In the year 2000 was the start of Gerrit Komrij as first Dutch National Poet. The phenomenon National Philosopher was introduced in 2011 with Hans Achterhuis as rookie. The similarity between the National Poet and the National Philosopher is to bridge a gap. Not everyone is familiar with poetry and philosophy. The aim of the National poet and Philosopher is to bring the domains closer to the common people and to increase its popularity. That is clear and reasonable, I think. But what about the Dutch National Photographer?
Since April 2013 Ilvy Njiokiktjien is the first National Photographer of the Netherlands. She is allowed (even more urged) to initiate interesting new photo projects. The inventor of this new phenomenon is the Fotoweek (Photo week) Foundation. Ilvy is the ambassador of the Dutch photographers and she is but the base of Fotoweek.
What is ‘our’ opinion about this new phenomenon?
This is a tricky question. Ilvy Njiokiktjien is beyond doubt a fantastic and very talented documentary photographer. The inventors of Fotoweek are really kindly disposed organizations, namely Dutch Photo museum and Photo museum Amsterdam (FOAM). So, giving ‘our’ opinion must be done indiscriminately. The answer: it is a marketing trick, no doubt!
The aim of the National Poet and Philosopher is to bridge a gap to the common people. But since many years there is no photographers (or photography) gap. Every day young people are using their smartphone to take videos and photographs to capture every day and unusual scenes. The most untalented amateur photographer is the proud owner of a fancy high sophisticated dslr camera (and use it of course in auto mode). Therefore photography has reached the status of commodification.
Now almost every human being is photographing a National Photographer can never bridge a not existing gap to the common people. So, what is going on here? The National Photographer is a marketing instrument for the first Dutch Fotoweek event (20 – 20 September 2013). The aim of Ilvy Njiokiktjien, as marketing instrument, is to seek exposure and free publicity for this event. We may conclude that she is successful at this time regarding to all publicity on national television, radio, internet and so on. In return Ilvy is allowed to participate the Fotoweek exposition and a significant article will be published in the Fotoweek event paper. Perhaps there is even an allowance, but that we don’t know.
We may conclude that the post of National Photographer is not a honourable post such as the poet and philosopher hold. It is even a misleading title for this photography post. The title of National Photographer is a euphemism for ambassador or representative. Compared to the National Poet and Philosopher the photographer is some kind of witticism. It is better to name Ilvy Njiokiktjien the ambassador of Fotoweek and use the official title ‘National’ for serious and official posts.