Photo: Bert Nienhuis


Nienhuis 476N3634Bert Nienhuis was born in Amsterdam in 1944, in an artistic and intellectual milieu. His grandfather was the well-known potter Bert Nienhuis, whose own father (also named Bert) had been an architect and urban planner. His mother, Anka Szymelmic, came from a family of Polish Jews and had met her husband in the mid-1930s, when both of them were visiting the Soviet Union. Through his parents' social circle, young Bert came into contact with well-known photographers such as Cas Oorthuys, Emmy Andriesse, and Aart Klein. Inspired by their example, the boy decided to become a photographer himself. 

Bert Nienhuis went to art school and film school, but as a photographer he is largely self-taught. Before devoting himself to photography full-time, he worked as a sound technician in the early 1970s on several films by Ed van der Elsken. Van der Elsken's intense devotion to his work had a profound influence on Nienhuis, who was also inspired by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, and August Sander. 

Nienhuis received his first photo assignments from Amsterdam's city archives in 1974 and 1975, for two series about the Beurs van Berlage and the Amsterdam district of De Pijp. He came to Vrij Nederland in 1975, as a temporary replacement for Willem Diepraam, and later joined the magazine's permanent staff. In 1976, Nienhuis and Eddy Posthuma de Boer were asked by the Rijksmuseum to produce a photo reportage on unemployment in the Netherlands. These penetrating photographs established Nienhuis' reputation as one of the leading documentary photographers of his generation. 

In the years that followed, Nienhuis worked together closely with the Jewish Historical Museum (JHM) to document life in the Netherlands' Jewish community. In 1985, for instance, the museum asked him to produce a reportage on the festivities surrounding the 350th anniversary of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. In 1987, on the recommendation of the JHM, Nienhuis received a commission from the Dutch culture ministry for a series of photos entitled Young and old in Jewish Amsterdam. Many of these photos later became part of the museum's collection. 

Bert Nienhuis lives and works in Amsterdam.