Witho Worms, True Polder Models (2000)
Almere’s City Hall also houses several works that were purchased for De Collectie Almere during the past few years. The hallway on which the studies of mayor Annemarie Jorritsma and other city councillors border, for instance, features a photo series by Witho Worms. The photographer lives and works in Almere and often chooses subjects from his own living environment for his autonomous work.
This series consists of three landscapes in black-and-white. One of the photographs shows sand, sand dunes and the cloudy sky above. The image is reminiscent of a deserted beach, but the absence of beach grass, a swash mark and breakwaters makes this improbable. Due to the grey tints and vastness, the image also resembles a desert somewhat. The observer could even think of a travel photograph as they were made in the late nineteenth century by pioneering photographers in Africa, Afghanistan or other faraway places. However, all three landscapes were done in Almere. It concerns the area where the new quarter Almere-Poort will arise in the coming decade. The soft light makes the structures and patterns in the sand very visible. In the foreground, shells are sticking out of the spouted sand that comes from the IJsselmeer. There seems to be no signs of life at all. No footsteps, tire marks or rubbish. The observant viewer will discover a ball in the sand, probably left behind by children or a walker and his dog.
Different building stages on the polder soil
The second photo from the series is a view of the Paradijsvogelweg in Almere-Hout with its freestanding houses in retro styles and its rows of trees. In the foreground one can see a bulb field in bloom. With its low horizon, the picture primarily offers space to the cloudy sky and the soft light of the late afternoon. In the third photograph, the polder soil is spouted up, built on and transformed into an urban area. The Almere skyline is seen from the southwest and shows the high and brightly coloured residential towers of the Regenboogbuurt (Rainbow neighbourhood), the residences and terraced houses of the Eilandenbuurt (Island neighbourhood) and the hoisting cranes. Apart from these vertical elements, an electricity pylon towers high above everything as well. Dusk has fallen. The streetlights have just come on and the private houses are lit up from the inside as well. On the right of the photo is the fringe of the wood. The photo series is a sequence of different building stages on the polder soil, and of subsequent moments of the day.
The story of Nagele
Between 1999 and 2005, Witho Worms worked on a project in which he captured the town of Nagele in the Northeast Polder in photographs. He told the story of Nagele by means of panoramas, portraits, landscapes and village views. As is the case with the photographs shown in City Hall, he basically kept the village at a distance and limited himself to the exceptional architecture and town planning.
As a photographer, Witho Worms takes an anthropological approach to his subjects. The foundations for this were laid during his preliminary training as a cultural anthropologist. In this period Worms acquainted himself with, amongst others, a method of cinematographic research into other cultures that was developed around 1960 by the French anthropologist/filmmaker Jean Rouch: participatory observation. This method states that the researcher should be part of his subject. Research data are collected by working mostly on location instead of in a study and by observing and listening carefully (with help from interviews, if need be) and participating in as many activities as possible. For Worms, this participatory approach entails that he always tailors his method of photographing to the subject and that he takes his time and creates ample opportunity to do so. He has emphasised formal aspects such as the perception of space and the environmental planning, for example, when taking photographs. However, where Jean Rouch and other filmmakers of the Cinema Vérité use a handy-sized camera to make the contact with the surrounding world as easy as possible, Worms chooses a technical camera (on a tripod) that is so wide that it can hardly fit through the door.
The photographs displayed in City Hall are platinum and barite prints. This technique results in photos with a brownish image tone, much depth and a graphic appearance. Since 1997, Worms has been studying historical photographic printing techniques. Between 1900 and World War I, platinum printing was the most important photographic printing process. With this technique, the print is created in direct contact with the negative. To make large negatives – and thus large photographs - Witho Worms had a technical camera made to measure in Austria. The historical techniques are valued because of their depth effect, the remarkable tone scale and their life span, but they are very labour intensive. Despite the fact that platinum printing is a historical process, these techniques are still reinvestigated and improved. This slow technique contrasts sharply with the instant digital photography of the current day and age.
Mireille de Putter
Witho Worms, 1959, Amersfoort, the Netherlands
Black-and-white photograph, platinum print
Ware poldermodellen – Paradijsvogelweg (True polder models – Paradijsvogelweg), 2000
Black-and-white photograph, barite print
Ware poldermodellen II, Eilandenbuurt, Almere-Buiten (True polder models II, Eilandenbuurt, Almere-Buiten)
Black-and-white photograph, platinum print
acquisition 2004, Museum De Paviljoens