Let’s sit down before we go

Let’s sit down before we go

Bertien van Manen

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Between 1991 and 2001 van Manen travelled across Asia and Eastern Europe with a small, analogue camera, learning the local language and engaging with the people who would become the subject of this collection. Let's sit down before we go is a portrait of the places van Manen visited and the people she met, stayed with and became friends with during her travels across Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Siberia, Tatarstan and Uzbekistan.

Buried deep in Bertien van Manen's images is an intimacy between photographer and subject. The viewer trespasses on the private moments in the frame, catching a glare over breakfast, unheard words between friends, both party to the action and intruding on it.

The title, Let's sit down before we go represents an old Russian tradition, the practice of taking a moment, stopping to think before embarking on a journey, to consider where we will be travelling to and why.

Bertien van Manen rolled into photography almost by accident, taking pictures of her children with an old camera. As her work became more public she was soon drafted into the world of fashion photography. In 1977 she tired of the industry, and on discovering the documentary photography of Robert Frank and Josef Koudelka, van Manen began to explore the developing relationship between herself and her subjects, keeping a closeness and developing a personal, organic style of photography.