onbekend; ca. 1930].

Paul Lesourd, La Palestine illustrée, in Figaro 30 december 1930.

M.S., La Palestine illustrée, in Le Correspondant 10 januari 1931.

Anoniem, Frank Scholten, “Palästina”. Bibel, Talmud, Koran, in Berliner Börsen-Courier 63 (31 mei 1931) 247.

K. Lewin, Palästina, in Der Abend. Spätausgabe des “Vorwärts” 10 juni 1931.

Otto Dibelius, Sonntagsspiegel, in Der Tag (14 juni 1931) 142.

Marg. Roschke, Palästina. Bibel, Talmud, Koran, in Der Reichsbote 17 juni 1931.

Georg Landauer, Das illustrierte Palästina, in Judische Rundschau 26 juni 1931.

Gotthold Weil, [boekbespreking], in Jüdische Presszentrale Zü̈rich juli 1931.

F.C.E., Frank Scholten, Palästina, in Die Leuchte. Unabhangige Monatschrift fü̈r und über Freimaurerei juli 1931.

Anoniem, Die Kulissen der Bibel photographiert, in Israelitische! Familienblatt 9 juli 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking, tekst in Hebreeuws], in Ha’aretz (The Palestine News) 10 juli 1931.

Gotthold Weil, “Palästina”, in Berliner Tageblatt und Handelszeitung 12 juli 1931.

Margarethe Roschke, Bücher, von denen man spricht. Ein Meisterwerk, in Der Reichsbote 25 juli 1931.

O., Frank Scholten, Palästina, in Algemeen weekblad voor christendom en cultuur 31 juli 1931.

Franz Carl Endres, Palästina, in National-Zeitung 2 augustus 1931.

Anoniem, Palästina [tekst in Hongaars], in Pesti Hirlap 11 augustus 1931.

Fd., Ein Monumentalwerk über Palästina, in Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung 70 (12 augustus 1931) 365.

HR., Glaubensbücher in Bildern, in Hannoverscher Kurier 22 augustus 1931.

R. von Mach, [boekbespreking], in Kölnische Zeitung 23 augustus 1931.

Alfred Maderno, Wie Sie die Welt sehen, in Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger 30 augustus 1931.

Anoniem, Palästina. Bibel – Talmud – Koran, in Deutscher Hausschatz 57 (september 1931) 12.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Neueste Nachrichten aus dem Morgenlande september 1931.

gl., Tausend Jahre wie ein Tag…, in Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte september 1931.

Kirschner, Bibel und Talmud im Photo, in Das Jü̈dische Echo 4 september 1931.

Henri Asselberghs, Een monumentaal werk over Palestina, in Utrechtsch provinciaal en stedelijk dagblad 12 september 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Westermanns Monatshefte oktober 1931.

b., Palästina, Bibel, Talmud und Koran, in Palästina. Zeitschrift fü̈r den Aufbau Palästinas oktober-november 1931.

Anoniem, Monumentaal werk vol sfeer en sterke contrasten – François Scholten’s fotografische schepping, in De Telegraaf 3 oktober 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Longmans’ Literary News (15 oktober 1931) 35.

Anoniem, Palestine illustrated, in Scots Observer 22 oktober 1931.

Ditlef Nielsen, Ny Palestina Billedbog, in Politiken 24 oktober 1931.

Görnandt, Bibel in Photographien, in Potsdamer Tageszeitung 24 oktober 1931.

Anoniem, Palästina-Probleme, in Königsberger Hartungsche Zeitung 29 oktober 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in De Standaard 29 oktober 1931.

O., [boekbespreking], in Kerkbeurtenblad 31 oktober [ca. 1931].

Fl., Ein neues Palästinaprachtwerk, in Der Orient november-december 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Sunday Times 1 november 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Chronicle News 2 november 1931.

Longmans, [boekbespreking], in The Star 5 november 1931.

Anoniem, Palestine from all angels. Remarkable volumes of photographs, in Aberdeen Press and Journal 6 november 1931.

Anoniem, Remarkable work on Palestine, in The Hampshire Telegraph & Post. The Naval Chronide 6 november 1931.

Anoniem, Palestina i billeder [tekst in Noors], in Aftenposten 11 november 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Schwäbischer Merkur 11 november 1931.

Anoniem, Jaffa, in Sheffield Daily Telegraph 12 november 1931.

E.M.G.-J., [boekbespreking], in The Cambridge Review 13 november 1931.

Walter Gutkelch, Religiöse Photographie, in Die Literarische Welt 13 november 1931.

Anoniem, A sumptuous book about Palestine, in The Universe. The catholic newspaper 13 november 1931.

Anoniem, Pictures of Palestine, Entrancing views of Jaffa and its environs, in The Nottingham Guardian 16 november 1931.

Anoniem, Palestinian pictures, in The Church Times 20 november 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in The Scotsman 23 november 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in The Yorkshire Post 2 december 1931.

Anoniem, A treasury, in Christian world 3 december 1931.

Anoniem, Incomparable volumes on Palestine, in The Church of England Newspaper 4 december 1931.

Anoniem, Palestine illustrated, in The Jewish Chronical. The organ of British Jewry 4 december 1931.

Anoniem, Palestine illustrated, in The Spectator 5 december 1931.

E.D.R., [boekbespreking], in The Tablet 5 december 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in The Irish Churchman 1 o december 1931.

Anoniem, Biblical Palestine, in The Age 12 december 1931.

A.P., Bildbücher über das Gelobte Land, in Frankfurter Zeitung 13 december 1931.

