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Interview with Merel Kappelhoff, Head of Press & PR of Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

If you are interested in photography, Foam is the perfect place for you to visit. Foam is all about photography and annually receives over 200,000 visitors at the canal side location on the Keizersgracht.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam


by Meryem Aksoy

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It is unthinkable to spend time in Amsterdam without visiting the museums. If you are interested in photography, Foam is the perfect place for you to visit. Foam is all about photography and annually receives over 200,000 visitors at the canal side location on the Keizersgracht. Foam, or Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, hosts at least three exhibitions at the same time. Since 2001, besides large exhibitions, Foam also presents young talent in smaller, short-term exhibitions. I asked Merel Kappelhoff, Head of Press & PR of Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, in order to learn more about Foam, current and upcoming exhibitions & events, Foam Magazine, and future plans.

Merel Kappelhoff - Foam

Merel Kappelhoff (with white pants) - Foam

Merel, please tell us about your art experience. When did you first become interested in art? What inspired you?

My grandmother was an artist, my father an architect, my favourite aunt a concert pianist, art was always around me growing up. My parents took me and my brothers to cultural events and museums often. My father is an enthusiastic amateur photographer and we had a dark room in the attic of our house. I was in there with him a lot, helping out printing his photos and I loved the mystery of it, the appearing of images in a bath of liquid, working in the dark with just some red light. When I was 8 years old he gave me my first camera. I never aspired to become a professional photographer myself but this laid the foundation of my love for art and in particular photography.

Reflected Works from the Foam Collection (c) Foam Christian van der Kooy

Reflected Works from the Foam Collection (c) Foam Christian van der Kooy

Foam is dedicated to photography. Could you tell us about Foam and the overall concept?

Foam discovers, develops, defines, publishes and stimulates. In this process, scouting and presenting young, emerging talent is one of our distinguishing qualities. Many activities take place from within the Amsterdam museum, but for specific projects, Foam also engages international audiences.

" Foam is photography. We share our love for the medium via the museum in Amsterdam, the international Foam Magazine, online, our collection and with all our activities. "

Foam is open, inspiring, active and informative. Through exhibitions, publications, public events and projects Foam focuses on relevant developments in photography. Most importantly exhibiting the versatility of photography, stimulating young talent and engaging in connections. Maintaining the highest standard to share the power of photography with the largest audience possible.

What kind of exhibitions do you host? How many different exhibitions do your visitors can see throughout the year?

Foam is the place for photography in all her forms: documentary, contemporary and historical. Besides large exhibitions, in which the work of (world) famous photographers is shown, Foam also presents young talent in smaller, short-term exhibitions. At least three exhibitions are shown at the same time. Averaging sixteen exhibitions a year, there are almost always multiple exhibitions on show at one time. Most of them initiated and produced by Foam. But we also show exhibitions abroad, such as our traveling Foam Talent exhibition, and Still/Life, an exhibition with Dutch photographers, and much more.

Henk Wildschut (c) Foam 2016 Photo Christian van der Kooy

Henk Wildschut (c) Foam 2016 Photo Christian van der Kooy

In general, what is your goal in curating art exhibitions?

At Foam, we want to show all aspects of the photographic medium. Within every segment of photography we look for the highest possible quality there is. So this is always the first criteria. Through our exhibitions, we want to surprise and educate our visitors by combining well-known names and emerging talent. We do focus more on upcoming talent, for example with Foam 3h, our exhibition space dedicated to young up-and-coming talent. I think it’s amazing to see a ‘3h generation’ rise and, with that, receive more acknowledgment.

What is the secret of making a museum successful?

We try to be up-to-date and focus on urgency. We look at what’s happening right now, and what we can add to this. It’s important to be open, and to stay in touch with a young generation. To be able to respond to current events and collaborate with sometimes unexpected parties which can give new and fresh ideas and perspectives. We make connections, on many levels, with photography as our basis. The trick is to never sit back, to always improve and innovate, engage and collaborate. This way our audience is never bored, and neither are we.

