The Embarrassment of Riches

The Embarrassment of Riches is a book by Simon Schama. It’s an interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age.

‘At the apogee of its powers in the seventeenth century, Holland was a tiny island of prosperity in a sea of want, Its homes were well-furnished and fanatically clean; its citizens feasted on 100-course banquets and speculated fortunes on new varieties of tulip. Yet, in the midst of plenty, the Dutch were ill at ease. In this brilliantly innovative book-which launched his reputation as one of our most perspicacious and stylish historians- Simon Schama explores the mysterious contradictions of a nation that invented itself from the ground up, attained an unprecedented level of affluence, and lived in constant dread of being corrupted by its happiness.

Drawing on a vast array of period documents and sumptuously reproduced art, Schama re-creates, in precise and loving detail, a nation’s mental furniture. He tells of bloody uprisings and beached whales, of the cult of hygiene and the plague of tobacco, of thrifty housewives and profligate tulip-speculators. He tells us how the Dutch celebrated themselves and how they were slandered by their enemies.’, Schama (1987)

I learned several things from the book:

  • I’m Dutch. It was interesting to read about the background of some still existing cultural habits in the Netherlands.
  • How art is a reflection of its time and why you therefor have to decode art.


Schama, S. (1987), The Embarrassment of Riches, New York: Vintage Books


Aperture #227 Platform Africa

In a previous post I was very negative about Aperture #226 and the magazine in general. Although a lot of those comments still stand after reading Aperture #227, as the magazine claims to be more than it is, I think the title suits the content much better this time. Also did I find this edition’s theme and execution very inspirational and educative.

In separate posts I will put the spotlights on some of the featured African artists.


Aperture #227 Platform Africa (2017), New York City: Aperture Foundation

Graspop Metal Meeting

Graspop Metal Meeting is an annual metal festival in Dessel, Belgium that has taken place each year since 1996. Per metal and hard-rock genre nostalgic, new and the world’s biggest bands are scheduled. Over the years I have visited the festival many times almost on a yearly base. Besides the usual reasons to visit a music festival: music, relaxation, fun, escape from daily life, etc. I added a couple in recent years.

I admire the creativity and energy of the metal bands. They motivate and inspire me.

The line up of 2017:

Thursday June 15
Marquee Metal Dome Jupiler Stage
Brides Of Lucifer
The Covering
King Hiss
Wolves Scream
Hexa Mera
Born From Pain
Off The Cross
Friday June 16
Main Stage 01 Main Stage 02 Marquee Metal Dome Jupiler Stage
Dee Snider
Black Star Riders
Blue Öyster Cult
Battle Beast
Metal Church
Comeback Kid
Evil Invaders
Brides Of Lucifer
Rotting Christ
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Psychotic Waltz
King’s X
The Devil Wears Prada
Motionless In White
Every Time I Die
As It Is
Saturday June 17
Main Stage 01 Main Stage 02 Marquee Metal Dome Jupiler Stage
Deep Purple
Alter Bridge
Danko Jones
Axel Rudi Pell
In Flames
Five Finger Death Punch
A Day To Remember
Max & Iggor Cavalera: Return To Roots
Devin Townsend Project
Monster Magnet
Red Fang
Coheed And Cambria
Of Mice & Men
While She Sleeps
Code Orange
Crown The Empire
As Lions
Sunday June 18
Main Stage 01 Main Stage 02 Marquee Metal Dome Jupiler Stage
Steel Panther
Ugly Kid Joe
The Raven Age
Rob Zombie
The Charm The Fury
The Black Dahlia Murder
The Monolith Deathcult
The Dead Daisies
Grave Digger
Like A Storm
Sum 41
Suicidal Tendencies
Suicide Silence
Chelsea Grin
Touché Amoré


Graspop website, At: (last visited 09-09-2017)

Graspop, At: (last visited 09-09-2017)

Exercise 3.3

The human way of seeing is different from the way a camera records.

Interesting books to read in this regard are:

  • Livingstone, M. 2014. Vision and art. The biology of seeing.  A book about how we see and how our brain processes that information.
  • Arnheim, R. 2004. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. The book casts the visual process in psychological terms and describes the creative way one’s eye organizes visual material according to specific psychological premises. 


