Hans Bol

Hans Bol (b. in 1957, Amsterdam) is a Dutch photographer. A consistent, analogue approach to image and printmaking is what characterises Hans Bol’s photographic expression. He creates small, intimate, mostly analogue handmade prints. His work celebrates and refocuses on the beauty of analogue photography, a craft with which he has occupied himself for over 40 years.

Bol specialises in black and white photography and has been the regular printer of the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam for more than 20 years. In that capacity, all the big names in Dutch photographic history went through his hands: Oorthuys, van der Elsken, Klein, Rotgans, Wessing, etc. The skills needed to thoroughly print the work of these photographers he obviously also uses when making his own work. Hans Bol is also a photobook maker, his artist books are often accompanied by hand-made collector’s editions.

Previous exhibition venues include FOAM, Fotomuseum Den Haag, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Unseen and Haute Photographie. In 2020, Bol’s oeuvre was on view at a group show at Museum IJsselstein. His work is included in the collections of such museums as Rijksmuseum, Fotomuseum Den Haag, Het Nederlands Fotomuseum, Museum Beelden aan Zee and Fotomuseum Antwerpen.

In the project On My Doorstep, photographs range in technique from photogravures (toyobo) to handprinted silver gelatine and platinum-palladium prints. With these traditional 19th-century methods and a poetic approach to stillness and movement, Bol’s romantic aesthetics reveal through landscapes and scenes of nature. His work seeks, and finds, intimacy and tranquillity in the natural landscape of the Ooijpolder where the artist has been based for 30 years. On My Doorstep explores the notion of home and reveals the artist’s immediate surroundings. The title was inspired by the work of the American photographer Paul Strand, The World On My Doorstep (1994). His doorstep was literally the world at large. Bol’s doorstep – between 2020 and 2022 – was limited by necessity to a few kilometres around the artist’s house.

Hans Bol is recognised for his depiction of birds as messengers of eternity. The crow, one of Bol’s favourite species, is also a metaphor for something rather universal. Not only death, an interpretation that dates back to pagan times, but also an omen of happiness according to some cultures and mythologies. For White Crow, Bol uses platinum-palladium printing that results in warm-toned and slightly velvety prints. This technique, which stems from around 1870, is known for its long and subtle tonal scale which gives the prints a timeless quality. Making these prints is a true craft; when done properly, platinum-palladium prints can last for many hundreds of years.

In his series God’s Allies revisited, Hans Bol reinterprets and re-prints negatives from his archive. The original project was published as a booklet God’s Allies (2018, designed by Willem van Zoetendaal). In the revisited series, Bol exclusively makes small, intimate, silver gelatine prints. He searches for a different palette, a more gloomy tone and a more mysterious/mystifying interpretation of the raven. The prints are at times unpredictable and unpremeditated as Bol uses pre-exposure, toning and solarisation. In post-production, by adding a gold leaf or gold dust to certain prints, the more mysterious and perhaps even divine element that is so often attributed to these birds is intensified.

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