Library and Foam 3h exhibition space (c) Foam Photo Christian van der Kooy

Library and Foam 3h exhibition space (c) Foam Photo Christian van der Kooy

What can we see now in Foam, could you tell us about your active exhibition? Who are the artists? What are their concepts?

At the moment we have 4 exhibitions:

Samuel Gratacap - Les Invisibles (until 9 September)

Since 2007 photographer Samuel Gratacap (1982, FR) has been collecting the stories of the migrants he has come to know in Tunisia, Libya and Italy. Based on the testimonies of the people he meets, he follows their routes and documents its transitory spaces along the Mediterranean Sea, traveling in the opposite direction. He goes beyond the scope of most news media outlets and uncovers deplorable conditions that reveal the economy surrounding migration - from human smuggling to slavery. This results in both poetic and more conceptual works, allowing his photography to move between art and photojournalism.

recommended: Olympus Fellowship - Thomas Albdorf(until 9 September)

Thomas Albdorf (1982, Austria) combines classic photographic genres with modern visual techniques. His landscapes and still-lifes are boldly aesthetical, but his use of the photographic medium is highly conceptual. Using both analogue and digital techniques, Albdorf edits photographs of perennial visual clichés found online (such as a setting sun, a mountainous landscape) after which he subjects these found photos to image recognition software and automatic image generation. The resulting image is recognisable and surrealistic at the same time. It is Albdorf’s way of critically interrogating stereotypes in our digital online visual culture.

Structures of Identity - Photography from The Walther Collection(until 29 August)

A selection of photographic works from the famous collection of German-American collector Artur Walther (b. 1948) which examines how photographers have used portraiture to affirm or challenge social stereotypes constructed around notions of race, gender, class, and nationality. The exhibition highlights how subjectivity and social identity have been shaped and regarded within the history of the photographic medium. Iconic works by photographers including August Sander, Richard Avedon and J.D. Ojeikere are combined with the work of contemporary photographers like YtoBarrada, Samuel Fosso, ZaneleMuholi and Guy Tillim. Works of vernacular photography, from a range of cultures and historical periods, are also on view.

Foam 3h Stelios Kallinikou – Studies in Geology(until 2 September)

Stelios Kallinikou’s ongoing series Studies in Geology presents a group of photographs taken in an ancient mine hidden in the pine forests of Troodos Mountains, the largest mountain range in Cyprus. The landscape, as a result of our collective action, becomes a vehicle for his thoughts on the place, history, time and space –all fundamental issues related to human nature.

Kallinikou enters the crater of the mine and the resulting lake to observe the earth as an open body. He meticulously examines the ground and the surface of the lake for traces of human gesture as it has been inscribed throughout time. The result is a fascinating series at the edge of photography and painting in which Kallinikou is in constant dialogue with the act of seeing whilst considering new possibilities and limitations of the photographic medium.

Vincent Delbrouck Foam 3h door CvdK

Vincent Delbrouck Foam 3h door CvdK

What are the upcoming exhibitions in Foam? Please share us the schedule and details of your upcoming exhibitions.

We have coming up:

7 September - 12 December 2018
Masahisa Fukase - Private Scenes

Foam presents a large-scale retrospective with original prints of Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase (Hokkaido, 1934 – 2012). His oeuvre remained largely inaccessible for over two decades, until the foundation of the Masahisa Fukase Archives in 2014. In addition to his seminal body of work Ravens, the exhibition contains important photo series, publications and documentation dating from the early 1960s to 1992.

Fukase incorporated his personal struggle with loss and depression in his work in a surprisingly playful manner. His subjects were often personal and intimate. Over the years his wife Yoko, his dying father, his beloved cat Sasuke and the artist himself featured in often ludic, and at times melancholic visual narratives. Fukase worked almost exclusively in series, some of which came about over the course of several decades. Together, the works form a unique visual biography of one of the most radical and experimental photographers of his generation.