U2 – The Joshua Tree

I’ve seen multiple shows of U2. Their shows always have the same elements: Good music, new technology and a political message. At moments the political message hinders the musical experience, a show stopper.

This show had all elements again, but it had also something extra: a brilliant concept! Besides the build up of the setlist, with as act 2 the integral and in sequence playing of the Joshua Tree album, there was the art work of Anton Corbijn. Since the 80’s the famous Dutch photographer and movie director has been involved in the development of the visual image of U2. He is the one responsible for the album cover art of the Joshua Tree.

For this tour the band let him do the development of the visuals on stage. An amazing 60 meters wide 8k video screen with brilliant videos expressing the Joshua Tree album content and political landscape. The band, the music, the stage, the message it all became one.


Act 1
Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
A Sort Of Homecoming
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Act 2
Where The Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With Or Without You
Bullet The Blue Sky
Running To Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared
Act 3
Miss Sarajevo
Beautiful Day
Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
I Will Follow

Scribbles about books (1) – Culture & Design

Art history is about investigating the circumstances surrounding an artwork. Under which conditions was it made? Which factors attribute to the end result of an artwork? Art history is about establishing the context of an art work. In order to do this art historians look at: the age of an art work, style, subject, artist, patron, etc.

When we look at the vocabulary of describing art and architecture we see many words that are relevant in other disciplines as well, not only in scientific disciplines, but also f.e. in commerce:

  • form and composition
  • material and technique
  • line & shape
  • colour & value
  • pattern & texture
  • space, mass and volume
  • perspective and foreshortening
  • proportion and scale
  • unity & balance
  • emphasis and focal point
  • rhythm & motion

Art works can be analysed from many viewpoints: social, political, philosophical, historical, and technical. Different people might come to different conclusions as cultural background and education will have an influence.


Some words more specific to photography, although related to/can be categorised under above mentioned vocabulary as well, are:

  • frame shape and dynamics
  • light & exposure
  • intent & post-production

There are many accounts on the social history of photography and there is just as many debate on those as well.

‘A great deal goes on the process of making an exposure that is not at all obvious to someone else seeing the result later. This will never prevent art critics and historians from supplying their own interpretations, which may be extremely interesting but not necessarily have anything to do with the circumstances and intentions of the photographer’, (Freeman, 2007:6)


For me if we talk art, everything can be summarised in two intermingled words: culture & design.



Kleiner, F.S. (2014), Gardner’s Art through the Ages 14th edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

Lauer, D.A., Pentak, S. (2012), Design Basics 8th edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

Freeman, M. (2007), The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes, East-Sussex: Ilex

Aperture #226 American Destiny

‘The magazine of photography an ideas’. This edition is mainly about social documentary photography. It’s the first version edition I read and the editors write ‘the projects in this issue are bound by an urge to explore the social and political landscape of the United States’. I hope other editions take other types of photography in account as well. I can’t place the claim that this magazine would be about ideas. Besides the sociale documentary character of the main articles the magazine is incoherent, sloppy, and pointless. Maybe that’s why they claim the magazine is also about ideas, No finishing touch needed.

Like the claim of what the magazine is about in general, the titel, American Destiny, is also too comprehensive. The Pictures have a social content or better I decode a social content. The exploration of the political landscape I can’t decode (except in the LaToya Ruby Frazier article)  or it must be that the intend is for me to be prejudiced in e.g. the political thoughts of a contemplating black worker portrayed in front of a factory. I can decode all kinds of messages from the pictures, but from most not a political one. The accompanying texts are about the photographers and the projects. In these texts I don’t find many clues relating to the exploration of the political landscape. Are the subjects liberals, socialists, democrats, republicans, Clinton or Trump voters, etc. ? The fact that most portrayed people seem to share a similar social status, although that’s a big generalisation and a prejudice as well, doesn’t mean they share political ideas. The projects itself might very well be about the social and political landscape, but the choice of pictures published in the magazine don’t show the political exploration enough. Another reason why the title is too comprehensive is that the main articles are only about a couple of unprivileged societies. That’s too limited to justify the title ‘American Destiny’.

To end with a positive note, the magazine introduced me to some contemporary photographers like LaToya Ruby Frazier, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Carolyn Drake, Mark Neville some critics and a re-introduction to Gregory Halpern. I wrote about him in a previous post.


Aperture 226 American Destiny