Anoniem, Jaffa in pictures, in The Glasgow Herald 16 december 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in The Guardian 18 december 1931.

Fr. Andres, Scholten, Frank, Palästina, in Kölnische Volkszeitung 24 december 1931.

T. Crouther Gordon, [boekbespreking], in Scots Observer 24 december 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Bookman (1931) kerstnummer.

D. Cohen, Boekbespreking. Jaffa, in Het beloofde land 31 december 1931.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in British weekly 31 december 1931.

A.F.D., [boekbespreking], in The Month januari 1932.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Catholic Times 1 januari 1932.

Anoniem, “Palestine illustrated”, in Dominion museum bulletin 2 januari 1932.

Anoniem, A wonderful work on Palestine, in The Hongkong Telegraph 11 januari 1932.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Sussex Daily News 25 januari 1932.

Anoniem, Photographie, in The Palestine bulletin 28 januari 1932.

Anoniem, Palestine illustrated, in The Clergy Review februari 1932.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Recherches de science religieuse 22 (februari 1932) 1.

J.W.C.W., [boekbespreking], in The Oxford magazine 25 februari 1932.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Aberdeen University review maart 1932.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in The Granta 41 (4 maart 1932) 931.

Anoniem, The Holy Land in pictures, in Irish Independent 7 maart 1932.

A. Vincent, [boekbespreking], in Le Correspondant 10 maart 1932.

Anoniem, Kent gij Het Heilig Land? Een prachtig plaatwerk over Palestina, in De Amstelbode 12 maart 1932.

D. , Frank Scholten, in Het beloofde land 15 april 1932.

A.W., [boekbespreking], in Central-Verein-Zeitung 22 april 1932.

G. Faber, Meine diesjahrige Palästinareise, in Evangelisches Kirchenblatt fü̈r Württemberg mei 1932.

C.M.V., Een levend boek, in Het volk. Dagblad voor de arbeiderspartij 10 mei 1932.

Anoniem, “Palestine illustrated”, in De Nieuwe Courant 13 mei 1932.

F.W.G., [boekbespreking], in De heraut voor de gereformeerde kerken in Nederland 29 mei 1932.

I. Maarsen, Een vertraagde Palestina-film, in De vrijdagavond. Joodsch weekblad 9 (17 juni 1932) 12.

Noach Braun, [boekbespreking, tekst in Hebreeuws], in Kirjath Sepher. A quarterly biliographical review juli 1932.

M.A. van den Oudenrijn, Ein Bilderbuch vom Hl. Land, in Freiburger Nachrichten 3 december 1932.

H., Palestine pictures, in New Judea februari/maart 1933.

v. Z., Een Nederlander in Nieuw-Palestina, in Van Houten’s eigen tijdschrift april 1934.

Anoniem, De boekenkast, in Het boek van Vlaanderen 1935.

Anoniem, Paas-boekenhalfuur, in Avro Radio Bode 8 (19 april 1935) 16.

Anoniem, Palestina in beeld, in Algemeen Handelsblad 27 april 1935.

D.S.v.Z., Een werelduitgave van Heden en Verleden van Het Heilige Land, in Het Vaderland 1 mei 1935.

Anoniem, La Palestine illustrée. Een Nederlandsche uitgave, in De Maasbode 4 mei 1935.

O., [boekbespreking], in Algemeen weekblad voor christendom en cultuur (10 mei 1935) 28.

Henri Asselberghs, Monumentaal Ned. werk over Palestina, in Utrechtsch provinciaal en stedelijk dagblad 15 mei 1935.

Anoniem, Palestina. Het land, waar Jesus predikte, in Limburger koerier 8 juni 1935.

Anoniem, Palestina. Een Bijbel in beeld, in Provinciale Noordbrabantsche en ‘s-Hertogenbossche courant 29 juni 1935.

Anoniem, Heden en verleden van het Heilige Land, in De Standaard 29 juni 1935.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Het ochtendblad van De Avondpost 14 juli 1935.

Karel Lautenschütz, [boekbespreking], in St. Willibrordusklok 20 juli 1935.

Anoniem, Een schitterend werk, in Het Laatste nieuws 1 augustus 1935.

Anoniem, Een Bijbel-illustratie. Hollandse editie van Frank Scholten’s levenswerk, in Vooruit. Dagblad voor de arbeiderspartij 21 augustus 1935.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in De Telegraaf 8 september 1935.

Anoniem, Palestina, in Gazet van Antwerpen 14 september 1935.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden 14 september 1935.

Anoniem, Het Bijbelsche land in beeld, in De Telegraaf 22 september 1935.

N. Greitemann, [boekbespreking], in Het Schild. Apologetisch maandschrift 17 (4 oktober 1935) 4.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in De Residentiebode 7 oktober 1935.

J J.L. van Zuylen, Het levenswerk van een Nederlander, in Nederlandsch fabrikaat 20 oktober 1935.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in Middelburgsche courant 7 november 1935.

b.b., Palästina im Bilde, in Prager Presse 10 november 1935.

Anoniem, [boekbespreking], in De katholieke illustratie 26 maart 1936.

O.T., [boekbespreking], in La Centrale 16 (oktober 1938) 10.

Mattie Boom, Vrede in het Midden-Oosten. Frank Scholten fotografeert Palestina, in Nieuwsbrief NFg (augustus 2003) 39, p. 4-7.


1924 (e) Londen, Art Gallery (Brook Street 4), Palestine in Transition.


Amsterdam, Stadsarchief.

Leiden, Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten (NINO).

Utrecht, Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht.


Leiden, Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten (NINO).

Utrecht, Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht.