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Hans Aarsman was born in December 1951 in Amsterdam. As a student, he pursued a variety of passions and interests, reading mathematics, physics and linguistics at the University of Amsterdam.

As an artist, he has pursued a singular trajectory, mixing photojournalistic and in-field documentary practices. He began his career as a photojournalist for the Dutch newspapers Trouw, de Volkskrant, Nieuwe Revu and De Groene Amsterdammer. In 1989, he published a book entitled Hollandse Taferelen which collected landscapes immortalised from the roof of the camper van he had used to travel around the Netherlands the year before. Several other publications would follow: Aarsmans Amsterdam, a book illustrating the city out of the corner of the photographer’s eye, published in 1993, and The Angel that Pissed on my Tongue, published in 1995.

With his photographic work gaining in popularity and interest from artistic milieux, Aarsman has achieved recognition through prizes, such as the Maria Austria Award or Hendrik de Vries Prize, won in 1993 and 2011 respectively, and by being included in prestigious collections, such as that of the Stedelijk Museum in his native Amsterdam. In 2006, the Nederlands Fotomuseum bought a section of Aarsman’s catalogue and made it available to download and print at home in an A3 format.

In 1994, the photographer, enjoying national recognition, took a surprising decision: he stopped taking pictures and sold all of his photographic equipment. Instead, Aarsman experimented with literature. His first novel, Two heads, one pillow, was published shortly afterwards, in 1995. With this success confirming his transition, Aarsman went on to write plays, stage monologues and one-man shows, while continuing to maintain a link with his initial practice, by founding, in 2001, alongside Erik Kessels, Hans van der Meer and others, Useful Photography, a not too serious magazine on the medium.

The photographer-turned-author managed to cleverly combine his passions in 2004, when the newspaper de Volkskrant asked him to contribute a weekly column. Every Thursday, Aarsman’s Collection sees its namesake analyse photographs with the meticulous diligence of a Sherlock Holmes-inspired detective, magnifying glass and all. In this segment, Aarsman dissects what is left out of the image as much as what is featured in it. After assessing all the elements in the picture, he invites the reader to speculate on the narrative surrounding the image, real or imagined. The process is an ode to detail and visual storytelling with a humorous twist. Since 2011, the photography detective persona has featured as a regular guest on the TV show De Wereld Draait Door.

In 2019, he returned to the stage floor with his fourth one-man show, Dokter Aarsman. More recently, it appears Aarsman has picked up a camera again, and is promoting a new show De Aarsman Projectie.

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