FOTODOK was founded in 2008 by Femke Lutgerink and Rob Hornstra. It began as a nomadic organisation, initiating events and exhibitions in collaboration with various partners such as: The Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Utrecht; Het Utrechts Archief; and at various other public locations. In 2014, FOTODOK settled its office and exhibition space at Lange Nieuwstraat 7, opening for six months a year. FOTODOK works with a team of 3.2 FTE, a large group of committed professionals from various fields, and a dedicated group of twenty volunteers. The distinctive position of FOTODOK’s programming lays in how it develops a continuous approach. FOTODOK chooses an “umbrella” theme and keeps on researching, showcasing, and discussing the chosen topic throughout the year. We seek a long-lasting relationship with the topic, and want multi-directional engagement with the subject matter.
Direction of work
FOTODOK’s programme is based upon four pillars. Exhibitions address socially relevant matters. Every year we put together at least two self-initiated exhibitions, both indoors and outdoors. Public Programme of lectures and events in which we challenge the audience to dive deeper into the subject. It contains projects such as: FOTODOK Book Club, Taferelen, Female Perspective symposium, exhibition tours, and a 360 degree tour Virtual Presence. FOTODOK has three Talent Development programmes with local, national and international reaches, for artists in their first years of practice after graduation: Lighthouse, mentoring about 10 artists after their graduation from Dutch academies; Blurring the Lines, supporting over thirty international graduates; and Take Off, a digital meet-up for graduates across Dutch academies. Through our Education initiatives we encourage children and teenagers from the province of Utrecht to experience photography. We produce educational projects that range from long-term collaborations with schools in the province to workshops at our own location.
At the end of 2023, FOTODOK will move to a new location at Gietijzerstraat 3, Utrecht. The new cultural hub De Machinerie is an initiative by FOTODOK, Nederlands Film Festival, and Hoogt on Tour, who will share one roof and collaborate on programming. The location, which will occupy 2500 square meters, is currently being re-designed in order to fit the needs of the incoming occupants. FOTODOK will receive an updated exhibition space of 130-150 square meters, which it will be able to use year round. De Machinerie will bring together a community of institutions and individuals interested in visual and lens based arts, and will improve the cultural landscape of the city.
Since its inception, FOTODOK’s uniqueness as an artistic platform in the Netherlands has been its focus on documentary photography. How does FOTODOK position itself within this broad field? Imagine an axis where at one end of the pole is journalism, and at the other is artistic production. Scientific, vernacular, and functional image making are located across the middle of this axis. All of these practices constitute the realm of documentary. FOTODOK’s prime interest falls into artistic, conceptual, and in-depth research-based projects that demonstrate independent vision and experimental approaches to subject matters.
The works FOTODOK presents largely vary in form: from mixed media to performance, from an installation to an intersection between still and moving image, from works produced through experimental printing techniques to screen-based presentations of digitally appropriated visuals. What is important for FOTODOK within the variety of all these artistic modes are two backbone elements: projects have to address the nature of photographic medium and engage with society.
We work with artists who deal with relevant social and political issues. Our artists reflect on the ethics of representation, and look critically at their own positions as makers, recognizing and revealing in their projects the paradox of documentary—the cohabitation of fact and fiction. We value research and critical awareness of the history of the genre, as well as the reflecting upon, and sourcing inspiration from, other documentary categories. We are committed to investing in the development of storytelling and narrative strategies and the evolution of platforms in the twenty-first century. We support the authors who don’t settle for outdated definitions of documentary, but instead search for ways to reinvent its value for contemporary photographic practices. Finally, we work for people. We strongly believe that documentary photography, besides being one of the zones of artistic exploration, can actually change society for the better. It spotlights subject matters, both universal and local, worth investigating, and often serves as a catalyst for revising reality.
While FOTODOK considers the past decade of photographic development and showcases internationally acclaimed artists, we largely orient toward the present and the future of the medium, collaborating with emerging talents, looking into projects-in-progress, and keeping our fingers on the pulse of the field. The “DOK” in “FOTODOK” stands for “harbour” (NL). We are, in that sense, a unique landing pier in the Dutch cultural landscape for artists of different generations and origins who specifically explore documentary-focused ways of working. “DOK” is also consonant with “doc” as in “documentary,” deriving from the Latin “docere” (to teach). We twist “doc” around, and position ourselves as learners rather than teachers. Our motto says “FOTODOK is a place to see, think, and learn.” We constantly accumulate knowledge together with our contributors and our audience, studying the world and photography’s place in it through the prism of documentary practices.
*Image: Anastasia Vinogradova
Between Aug 26 and Nov 20 from 12:00 till 18:00 our exhibit space is open.