Occupation: Soldier is a documentary on the Dutch armed forces. Since the end of the Cold War in 1990 and the expected conclusion of the Uruzgan mission in 2010, almost 90,000 Dutch soldiers have been involved in peacekeeping operations. What do we remember of them, what remains in our collective visual memory? Precious little. Peacekeeping does not produce spectacular images. Except when it goes wrong. The fall of Srebrenica is an open wound in Dutch (military) history.

Even so, every day young men and women do their often dangerous duty. Drawn by the adventure, out of a need for camaraderie and sometimes also out of idealism and a sense of responsibility. In total, around 40 of them have lost their lives, more than half in Afghanistan.

As part of their annual photo commission, Document Nederland, the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad newspaper asked photographer Ad van Denderen to give this history a face. Van Denderen followed the recruits during their training in The Netherlands and on their missions in Chad and Uruzgan: hard working, operating with caution; a frequently unglamorous existence. He also turned his lens towards family members. He captured the Christmas and New Year’s greetings being recorded in a television studio and visited the homes of families whose sons will never return – the target of insurgents as a result of their occupation.

“Wars are begun because the lust for war exists,” writes Arnon Grunberg. His polemic examination of the notion of civilisation forms the introduction to Occupation: Soldier. Grunberg visited ISAF, NATO’s peacekeeping and reconstruction force in Afghanistan, in 2006 and 2007.

Authors

Ad van Denderen (1943, The Netherlands) has worked as a photographer for Vrij NederlandStern, NRC Handelsblad, GEO and The Independent magazine, among others. He has received a number of prestigious prizes for his work, including the Visa d’Or at the international photo festival Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan in 2001 and The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts’ (Fonds BKVB) oeuvre prize in 2007/2008. Go No Go, his book on migration in Europe, based on 13 years of work, was published by Actes Sud, Mets & Schilt, Lunwerg Editores, Edition Braus and Paradox in 2003. For the 2008 SteidlMack/Paradox publication So Blue So Blue, Van Denderen photographed the 17 countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Earlier publications include Peace in The Holy Land, a book about Palestine (1997) andWelkom in Suid-Afrika, about apartheid (1991). Ad van Denderen is a member of VU agency, Paris.

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Registration of the new
recruits for the Airborne
Brigade. - J.J.A. Capelle. // Oranjekazerne, Schaarsbergen
27.10.2008
Registration of the new recruits for the Airborne Brigade. - J.J.A. Capelle. // Oranjekazerne, Schaarsbergen 27.10.2008
© Ad van Denderen
Near Baluchi Valley.
Near Baluchi Valley.
© Ad van Denderen
Visit by the JSD /LSD to the
Dyanet mosque. The soldiers are given an explanation by an Islam expert. // Harderwijk 06.01.2009
Visit by the JSD /LSD to the Dyanet mosque. The soldiers are given an explanation by an Islam expert. // Harderwijk 06.01.2009
© Ad van Denderen
The Road from Tarin Kowt to Boeman // Afghanistan 04.2009
The Road from Tarin Kowt to Boeman // Afghanistan 04.2009
© Ad van Denderen
Max Broadcasting corporation studio in the Groenoordhal // Leiden, 22.11.2008
Max Broadcasting corporation studio in the Groenoordhal // Leiden, 22.11.2008
© Ad van Denderen
Marines from camp Ciara near Goz Beida going to Koukouangarana on a three-day patrol. // Chad 04.12.2008
Marines from camp Ciara near Goz Beida going to Koukouangarana on a three-day patrol. // Chad 04.12.2008
© Ad van Denderen
Max Broadcasting corporation studio in the Groenoordhal // Leiden, 22.11.2008
Max Broadcasting corporation studio in the Groenoordhal // Leiden, 22.11.2008
© Ad van Denderen
The bedroom of private first class Tim Hoogland, who was killed in Afghanistan // Vroomshoop, 09.06.2009
The bedroom of private first class Tim Hoogland, who was killed in Afghanistan // Vroomshoop, 09.06.2009
© Ad van Denderen
Families say goodbye before the departure to Uruzgan. // Eindhoven Airport 23.03.2009
Families say goodbye before the departure to Uruzgan. // Eindhoven Airport 23.03.2009
© Ad van Denderen
After the JSD /LSD roll call in Camp Holland. // Uruzgan, Afghanistan 04.2009
After the JSD /LSD roll call in Camp Holland. // Uruzgan, Afghanistan 04.2009
© Ad van Denderen
Salute at Camp Holland for
the dead Private First Class
Azdin Chadli on his flight
home.// Uruzgan, Afghanistan 08.04.2009
Salute at Camp Holland for the dead Private First Class Azdin Chadli on his flight home.// Uruzgan, Afghanistan 08.04.2009
© Ad van Denderen
Friends await the presentation of the Airborne Brigade’s red beret. //  Oranjekazerne, Schaarsbergen
27.10.2008
Friends await the presentation of the Airborne Brigade’s red beret. // Oranjekazerne, Schaarsbergen 27.10.2008
© Ad van Denderen
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.
Occupation: Soldier at Fotomuseum Den Haag, 2009.

Exhibition

The Occupation: Soldier exhibition was displayed at the Fotomuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands, from November 7th, 2009, until January 12th, 2010.

  • 07.11.200912.01.2010Fotomuseum The Hague, Netherlands

Book

The book is for sale in the Ydocstore

Occupation: Soldier

  • Occupation: Soldier
    Ad van Denderen, Paradox / NRC Boeken, 2009.
    Texts by: Ad van Denderen, Aron Grunberg
    Design: Kummer & Herrman
    Pages: 176
    Cover: Softcover
    Size: 197 x 250 mm
    Colour: Colour
    Language: Dutch, English
    ISBN: 978-90-79985-111

Supported by

General Credits

Photography: Ad van Denderen, Picture editing: Hans Aarsman, Texts: Arnon Grunberg, New York (USA) & Ad van Denderen, Amsterdam (NL), Editors: Remmelt Otten (NRC Boeken, NL) & Bas Vroege (Paradox, NL), Translations: Cecily Layzell, Utrecht (NL), Sam Garrett, New York (USA), Assistant editor: Wouter den Bakker (Paradox, NL), Design: Kummer & Herrman, Utrecht (NL), Printing: Drukkerij Slinger, Alkmaar (NL), Lithography: Eyes on Media, Amsterdam (NL), Colour & Books, Apeldoorn (NL), Production: NRC Boeken, Rotterdam, The Netherlands & Paradox, Edam, The Netherlands

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