While attending this year's IDFA Festival in Amsterdam with our film Colony, one of the many documentaries screening there that I checked in my program and subsequently sold out was Frank van den Engel's "Photo & Copyright: G.P. Fieret". I caught an exhibition of Fieret's work at Deborah Bell Photographs some time ago and was captivated by this Dutch photographer's rough and ready black and white images, many of them signed by the photographer or stamped with his studio address on top of the prints.
The pictures, mostly amateurish images of young local girls, posing in Fieret's studio, some nude, some just having fun, others seemingly imagining this encounter with a dynamic photographer to be a pre-cursor to a long and illustrious future as a screen siren or model, capture a carefree abandon that transports us right into the Swinging Sixties. Full of honesty and appreciation for his models who exude a confidence and feminine glow in the photographers presence, Fieret's images do not seem voyeuristic or exploitative, his subjects always seeming to have as much fun as Fieret himself.
Untitled, ca 1960s G.P. Fieret
Van den Engel's documentary however, shot during the last two year's of Fieret's life is one of those classic, poignant stories of the artistic line between genius and madness that, being in Amsterdam for the first time and the Van Gough Museum fresh in my mind, couldn't help but reminding me of that other tragic artist's saga.
Depicting Fieret, broke and living in squalor (yes, with his pigeons), confused, angry and close to death, he is a world away from the collectors and archivists who discuss whether a cache of previously undiscovered work would be appropriate fare for the Museum of Modern Art or not. Touching stuff.