Pep Jansen

1931 - 1969

Untitled, c. 1960, gelatin silver print 13,0x18,5 cm 
← previous next →
Pep Jansen probably is the only dedicated party photographer in the history of Dutch photography. His intimate and complex images breathe the Amsterdam party atmosphere of the sixties.

Party Photographer
 
Pep Janssen was to party photography, what Garry Winogrand was to street photography. Before turning to photography on his 24th, Jansen had already worn out countless jobs. He followed a short photography course and found a job in a photo shop in the centre of Amsterdam. The numerous photographs of parties that passed by gave him the idea to specialize in that area. He bought a fast camera and an outstanding flash unit and started practicing at parties in his own circle. It soon appeared that he had a special feeling for the decisive photo moment. Moreover, he was a fast and agile man, a rare combination of qualities that helped him in becoming a great photographer. He placed advertisements in local newspapers with slogans like: ‘There's more to see, when Jansen has been at your party’. Apparently, this was effective, because he became a much asked for photographer. He resigned at the photo shop and focused entirely on party photography, in which he developed a unique visual language. He possessed the ability to seem invisible which made it possible to capture the most intimate and surprising unposed moments. His style was defined by the fact that he rarely focused on a single event, but tried to arrest multiple events simultaneously. At a time when generally only one subject was adressed in a picture, when Robert Capa's famous quote: If your pictures are not good enough, you're not close enough was still considered relevant, the work of Jansen was innovative and refreshing. On this website I show a selection of his best work made around 1955-1965.
A real tragedy in the life of Jansen was the fact that he was not popular due to his pictures, but because he was a much liked guest at parties. Nobody seemed to have an eye for his complex photo work. While he was taking pictures, he had pleasant contacts with the guests, he drank with them but could also silent and invisible when the situation asked for it. Due to the increasing workload, he came into a whirl of parties and drank more alcohol then he should. His photographs of course suffered: the work grew less sharp in all respects and entire rolls of film failed due to drunkenness (see photographs).
 

Typical photographs from Janssen's later period
 
Assignments declined and around 1965 it was virtually over with his photo career. His last years were marked by alcoholism and lack of money. Neither over them he was able to overcome. By 1968 he was thrown out of his house and one year later he died of pneumonia in a homeless center.