Beautiful People SOLD OUT!
Kees Tillema, photographer, januari 2003
Intro in the photo book ‘Beautiful people’ by Willem Wernsen.
Willem Wernsen: a photographer, quiet, kind and engaging.
In the early years of his career as a photographer Wernsen portrayed a number of man and women he knew. The images he made stood out because of an almost tangible interaction between the photographer and his models and it did not take long before people began to take notice of his work.
Wernsen conveyed the vulnerability of man, which he emphasised to an increasing extent by depicting his models in their typical surroundings or a special meetingplace. His photos are deservedly called portraits.
Portrait photography has been known to create a furore since the days of the industrial revolution.
Following the elite who honoured their forefathers and important relatives with stately paintings, the less fortunate were now given the possibility to come up to their level. Especially the newly formed middle class made use of this modern device to decorate their walls with photographic images of their loved ones.
The photographs often served as a means of documentation or as convincing evidence of their owner’s social status. And if perchance the portrait was not flattering enough tools to scratch, sandpaper or retouch could easily be used to tickle the client’s vanity.
A photographer who was given the opportunity to immortalise celebrities could earn a great reputation for himself.
Willem Wernsen became a ‘philanthropist photographer’ who portrayed the people he met, amicably working together, without any adornment or manipulation.
He did not become famous overnight – after all, who were the people in the photographs? Who knew them? But today Wernsen enjoys great renown as a portrait photographer.
Looking at Wernsen’s photo’s means sharing in the encounter, a very intense encounter. Regardless of social status or merit every person who has his portrait taken becomes very important when he is being photographed. Important for the future as well.
The perceptible presence and, at the same time, the detachment of the artist provide an indelible, moving impression. The frog becoming a prince, Cinderella becoming a princes, the royal offspring accidentally ending up in the wrong house: fairy tales to many people – almost becoming a reality for some.
The encounters are very real, the people portrayed have risen in esteem.
‘Beautiful People’ introduces Willem Wernsen, the photographer who humbly states: ‘I have only managed to photograph people’. A man with a much admired talent.
Kees Tillema, Huissen, The Netherlands.
Senior Lecturer Art Education. University of Professional Art Education