Dordrecht · [c. 1910]
Extraordinary, very rare portfolio of 58 fine, original photographs of dredges taken by the noted Dutch photographer Johannes Henk Tollens (1864-1936) during the first years of the 20th century. Apparently produced to commemorate the merger which formed the A. Bos & J. P. Heijblom dredging company of Dordrecht, Holland, the portfolio depicts a wide variety of specialized equipment, including bucket dredges, suction dredges, hopper suction dredges, barge unloading suction dredges, elevator conveyors, self-emptying dredges, tugboats, a steam hopper, floating cranes, a repair vessel, and several machine rooms and engines, some populated with images of the men who serviced and operated these machines. The photographs are mounted to finely printed cards which provide the name of the vessel and in each of the four corners note in English, French, German, and Spanish the vessel's type, its length, breadth, and machine power.
H. J. Tollens, who is often considered one of Holland's first modern, fine-arts photographers, also ran a successful commercial photography business (the blind stamp of 'H. J. Tollens C.H.zn.' appears at the bottom right of each of the cards in this portfolio). Although the present dredge series may be taken as a purely documentary project, it is intriguing how closely in spirit the series resembles the renowned 'industrial typologies' photographs of the German conceptual artists Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1935-2015), who recorded the variety (and uniformity) of infrastructure in postwar Germany (silos, water towers, grain elevators, gas tanks, factories, etc.).
We have been unable to locate another example of this portfolio (OCLC and KVK locate no global copies), and it must be assumed that very few sets were originally produced, and that the photographs were not intended for general sale, but exclusively for those working inside the A. Bos & J. P. Heijblom company.
This portfolio was acquired from the descendants of the Kalis family (Sliedrecht, Holland), which founded a dredging company that later merged with the Bos firm to form the highly regarded Royal Boskalis Wesminster Dredging Company.
*S. van Gijn, Dordracum Illustratum: Verzameling van Kaarten, Teekeningen, Prenten an Portretten, Betreffende de Stad Dordrecht; A. Boer, "De man en zijn werk, H.J. Tollens C.Hz," De Camera, no. 7, (1908), pp. 121-23; Fotografisch Maandschrift no. 6, (May 1911), pp. 135-37; W.H. Izerda, Neerland's Fotokunst, bloemlezing uit Nederlandsche Kunstfoto's; J.H. Beudeker, Genealogie Tollens: Vlaamse oorsprong en Nederlandse vertakkingen; Femke van Boxsel, H.J. Tollens, 'ik zou niet gelukkig zijn als ik niet kon fotograferen', Ph.D. dissertation, RU Leiden (1996), RAD 489-32574/5; Femke IJsinga-van Boxsel, Het Dordrecht van Tollens; C. Esseboom (red.), Deze schoone kunst, Dordrecht en de fotografie in de negentiende eeuw. (Inventory #: 5641)