Archive for June, 2010

Michael Jackson – Blood on the Dance Floor


There is a lot you can say about Michael Jackson and his music. I just like to say that to me he was an incredible dancer who created great music videos and the best live shows. He was not only performing a dance, he was the dance. It was in his blood. The stage set for this video works very well, so do the colourful costumes. Enjoy.

Welcome to the “Great Moments in Time” exhibition


My name is Bertie Plaatsman and I am the curator of this “Great Moments in Time” exhibition.

One of my interests is documentary photography and making ordinary objects and situations in our everyday life visible.  Including those little things that go unnoticed until they are missing or until someone points them out to us. Photography is the perfect media to document moments in time and photographers have done this since the birth of photography, in 1827.

My intent with this exhibition is, besides showing you beautiful photographs, to make you aware of the ordinary things in life and how they can become extraordinary. I will endeavour to do this by talking about these works and artists in terms of context, subject matter, content and form. I have chosen photographers who were all born in a similar time period, the beginning of the 20th century and they all operate within the context of the everyday and documentary photography. Their work on show is from 1930’s and the 1950’s and depicts street scenes in France and New York. I chose these photographers because they are informing my work now and examples of this are included in the exhibition.



Gyula Halász was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker. He called himself Brassaï as this means “from Brassó”, which is the city in Hungary where he was born on 9 September 1899. He died in France on 8 July 1984. He arrived in Paris in 1924 and fell in love with the city. He is well-known for his photographs of the Parisian night life. After the publication of his first book “Paris by Night”, his friend and writer Henry Miller called him “the eye of Paris”.

“Oldest Police Station in Paris” – 1933

The content of this photo can be taken from the title “Oldest Police Station in Paris”. Police stations are associated with crime, cells and the “darker side of life” and with that in mind, it makes sense to take this photo at night -in the dark-, rather then by daylight. However, this photo does not evoke a sinister, but rather an intimate feeling, because of the light and shadow. The two men who are possibly policemen add to the photograph, as you may wonder what they are talking about. It also shows that at that moment in time the police station is in use. Without their presence it would still be a good photo, but less interesting.

“Open Gutter” – 1933

This photo depicts a scene that many people must have passed without noticing the beauty of the lines. Gutters are usually not associated with beauty, but Brassaï has made it so. He took it at a great angle, not showing much above the surface. His intent was to raise people’s awareness of the beauty that can be found in everyday life. He once said: “The purpose of art is to raise people to a higher level of awareness than they would otherwise attain on their own.” By looking at this photo you may start looking at the things around you in a different way.

Louis Stettner


Louis Stettner is an American photographer born in New York in 1922 and best known for his photographs of  New York and Paris. He has photographed fleeting moments in those cities and captured the changes for more than 60 years. His subject matter is varied: people, playing children, buildings and objects in their ordinary, everyday life. His method is captured in his words: “I would take long daily walks with my camera, leaving myself open to whatever happened around me. I suppose I was driven by a great need and love to get close to the world around me.”

Stettner was a contempory of Brassaï who operated in a similar context and who inspired him. He said that Brassaï taught him to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

That he has an eye for the usually unnoticed and a sense of humour shows in this photograph of a car in New York. It reminds us of a face and the photo only shows the most important features. There is nothing in this photo that does not need to be there. The documentary value of this photo is that the content shows a beautiful designed car and that it snowed in New York in 1956.

Snowcar New York 1956

I am inspired by the way Stettner portrays the beauty and fun in the ordinariness and routine of the world around him. This shows in the photo “Foodism” I took in Amsterdam in 2009 and in the photos of the children playing. I do not know the people and children in the photos. My method is to go for a wander and let myself be surprised by what is around me, and that is how I came across these scenes. Although my photo “Children playing in Amsterdam” was taken 58 years later than Stettner’s photo taken in Paris, their form and content show great similarities.

