Photography book review: Easter and Oak Trees, By Bertien van Manen


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The Independent Culture

Easter and Oak Trees is the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen's sixth monograph since 1994, but comprises some of her oldest work: black and white pictures of family holidays in Den Eikenhorst (literally, "Nest of Oak Trees") in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

Playful, blissful, and nostalgic, the pictures are full of the joys of spring; of children at play; of bare feet and bell-bottoms; long summer evenings and rural idylls. But there is also a complicated and very provocative tension between innocence and experience. Van Manen's children play up to the camera; trying out adult poses, holding bottles of beer or smoking. And there's no getting around it: there is a degree of intimacy here – or at least, in the shots of her children in the nude – which, in these more sensitive times, seems calculated to make a viewer uncomfortable.