7 September - 28 October 2018
Foam 3h: SentaSimond - Rayon Vert

SentaSimond's work focuses on an intimate approach to the female body and portraiture. Her photographs feature a circle of acquaintances and respond to existing, and too often clichéd, representation of femininity. Simond doesn’t take her photographs on a built set but against a white background, often a white wall in the domestic surroundings of the model herself. The equipment is simple. The level of trust between the model and the photographer is high. This minimal method allows Simond to get close to her subjects. Model and photographer move around each other which results into unexpected and dynamic perspectives. Simond tries to capture the intimate moments, undirected. The portrayed women are strong and soft at the same time. Foam will show black-and-white as well as colour works including a tryptic of Simond’s portraits in an intimate exhibition at Foam 3h, Foam’s space for young photographers.

14 September - 18 November 2018
Loading... Works from the Foam Collection

Since 2007 Foam has been actively working on its own photography collection. This collection was first presented to the public in 2014 in the exhibition Reflected – Works from the Foam Collection. Since then, the collection has expanded from over 400 to around 550 works of art. Loading… Works from the Foam Collection is focused on the additions from the last five years. The title of the exhibition is a reference to a collection that is in constant development. Additionally, the collection focuses exclusively on contemporary photography, with a strong emphasis on young talent. It grows alongside the potential and development of the featured young artists and in so doing attempts to signal and highlight the most recent developments in the medium. In Loading… Works from the Foam Collection installation shots from previously presented works in Foam, form the background of the exhibition, reminding us of the relationship that Foam has built up with the artists and their work.

14 September - 18 November 2018
Paul MpagiSepuya - Double Enclosure

Paul MpagiSepuya (1982, VS) explores the conventions of portrait photography and the role of the studio in his work. Sepuya’s photographs often contain fragments or compilations from earlier work, which appear in the image as strips or cuttings, overlap the camera lens or are pasted to the mirror of the studio in which he is taking his photos. Thus his images are not collages in the true sense of the word, but ingenious compositions created in front of the lens and recorded in a single shot.

Sepuya’s work is rooted in homoerotic visual culture. Friends, muses and intimates from the queer community are the subjects of his work. Body parts are revealed and concealed: the entire naked body is rarely shown. His provocative approach arouses a feeling of desire, to see what is hidden. This makes his work more than a dialogue of intimate relationships between the artist and those portrayed; it is also a visual exploration of ideas surrounding representation, identity and sexuality.

What was the most popular event that hosted in Foam? What was the story? Did you expect this result before the exhibition?

One of the most memorable exhibitions was a large Retrospective of Richard Avedon, for the opening people lined up until the end of the street and around the corner. We did expect this because his work is truly amazing and it was fantastic to have it all combined in an extensive exhibition shown in all of the galleries of Foam. Another great moment was more recently when Ai Weiwei was over to open his exhibition at Foam. But we also host smaller events with unknown photographers that end up being unforgettable successes because of their original angles.

Foam Magazine

Foam Magazine

You also publish your own magazine, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Foam Magazine is an international photography magazine we publish three times a year. Just like the museum, the magazine serves as a platform for all kinds of photography: from documentary to fashion and contemporary to historic, featuring both world-renowned image makers and lesser-known emerging talent. Foam Magazine is like an extension to the museum. The magazine offers different possibilities to present photography, other options to show work than we exhibit in the museum. Each issue of the magazine takes on a specific theme, which is explored through a variety of portfolios and essays. The high-quality paper and unusual design make Foam Magazine an eye-catching publication that appeals to a growing international audience. It is distributed in over 25 countries worldwide, connecting a global network of photographers, photography enthusiasts and professionals.

Foam Magazine has been awarded several prizes for both its high-grade graphic design and the quality of its content. Especially the annual Talent Issue, a special issue entirely devoted to Talent under 35 years of age, is much appreciated worldwide.

Foam Winkel door (c) Foam Photo Christian van der Kooy

Foam Winkel door (c) Foam Photo Christian van der Kooy

What can we find in Foam shop?

We have a fine collection of photobooks, posters, postcards and more. One of our main features is Foam Magazine, but we also have an in-house Gallery Foam Editions, where we sell a large selection of limited editions prints for very reasonable prices.

Visitors Foam 2015 (c) Foam Photo Coco Plooijer

Visitors Foam 2015 (c) Foam Photo Coco Plooijer

Could you tell us about Foam Membership? Is this the only way to support Foam individually?

