Armando Jongejan FRPS on his new book and exhibition 'Monks’ Life’

01 June 2018


Armando Jongejan FRPS (1960, Egmond aan Zee - The Netherlands) studied photography at the University of Applied Photography in Apeldoorn and works as a freelance photographer. He is a member of the RPS Benelux Chapter (and editor of their eJournal), Contemporary Group and Distinction Panel Member of Conceptual and Contemporary Photography. Monks’ Life’ is his fourth published photo book of monastic life.

What can you tell us about the project?

I first got acquainted with Abbot Gerard Mathijsen of St Adelbert’s Abbey (Egmond-Binnen, the Netherlands) during the mid 90’s, when I worked on a series for my first photo book Villagers of Egmond. Between 2002 and 2004 I returned to the brothers in the abbey more than twenty-five times. It was peaceful, concentrated working. The end result was brought together in the 2004 photo book Een Zoektocht (A Quest).


Where did the inspiration come from?

I want to produce work that interests me which is why I like documentary/contemporary photography. The invitation from the abbot was therefore very welcome and I enjoyed making contact with the monks as I like working with people. I’m curious about how they live and what they do - it inspires me. I also like to create a coherent body of work rather than a single photo. A comprehensive photographic series of images cannot be a fluke. It is made by a photographer who is working in a very focused way.

In May 2016, Brother Gerard invited me back to record the changes within the walls of the abbey. So, on the 26th June 2016 at 7 o’clock in the morning, I started again with this new photo series on the Adelbertus Field. It was a beautiful day, the rising sun shone on the altar. It was still and quiet as only a limited number of visitors had come to this service, this was in contrast to the second shift at ten o’clock which was busy. Since then I have taken photographs around the abbey about fifty times: in the greenhouse where Br Adelbert grows vegetables for meals, watching Br Beda painting beautiful icons, in the sacristy with Br Columba, and so on.

Copyright Armando Jongejan 2

Did your feelings or ideas about the monastery change after the project?

Because I have visited the abbey for more than 20 years I can see the differences across the years. The smartphone has become commonplace in the abbey, and Br Gerard regularly puts photos of daily life on his Facebook page. There are new faces, with new brothers becoming novices or accepting their perpetual vows. The community of St Adelbert Abbey will continue because of these new faces - a development that was not expected back in 2004. Sometimes I am told during a visit that I have missed an “Armando moment”! My presence with the camera was becoming a matter of course for the brothers.

How are you promoting the project?

When the abbot invited me to produce this new series it was with the clear end goal of producing a photobook. This has been designed and printed by Wilco Art Books who print books for artists, photographers, art galleries and museums. The images are finished in a square format which suits my style of photography and they are in black and white. I think the book is nicely sized at 30x30cm and 120 pages, It is a hardback which is printed in duotone. It looks and feels like a real book with a print run of only 2,000 copies.

The abbot and I wanted to showcase the book, so we created an exhibition of almost 40 photographs in the exhibition room of the abbey where the photographs will be shown for more than a month. Because it is a special project, we’ve had a lot of interest from (local) newspapers, broadcasting (TV) and photo magazines.

Armando Jongejan book cover

Do you have a next project planned?

After an intensive project like this I wanted to just enjoy the results for a while, but I have already started on the next series of photographs at the abbey.

The abbot and I decided to capture the changes in the abbey during the next five or ten years. I’m looking forward to joining the monks when they go swimming in the North Sea, walking in the dunes or enjoying a BBQ in their garden.

The abbot wrote in his foreword: “Armando makes photographs involved and respectful, and at the same time with the eyes of an outsider; attentive and struck by details that the monks carelessly pass by. In this way he can see how the community has undergone a metamorphosis and a change process is still taking place.”

Exhibition open: 8th June-7th July 2018, Exhibition Room, Sint-Adelbertabdij, Vennewatersweg 27a, Egmond-Binnen, Netherlands.

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All pictures copyright Armando Jongejon.