ME WE was the full text of the improvised poem that Muhammad Ali delivered to a crowd of Harvard students in 1975. It was a text that is believed to express ‘how great it is to be as great as I am’, a tribute to life.

Koos Breukel chose it as the title for his magnus opus so far: a book and a show bringing together pictures from the first 30 years of his career, focusing on the circle of life. However dark his portraits may feel, he is as passionate about life as Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990) was. Be born, grow up, develop and express oneself, love, suffer and die. It was the major theme for Van der Elsken, and it is a major drive for Breukel as this exhibition and book make clear.

Koos Breukel’s aim throughout his nearly 30 year long career has been to produce truthful portraits, approaching his subjects with an unprejudiced integrity. Although Breukel has photographed many celebrities, his portraits are never superficial images which glorify the public persona. Instead, his warm approach and genuine interest in somebody’s life story has even won the hearts of people that are wary of media attention and photographers.

Breukel’s view contains an important humane aspect, a respectful interest in people, with sometimes big stories to tell. Pregnant women or women in labour lie down for the eye of the camera. The portraits he took of aircrash victims offered him a glimpse of their traumatised life and sometimes severely injured bodies. In the 1990’s, American dancer Michael Matthews asked him to witness the way aids was wrecking and ultimately destroying his body – moving images of a defenceless, emaciated body, covered by a skin that looks like crumbling paper.

 

Authors

Koos Breukel (b. 1962) was born in The Hague, Netherlands. He currently lives and works in the Amsterdam, Netherlands. Breukel is Holland’s most prolific portrait photographer. His debut book The Wretched Skin (1994) is considered one of the best Dutch photo books of the 20th century. Many followed, as well as many portraits, among which the official state photos of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. Breukel has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Finland) and at the Musée Européenne de la Photographie (Paris). His work can be found in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Gemeentemuseum (The Hague), and the San Francisco MoMA.

website

Platforms

Miepie Molendijk, Amsterdam, 2010.
Miepie Molendijk, Amsterdam, 2010.
© Koos Breukel
Lou Reed, Amsterdam, 2007.
Lou Reed, Amsterdam, 2007.
© Koos Breukel
King Willem-Alexander, Wassenaar, 2012.
King Willem-Alexander, Wassenaar, 2012.
© Koos Breukel
Charlotte Dumas, Amsterdam, 2004.
Charlotte Dumas, Amsterdam, 2004.
© Koos Breukel
Lucian Freud, London, 2008.
Lucian Freud, London, 2008.
© Koos Breukel
Tjitske Reijdinga, Amsterdam, 1999.
Tjitske Reijdinga, Amsterdam, 1999.
© Koos Breukel
Hendrien Adams, Amsterdam, 1997.
Hendrien Adams, Amsterdam, 1997.
© Koos Breukel
Lisa Breukel, Vinkeveen, 2008.
Lisa Breukel, Vinkeveen, 2008.
© Koos Breukel
Ata Kando, Bergen, 2003
Ata Kando, Bergen, 2003
© Koos Breukel
Koos en Riet Breukel, Kijkduin, 1993
Koos en Riet Breukel, Kijkduin, 1993
© Koos Breukel
Me We at Fotomuseum, The Hague, 2013
Me We at Fotomuseum, The Hague, 2013
© Fotomuseum Den Haag
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
© Jolien Jong
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
© Jolien Jong
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
© Jolien Jong
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
© Jolien Jong
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
Opening of the Me We exhibition, Fotomuseum The Hague, September 20, 2013.
© Jolien Jong
Me We at Fotomuseum, The Hague, 2013
Me We at Fotomuseum, The Hague, 2013
© Fotomuseum Den Haag
Me We at Fotomuseum, The Hague, 2013
Me We at Fotomuseum, The Hague, 2013
© Fotomuseum Den Haag
Installing Me We at Kunsthal Citroën, September 2015
Installing Me We at Kunsthal Citroën, September 2015

Exhibition

Telling the story of life brings together the work from a longer period, portraits of unknown people as well as celebrities. The strong formal approach that characterizes his portraits plays a secondary role in this surprising insight into his personal agenda and artistic development. Breukel’s enlarged portraits in a museum environment resemble sculptures rather than prints on light sensitive paper. Breukel chisels statues for the vulnerable human. ME WE is a statement about life as well as a mid career retrospective of one of the greatest portrait photographers of our times.

The ME WE exhibition has travelled past the Fotomuseum in The Hague as well as to the Kunsthal Citroën in Amsterdam.

  • 09.09.201312.01.2014Fotomuseum, The Hague (NL)

    12.09.201525.10.2015Kunsthal Citroën, Amsterdam (NL)

  • Photographs
    ca. 120 framed prints (various sizes: 30×40 cm – 100×120 cm)
    Documentation
    Tables with books
    2 – 3 tables
    Video
    Documentary on Koos Breukel
    monitors with DVD- or mediaplayers
    Space required
    300 – 500 m2

Front cover Me We, 2013
Front cover Me We, 2013
© Koos Breukel
Spread Me We, 2013
Spread Me We, 2013
© Koos Breukel
Spread Me We, 2013
Spread Me We, 2013
© Koos Breukel
Spread Me We, 2013
Spread Me We, 2013
© Koos Breukel
Spread Me We, 2013
Spread Me We, 2013
© Koos Breukel
Back Cover Me We, 2013
Back Cover Me We, 2013
© Koos Breukel

Book

The Me We book presents over two hundred portraits, together telling a universal and simultaneously very personal life story. The overview contains work Breukel made in the past thirty years, much of which was never yet shown. Breukel gives all aspects of life – from birth and joy to illness and death – an equal place in this book, that is somewhat of an alternative, universal family album.

 

Award

Nomination Best Dutch Book Designs 2014

Buy
  • Me We – The Circle of Life
    Koos Breukel, YdocPublishing / Hannibal Publishing, 2013.
    Texts by: Erwin Mortier, Hedy van Erp
    Design: Sabine Verschueren
    Pages: 396,
    Colour: full colour and duotone
    Cover: Hardcover
    Size: 315 x 245 mm
    Language: English, Dutch
    ISBN: 978 94 9137 664 1

Website

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 23.14.53

In the media

  • The kind severity of Koos Breukel

    Arno Haijtema, De Volkskrant, 6-9-2013 Read more »
  • Mooi, mooi, mooi.

    Vrij Nederland, 7-9-2013
  • Me We, The Circle of Life

    Pf, 7-9-2013 Read more »
  • I want to capture the mystery

    Maaike Stafhorst, De Telegraaf, 6-9-2013
  • Menschen der Zeit

    Christiane Kuhlman, Photonews, September 2013

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