Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gerard Fieret 1924-2009 (Focus Publishing)

Last weekend I did a presentation of the Errata Books on Books series during the "Weekend of the Photobook" festival at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and one of the only books I found irresistible was Focus Publishing's monograph on Gerard Petrus Fieret from 2010.

This book is number 15 in a series on Dutch photographers. From what I am told, the series was established by Prins Bernhard Cultural foundation and specifically featuring artists who hadn't been recognized before with a major monograph of their work. Other artists in the series include: Sannes Sannes, Koen Wessing, Pieter Oosterhuis, Piet Zwart, Paul Citroen, Eva Besnyo, Nico Jesse, and others.

Through the extensive biographic essay in Gerard Fieret 1924-2009 which accompanies over 100 images, the more I learn of G.P. Fieret - the man - the more questions arise in attempting to figure out his life's work. He was forty-one when he took up photography - able to 'hide' behind its mask, but photography also exacerbated his fear of being 'seen' which left him vulnerable to a continuous state of persecution fantasies and conspiracy theories.

It is still unclear whether his obsessive use of ownership stamps were to ward of his fear that his work was being stolen (by the 'moloch' conspiracy he often referred to in interviews), whether he was purposely vandalizing his own images because of self-confessed feelings of anxiety and guilt ('I am a demonic person, I've done terrible things...'), whether he was, as I have ventured to guess before, stamping the nude female forms as an indication of 'ownership' of the women he portrayed.

On the subject of this series which started in the 1990s, Fieret was to be the first published twenty years ago but due to his contentious personality, it was abandoned in the favor of a monograph on Sannes Sannes. Sannes had been an artist who Fieret had displayed jealousy towards, later even becaming convinced that Sannes had stolen images from him and published them as his own. When Sannes died in a car accident in March of '67 Fieret became increasingly caught up in his own paranoid reasoning and historical reconstructions.

In the end, this biographical portrait renders a man who seems more disturbed than I had previously understood from the two volumes from the Fotomuseum Den Haag. A pack rat who's studios were littered with prints (some kept, for lack of space, in the freezer), a care-giver to small animals who was once evicted from an apartment for keeping too many pigeons, and a man haunted by childhood traumas of incest and abandonment.

Bookwise, Gerard Fieret 1924-2009 is a fine collection of images. The printing - although hard to tell with Fieret since his actual prints often embrace imperfection - can seem a bit blocked up at times but overall there is a quality fitting to Fieret. It was published in an edition of 1500 copies.

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