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Photographer Ewoud Broeksma: Looking for the Pure Body

by Sandro Kortekaas in Theatre, Art & Expo , 07 November 2019

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 6 minuten

In February 2019, photographer Ewoud Broeksma passed away completely unexpectedly at the age of sixty-one. He was a striking photographer primarily known for his many nude photos of top athletes, such as Epke Zonderland.

Kevin Spithorst, schaatsen en inline skating
A month after his death, his life story was described in the obituary section of the Volkskrant: “He sometimes compared himself to Steven Spielberg. He did not simply take photographs, he directed them.”

Ewoud’s search for the pure body can be seen in the exhibition “Ewoud Puur,” put together by Mooiman Gallery as a tribute shortly after his death. From the start of the gallery, Ewoud was a resident artist, now more than thirteen years ago. Especially with the publication of his book “Dubbelaars: 50 + 1 males, dressed - undressed,” which was published in 2012 (first and second printings are sold out), this special book and the accompanying exhibition made Ewoud famous.

Regionally, Ewoud became best known for his photo column “Hemd van het Lijf” in the newspaper “Nieuwsblad (and later: “Dagblad) van Het Noorden.” He photographed top athletes fully undressed in a unique way, or as Ewoud called it “Physical,” for which he was purely concerned with aesthetics. Dick Heuvelman, then sports editor of the newspaper, introduced him to the paper. “Athletes were not objects of pleasure, but art models. The photos accentuated the beauty, vitality and power of the well-trained bodies of athletes.”

Epke Zonderland, gymnastics
In the retrospective book “Hemd van het Lijf,” which was published in 2014 (sold out), he described the creation of this newspaper column that could ultimately be seen for twenty-five years in the weekend edition - a one-off in the Netherlands - as follows: “At the beginning of 2010, the newspaper ‘Dagblad van het Noorden’ called me to drop by and talk about a photo column on the Saturday sports pages, with most of its readers in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. "

"From 1994 to 2002 I had provided a photo column for this newspaper, then still called ‘Nieuwsblad van het Noorden,’ but due to the merger in 2002 all peripheral matters were put aside, and I no longer gave it much thought. Nevertheless, people regularly spoke to me about my sports photos from ‘Voor de lens van Ewoud Broeksma,’ as the column was called in the 1990s.”

“The renewed acquaintance with the sports editorial team yielded the title ‘Hemd van het Lijf’ without any reference to my name, but it was negotiable that in the interview accompanying the photo, a question about the photo shoot would be asked to the athlete concerned, as the photo had to be eye-catching or special, as well as its creation. Now it is my turn to say something back. The choice of this title for what I know to be the only photo column in a daily newspaper in the Netherlands had another background.

Eelco Sintnicoaals, athletics
Just before the 2004 Olympics took place in Athens, Greece, I published an appropriate calendar in which countless male top athletes were depicted nude - with a nod to classical tradition. ‘Sporthelden puur’ (Sports Heroes Pure) was the name of the accompanying exhibition, which caught the attention of all media in the Netherlands, including the NOS news program. After these publications, it was common knowledge that I often photographed nudes, with the bodies of athletes often portrayed naked.

This is to create a timeless image without clothing, advertising or even photo manipulation. Art for art’s sake. It was taken seriously now. The title ‘Hemd van het Lijf’ was not strange, but I wondered whether there would be many people in 2010 who would dare to pose ‘pure’ or partially undressed in front of the readers of a general and provincial newspaper. There were.”

In the end, there were many people wanting to participate. He photographed gymnast Epke Zonderland on several occasions, but also gymnast Yuri van Gelder, swimmers Pieter van den Hoogenband and Ranomi Kromowidjojo, soccer players Yevgeni Levtsjenko and Joël Veltman, skater Tonny de Jong and athletes Rutger Smith and Churandy Martina.

‘Capture Now for Later’

Many of these athletes can be seen at the exhibition “Ewoud Puur” which also shows the starting point of his photo career with one of the first foreigners to pose in front of his lens, the Russian world champion speed skating Oleg Bozhev. Sandro Kortekaas of Galerie Mooiman Groningen: “My friendship with Ewoud goes back thirty-three years, while volunteering for COC Groningen. He was a starting photographer, and I was a starting designer. "

Peter van Kersen and Rune Heyden, handball
"Through a friend we came in contact with Russian Olympic skating champions who were not sufficiently sponsored by the CCCP and who came to the Netherlands to earn extra money through marathon skating. At a certain point, this friend had her house full of Russian top athletes, and we still had room left. This is how the first contact between Ewoud as a photographer and top athletes came about.”

In the exhibition, which has been extended and is therefore part of the off-program of the twenty-sixth “Noorderlicht International Photo Festival,” these photos are displayed. “I portray bodies in the nude to create as timeless a picture as possible without clothing, advertising and photo manipulation. Art for art’s sake. Because the newspaper is for the general public, I avoid private parts and breasts. That distracts and puts the photo in a different light. It is not a peep show,” Broeksma stated in 2014.

Ewoud BroeksmaIn the exhibition and in great contrast, the photographs of skaters from his early days are on show, next to similar athletes thirty years later - but now naked and with an extreme urge to be precise in order to direct the photographs to the extreme to make their muscles as visible as possible.

“Capture now for later” therefore was Ewoud’s starting point of photographing the bodies of athletes at their peak. His niece Anne wrote a poem about him after his death. “When photographers die, they do not die. They are actually saying: look at me. In less than shutter speed, they create a short moment for eternity. Thousands of eyes on photographs keep the photographer alive.”
“Taxed to the Max,” the twenty-sixth edition of the “Noorderlicht International Photo Festival,” examines the social tensions that international multinational corporations create with their enormous accumulation of capital and influence on national and global politics, and how this affects the lives of ordinary people.

On display until December 10, 2019

Jean-Christophe Husson - “No Land For Love”
The exhibition “No Land For Love” by French photographer Jean-Christophe Husson shows the particularly vulnerable position of GLBTQ asylum seekers.

Ewoud Broeksma - “Ewoud Puur”
This exhibition is a tribute to photographer Ewoud Broeksma and was opened on 23 June 2019. Part of the exhibition - which covers a period of more than thirty years - continues during the Off-program of “Taxed to the Max.” The intention of sales is to make the biography “Ewoud Puur” possible.

Gert Jan Bosman, cycling

Galerie MooiMan male-art, Noorderstationsstraat 40, Groningen. Open on Thursday till Sunday from 14h-18h and by appointment.  See

Note: The photographs by photographer Ewoud Broeksma© illustrating this article are previously published in the series “Hemd van het lijf” in the Dagblad van het Noorden, and in the book with the same title.



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