In recent years Wouda has photographed numerous secondary schools in the Netherlands, both in the provinces and the Randstad conurbation. He consciously avoids photographing in classes and focuses instead on places in which pupils relax between lessons and are able to be themselves. During breaks these areas rapidly fill up with dozens of pupils. Wouda depicts these clusters of young people from high vantage points: he places a camera on a tripod high on a ladder and remains on the ground where he takes pictures by remote control at specific moments. These pictures show groups of pupils huddled together and throw contemporary Dutch youth in a completely new light. Interaction between individuals, formation of groups, clothing and hairstyles: everything is captured in a single picture. Apart from providing a unique snapshot of a particular period, the series offers a sociological survey of young Holland in a modern variation on the traditional Dutch militia corps portrait.

Secondary schools have been the subject of discussion lately, especially in the press. The debate has focused on the substance of the syllabus and the alleged poor behaviour of pupils. According to Raimond Wouda this broad public debate has been largely unnoticed by the pupils themselves. For them, secondary school is a relatively safe place in which to meet their friends, a place in which to discover their own identity. Many young people are more concerned with questions such as which clothes to wear and how to behave within a given group. The isolation of school life and the confidence pupils have in this environment provides the seedbed for a dynamic youth culture with its own codes of conduct and expressions.

For this reason Raimond Wouda chose to photograph during breaks and other activities outside school hours, such as school parties. The high perspective ensures that both the individual and the group dynamic are captured. It is difficult to portray this successfully since so much is happening at the same time: the observer is generally standing among the subjects and is never able to show an overall survey. By capturing a particular moment in time, photography allows a given situation to be subsequently examined and analysed.

Raimond Wouda has photographed for almost fifteen years. In his photos he reveals a passionate involvement with people in the Netherlands. Besides ‘School’, which focuses on the life of Dutch adolescents, his other series include ‘Tuindorp Oostzaan’, about the last Dutch working class neighbourhood in Amsterdam and, together with photographer Henk Wildschut, ‘A’DAM DOC.K’, a portrait of life in Amsterdam’s harbour. With an unerring instinct and a sharp eye Wouda captures the rich tapestry of everyday life in wonderfully balanced and layered photos.

Text by Exhibition School at Foam Amsterdam

The book "School" is published by Nazraeli Press in march 2009
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A review by Jeffrey Ladd can be read here:


series of 22 images