Stettner – Children playing in Paris – 1951

Bertie Plaatsman – Children playing in Amsterdam 2009

Both photos show a boy and a girl playing in the street and both photos show action. In Stettner’s photo the boy has a scooter and the girl is spreading her arms and she is positioned slightly forward. In my photo the boy has a bike and the girl is also spreading her arms and leaning forward. The circular shape showing by the ripples in the water in my photo is similar to the gridlike structure that surrounds the tree in Stettner’s photo. To show that underneath the water is a similar gridlike structure I added my photo of the boy playing in Oosterpark below.

Bertie Plaatsman – Oosterpark Amsterdam 2005

The boy is clearly immersed in his play. Besides the cuteness however, the content is also about tension as the little bike the boy is standing on is not stable. It could easily move and the viewer is left wondering if the boy will be able to keep his balance.

Henri Cartier-Bresson


Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer who lived from 22 August 1908 until 3 August 2004. He was one of the founders of modern photojournalism. He has taken photographs all over the world, but for this exhibition I have chosen two of his photos taken in France.

Bresson’s name was mentioned in the film: “Annie Leibovitz Life through a Lens”, where she says that Bresson took photos in a way that was never done before. They were very relaxed and fluid, because of his method to use of a small camera.

Hyères – 1932

The photo Hyères shows flowing lines and symmetry in a street landscape as well as a cyclist, which makes the photo more interesting. I ask myself, where is this man going in a hurry? Is he a police officer? The form of the photo is also an example of good framing and great composition, as only what is necessary is portrayed.

Cartier-Bresson – Sidewalk Café Boulevard Diderot – Paris – no date

I enjoy the atmosphere that is present in cafes and taking photos of the interiors and sometimes of the people visiting. I have included the photo of the couple kissing as this is a wonderful moment in time and great timing by Cartier-Bresson. He pressed the button right on time, with the dog looking at the couple. You cannot ask or wait for these moments, they are a gift. The content of the photo is love. The form is again an example of good framing, not showing the man’s whole left leg and the woman’s chair makes the photo more interesting. The dog looking up at the kissing couple also adds greatly to the atmosphere of the scene.

Bertie Plaatsman – Girl in Café – Berlin 2009

The similarity with Cartier-Bresson’s photo of the couple and this photo is  the café setting as well as the great timing. The girl has just taken her eyes of her book and has a gaze, which makes me wonder what she is thinking about. The darker background of the photo makes the girl with the whiter tones of her clothes, bag and table stand out.

Thank you and Summary


This exhibition coincides with the “Auckland festival of Photography 2010” and on the first page of the festival booklet it shows the festival message. It is a quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” This sums up my interest in documentary photography, and it is very appropriate for this exhibition.

Thank you for visiting the exhibition. I hope you have found it enjoyable and insightful. You are welcome to leave any feedback. It will be much appreciated.


Author unknown. “Brassaï: The Eye of Paris to open at the J. Paul Getty Museum April 13 – July 3, 1999”. 6 April 1999. 3 June 2010. The Getty.

Jeffries, Stuart. “The dark lord”. 6 February 2001. 5 June 2010. The Guardian.

Author unknown. “National Gallery of Art presents: Brassaï: The eye of Paris, “First major U.S. retrospective of the celebrated photographer”. 12 October 1999. 5 June 2010. National Gallery of Art, Maryland.

Stettner, Louis.  n.d. 4 June 2010.

Bishop, Bob. “Louis Stettner, New York-Paris”. n.d. 3 June 2010. ParisVoice.

Dowell, William T.  “Louis Stettner Sees the Extraordinary in the Ordinary”. 4 June 2010. 6 June 2010. The Essential Edge Geneva.

Author unknown. Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.  n.d. 6 June 2010

Author unknown. “Henri Cartier-Bresson”. n.d. 6 June 2010. Nouvelles Images.

Henly, Jon. “Photographer who turned a hobby into an art form”. 5 August 2004. 6 June 2010. The Guardian.

Poirier, Diane Elisabeth. “Brassaï an illustrated biography”. Paris Éditions Flammarion. 2005.

Stettner, Louis. “Wisdom Cries Out in the Streets”.  n.d.

Cartier-Bresson, Henri. “The mind’s eye. Writings on photography and photographers”. Aperture Foundation, Inc. 1999.

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