With a career spanning over 40 years and a number of legendary photo books to her name - amongst them A hundred summers, a hundred winters - Bertien van Manen (1942) is known for her intimate, detailed portraits of life as others live it. Recent exhibitions include a large retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum, as well as exhibitions at MoMA, New York, the Metropolitan Museum Tokio, Japan and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland. Her work is part of the collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, MoMA, New York, and Maison Européenne de la Photographie Paris amongst others.
Van Manen started out photographing her children and family in the '70s, leading to her work as a fashion photographer. After being introduced to the work of Robert Frank and having grown bored of the fashion world, Van Manen aimed her camera at different topics, developing a more raw, spontaneous and personal approach.
She has documented the daily life of various social groups such as nuns, female migrant workers, and mining communities in the Appalachian Mountains, as well as life in the former Soviet Union and China. Van Manen immerses herself in the places and cultures she photographs, learning the language, living with the people whose lives she documents and forming lasting relationships. To blend into the scenery, Van Manen always works with small, simple handheld camera. The resulting images display an intimacy and directness that imbue her photographs with the unworldly otherness of lives unimagined. Van Manen's photographs display her ability to make approachable these lives with humanity, warmth and honesty.