Bertien van Manen was born in 1942 in Den Haag, The Netherlands. She is known for her intimate, detailed portraits of life as others live it. Van Manen started out photographing her children and family in the ’70s, leading to her work as a fashion photographer. However, after becoming familiar with the work of Robert Frank and having grown bored of the fashion world, Van Manen aimed her camera at different topics. Furthermore, she developed a more raw, spontaneous and personal approach.
She has documented the daily life of various social groups such as nuns, female migrant workers. Also, mining communities in the Appalachian Mountains. As well as life in the former Soviet Union and China. Van Manen immerses herself in the places and cultures she photographs. Moreover, she learns the language, lives with the people whose lives she documents and forms lasting relationships. To blend into the scenery, Bertien Van Manen always works with a small, simple handheld camera.
The resulting images display intimacy and directness that imbue her photographs with the unworldly otherness of lives unimagined. Van Manen’s photographs display her ability to make approachable these lives with humanity, warmth and honesty.