Otto Snoek

The pictures shown in the Populism exhibition by the photojournalist Otto Snoek (*1966) are mostly made for the publication FUN! Leisure and Landscape by Tracy Metz. In this account, the author describes the increasing role of mass cultural recreational activities in Dutch society. Today any form of entertainment, from music festivals to sport events, is offered. The growing commercialisation of leisure has a great influence on the development of city centres, the peripheries and entire districts. The consequences of this range from the occupation of public space to a wholesale sell-out of nature and cultural heritage. Through offering ‘events for everyone’, the organisers try to reach as many people as possible. Moreover, city and regional councils hope to generate widespread public attention on the big events they initiate.

You don’t learn a lot about the actual events that are being documented in Snoek’s photos. He focuses on the audience and lets the viewer draw her own conclusions about the event by looking at the people in the picture. A photo taken at the Gay Pride event in Amsterdam captures the crowded street seen from the pavement. Two people stand out clearly; an older man pushes his walking frame, and next to him is a participant of the Gay Pride event dressed in leather hot pants, turning his back to the camera. In Snoek’s photos there are often two people in the foreground who play a representative role for the whole scenario. In the background of the image, the viewer’s gaze catches the crowd photographed with a wide-angle. Another variation in Snoek’s works are close-ups of smaller groups, mainly of young people trying to attract the camera’s attention to a certain occurrence. In the surroundings shown in the photos, the people who stand in the background lack any sign of individuality. The uniformity of the crowd is underlined by the uniformity of their clothes and styles. Even their postures and gestures seem to happen by invisible command. It’s all about the event and the people who are willing to pay big entrance fees stand jammed like sardines in a tin just to participate in it. In his photographs Snoek makes visible the ambivalent relationship between the promise and the letdown of mass culture.

By Nina Köller, translated by Eva May



"Boardwalk, corpses. Bloemendaal, The Netherlands"
(2001) All pictures are made on behalf of the publication " FUN ! Leisure and Landscape" by Tracy Metz, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.