With the indispensable support of our members, Foam has been able to develop and organise activities both within and outside the museum, like, for instance, our exhibitions, educational projects for schoolchildren and talent programmes. We have three levels of support:

Foam Fans are lovers of photography who hold our museum dear. In return for their support, we offer many benefits, like discounts in our bookshop, invitations for opening events and more. Club Foam is a dynamic group of photography and art enthusiasts between the ages of 25 and 40 who are actively involved with Foam. Foam Fund hold a share in Foam's success. Foam Fund is a dynamic and enterprising group of private individuals and businesses that make the museum's talent development and education projects possible. Besides the membership levels, Foam is supported by generous private donors that enable specific projects, and individuals that contribute with a one-time or annual donation. Another possibility is leaving a legacy.

The philosophy behind the Memberships of Foam is that we gather people who love photography and open the world of photography for them, to thank them for their support. The money they provide by being a member or donor we use to further develop our projects and this way they are really directly supporting a platform for photography.

In return we involve our patrons in these events, they get invitations and previews and we organise special events like studio visits and more. This way members get to see how their support is used. Foam Fund Members even receive a limited edition print of a photograph every year, to add to their collection.

How can any art lover corporation support Foam?

Being creative is something entrepreneurs and creatives both acknowledge, ever since Foam was established in 2001 we have had a structural collaboration with the private sector, it is part of our organisation's DNA. We rely for only 15% of our budget on the contribution coming from the municipality of Amsterdam. 30% of our income is generated through ticket sales and the remaining 55% comes from structural and project-based funding through sponsorships and from (private) foundations.

When we establish a new (corporate) sponsorship we always aim for a common interest or goal to go beyond the traditional sponsor-beneficiate relationship. For example talent development, contemporary photography of the highest international level, entrepreneurship and innovation. As a sponsor, you will help Foam to realise our ambition to be an outstanding talent scout discovering the new generation of photographers and set an international example in the world of photography.

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (c) Foam Photo Christian van der Kooy

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (c) Foam Photo Christian van der Kooy

How can our readers find Foam when they come to Amsterdam?

Foam is in the middle of Amsterdam, near the Muntplein/Vijzelstraat, in a beautiful Canal House. Since the centre of Amsterdam is not that big it is easy to walk there, following the water of the Keizersgracht, but there is also a tram (24, Stop Vijzelstraat) and the brand new subway also stops very close by.

Where is the best public place for understanding the art and culture of Amsterdam? and Why?

Foam of course! it is in the centre with its beautiful canals, it is in an old Canal House which was once owned by a local art collector. It’s renovated by one of the best Duch Architect Offices Benthem Crouwel. We present big names and young talent, we have an international audience but also a lot of national and local visitors from all ages. On top of this, we give a platform to very diverse artists, from photographers working with classic materials to very innovative image makers. Just like Amsterdam we are a melting pot, we are dynamic and up to date, but with a lot of history, and quality. And we serve the best appeltaart! (traditional Dutch Apple Pie).

Foam Staircase (c) Foam Photo Maarten Brinkgreve

Foam Staircase (c) Foam Photo Maarten Brinkgreve

What is next for Foam? Are there any future projects you are excited about and would like to share with us?

We will focus on three different things in the following years. First of all, to enlarge the international image of Foam through the magazine and international exhibitions in multiple places in the world. Second, to show and improve the development of young talent. Lastly, we want to expand our educational department. We work with all kinds of special groups in which photography is a way of bonding. For example, we give workshops for newcomers or special guided tours in Dutch sign language for people who are hard of hearing. These projects have been very interesting and it is fantastic to expand our audience and bring more and diverse people into contact with the power of photography. But there is lots more to explore and develop.

How can our readers follow your upcoming events?

If you want to know more about our exhibitions, projects and events check
You can also follow us on Facebook
Instagram: @foam_amsterdamand Twitter: @foam_amsterdam
Or subscribe to our newsletter to get updates:

Thank you Merel for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please visit website of Foam