(By Em. prof. dr. Liesbeth Woertman – original article here)
I received a Linkedin request from a photographer unknown to me and I accepted his request. I find it enriching to be connected with many different people in that way, so I said yes. He wanted to send me his photo book and was curious what I thought of it. He saw similarities between our work.
And so it happened. A few days later I received a beautifully designed photo book Naked Rotterdam and the images touched me. I saw 165 men and women, clothed and naked, of different ages. It was a wonderful experience to meet all those people first clothed and then naked. Twice the same person and yet different. Obviously I saw different body shapes, lots of tattoos and everyone was shaved. It reminded me of Rilke, a person has many faces and it reminded me of our social identity. We present ourselves to each other and to ourselves with clothing. With that we show our gender and social class. The photos touched me but I couldn’t put my finger on it or put my finger on it.
I let it rest for a while and thanked Leon for his present.
Most of you know that I always read several books at once and that was the case last week. While I was working on the photo book, I read Heilige Onrust by Frits de Lange. Something completely different, you might think, because what does a pilgrimage to the heart of religion have to do with Naked Rotterdam?
I read on page 77 of Heilige Onrust:
“Open, open, open it must be and I open, open, open me to you”. It seems to be a song by The Lau (1952-2015) and according to Frits de Lange it is the basic question of every pilgrim, may I come in or not? We can easily broaden that to one of the most important questions of our time. May I see you? Can I really see you and do I want to show myself to you too?
That hit me like a punch and suddenly I had language to tell why this beautiful work by Leon Schroder struck me so deeply. I see a man on every left page clothed and I look at it benevolently and I look on every right page and I see a naked man. A defenseless person who looks at me, which opens me up.
Remove your clothes that you have worn for yourself and others. Taking off your social identity for a while, Undressed, naked, and therefore beautifully present and an invitation to me to show me too.
Thank you Leon and thank you 165 Rotterdammers for this wonderful and instructive project. I hope this gets a sequel.