Persona October, 14th 2021 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 336 - Co de Kruijf

Nederland, Amsterdam, zomer 1992. Discotheek iT, Amstelstraat Amsterdam1992.

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 336 – Co de Kruijf
Co de Kruijf, photographer, talks about his photos in the exhibition ‘The iT Files’ at Gallery WM in Amsterdam. At the end we come to talk about his exhibition ‘Homo Turisticus’, last year in the same gallery.
In 1989 a new discotheque, the ‘iT’, opened on the Amstelstraat in Amsterdam. That disco would give the Amsterdam nightlife a new face. House music was played and there were themed parties: the Hollywood – Halloween – and Golden Triangle Parties. They were lavish parties with professional dancers and spinning strobes.


Manfred Langer
The crowd was a mix of gay and non-gay, eccentrics and provincials. The spiritual father of the iT was an Austrian, Manfred Langer, who previously ran a gay café in Amsterdam. Co de Kruijf: “Where a gay café used to be a closed club, Langer threw open the windows for his new disco. There were terraces and he also welcomed non-gays, creating a pleasant mix of visitors. Apparently the time was right for that because it caught on.”


When Langer got the chance to apply the same concept in a disco and combine it with the then new house music, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. We look at a photo of Langer amid his cloakroom and bar staff. “Langer was a real pacesetter. He was enthusiastic, loyal and generous to his staff. He tried to attract people who really carried out his concept.”


Come on in!
In 1992 Co de Kruijf passed the disco more or less by accident. “I wanted to photograph the nightlife around Rembrandtplein. Then I walked past the iT. There were crush barriers, a pink limousine, there was crowds. I thought, apparently it’s all happening here. Let me take a look inside!” He easily passed the doorman. There stood Manfred Langer ‘Do you want to shoot here? Come on in!’ he said, ‘Are you coming tomorrow too?’”
He did come back, five Saturday nights in a row he shot, flashing, series of photos of the ecstatic partying dancing crowd. He especially enjoyed capturing the disco with the visitors and the light show. The strobe of the light show sometimes gives you surprising effects. In photos I see heads in two directions and a girl with four hands. “That double exposure, where I didn’t use a flash, has a moving effect.”


Everyone parties together
We look at a photo with two boys on the left, a boy-girl couple on the right and a girl with her mouth wide open in the middle. “The photo tells different stories. I focused on the girl in the middle because she’s the most outspoken. A little further a photo of three girls smiling at the photographer. “You can see it’s not 2021: no ‘selfiesmile’.”
De Kruijf had kept his iT photos in a folder of negatives for decades – only a few had been developed. Until he learned that a new museum for electronic music would be built in the former iT location. He grabbed his folder and showed the photos to his 21-year-old daughter. ‘Wow’, she responded. ‘Gay/not gay, what’s going on here? That freedom! All are mixed, everyone is partying together!’ Apparently you don’t see it that way anymore. He understood that he had to do something with his photos. This exhibition is the result.


All details razor sharp
“I digitized the negatives in high resolution and further edited the images in Photoshop. All details in the highlights or the deep blacks, as well as the grain of the film, are therefore razor sharp. By digitally editing the negatives, I was able to extract much more detail than was ever possible in the darkroom.”

codekruijf – MB 7

He has had a lot of nice reactions. “Both from old and young people.” A six-page photo publication in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool has been seen by many people. And because he announced the exhibition on the still very active ‘Club iT-Amsterdam’ page on Facebook, he has been able to reach many former iT-goers. After the opening, visitors flocked in, many of whom had a story to tell. Actress Nelly Frijda also came by, known for her role as Ma Flodder. She was often chairman of the jury at the special theme parties in Club iT.
“I can now reach so many people who have something to say that I am now seriously thinking about a book.”

codekruijf – MB 8

Homo Turisticus
We view the photos of his previous exhibition in the gallery on his laptop: ‘Homo Turisticus’.
I see combinations of people in the center of Amsterdam, which give an overall impression of multi-colouredness and free spirit. The people in the photos do match. Did De Kruijf look for it?
“I have always liked to make street scenes. Also in China and surrounding countries, where I was a tour guide. Street photographers tend to focus on one or at most two people in their photos. I am more focused on the behavior of people in their environment, the interaction fascinates me.” He shows a photo taken during Pride Amsterdam with a girl on the left with an inflated ‘penis balloon’, in the middle a girl with a horn with the text ‘Speak Out, Loud and Proud’, behind that a bi-couple and on the right an SM couple.

codekruijf – MB 9

Condensations of reality
And another photo with many aspects of Islam in Amsterdam. To the left, three young ladies lavishly dressed, behind them mother and daughter more casually, behind them a family with a pram, also casually, then a rasta man, a Jewish Orthodox couple and a mother in a burqa with her son. Those beautiful combinations turn out to be condensations of reality. De Kruijf puts his camera on a tripod and when something comes along he snaps it. For half an hour. Later he combines the images.
And he does something else: he focuses on people’s faces, whether they’re close or further away, it doesn’t matter. He uses a special lens for this. By positioning the camera low, about 80 cm from the ground, it can focus everything at eye level. Shoes and treetops become out of focus. He draws it out with some lines on paper. “It’s a kind of sharpness tunnel.” The viewer therefore focuses entirely on the people, on the different individuals.

codekruijf – MB 10

He states on his site that he does this. This does not only apply to the photos taken in his Amsterdam, but also in other cities such as Lucca, Pisa, Venice, Naples and in China. “If people look closely, they will see that some of the photos have persons coming back. The street scene remains representative.”
I still see several beautiful black and white photos of China from the 1980s and 1990s. De Kruijf wants to do something with this, just as he did for the iT photos. “It’s a lot of material. I look for categories to classify them.”

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