How intoxicated students forced a Leiden photographer to take a new kind of photos

Israel David Kiek (Groningen, April 22, 1811 – Leiden, May 14, 1899)

Few Dutch people have been so beautifully immortalized in one word as the Leiden photographer Kiek, after whom 'the snapshot' is named, an occasional photo by an amateur photographer.

But because 'kiekie' simply resembles a dialect word for 'look', the surname has become virtually invisible. Leiden honors him with a simple Kiekpad and since 2001 also with a small-scale Kiekmonument.

Kiek deserves better; as the (forced) founder of casual photography, he is entitled to national recognition.

The place of the action was Leiden 'outside the Rijnsburgsche Poort, next to Klein Zomerzorg'. Between 1860 and 1890. The man owned a wooden shack there, which some say was a discarded fairground stall.

Behind the wooden building was a courtyard with a few ladders, two barrels, chairs and a bench without a backrest.

Sometimes drunken students also brought along a sheep that they had 'rented' from the market. The time was the crack of dawn. Dawn. Morning twilight.

The photo sessions always took place outside. 'It was blowing heavily,' writes a witness; "It happened in all weathers," says another.

The photographer was a tall, thin man with white sideburns and an impossibly sad look, dressed in a loose dressing gown beneath which peeked out flowered slippers.

He recorded the exposure time with the number of seconds that had to be stood still. Given the scarce light, that time could be up to a hundred seconds. Sometimes there were fifteen to twenty students or more: with the help of the ladders the photo was also allowed to expand in height.

If the commotion continued for too long, the photographer uttered the classic cry of despair: 'Art must progress!' The students enjoyed making fun of the old man, so he stood with his back to them for the entire exposure.

For example, between 1860 and 1890, Israel David Kiek photographed thousands of intoxicated students who did not want to go to bed in the morning. He provided them with proof 'that they had been there' and at the same time created the genre of the amateur photo, which would not flourish until the twentieth century.

In every student room in those years you could see the 'snapshots', stuck in the edge of the mirror.

Two heads

The art of photography was still young at Kiek's time, officially having only existed since 1839. But the early daguerreotype – on silver-plated copper plates – required a lot of professional knowledge and was above all expensive.

Twenty years later, Kiek worked with the much cheaper albumen paper, which was not very light-sensitive. The print on it was only created after prolonged exposure. Which explains why many early 'snapshots' are blurry.

Some of the young gentlemen in those photos have three hands or two heads: the head on the left shoulder for fifty counts, the head on the right for fifty counts. Anyone who moved too much made themselves unrecognizable.

The albumen paper was sturdy, but very thin, so it curled. That is why the real 'snapshots' are almost always stuck on cardboard. 'Kiek is also known to do serious work, in particular the business card portraits or album portraits (8.5 x 6 cm) that were very popular around 1860.

Usually the quality is much better, which proves that he paid less attention to the student photos," says Dr. Ingeborg Leijerzapf of the University of Leiden, author of the only book ever written about Kiek.

Twelve stiles

Kiek was a man of twelve professions and thirteen accidents. He had nine children's mouths to feed and that must have been the reason why he allowed himself to be messed with for thirty years and allowed himself to be taken out of bed night and day, 'gently scolding back'.

Where did he come from? Kiek was born in 1811 as the son of a Jewish watchmaker in Groningen. The Kieks came from the north of Germany, the region of Hamburg.

In the 1830 census, young Israel was registered as a 'coffin maker' in Groningen. In 1838 he married Henderika de Leeuw, also of Jewish descent, in Gouda. Between 1838 and 1853 she gave birth to 12 children – one almost every year – nine of whom lived to adulthood.

When he registered in Gouda in 1838, Kiek was a 'carpenter', in the 1840 census he recorded his occupation as 'meat chopper' and when his daughter Jeannetta was born three years later, he turned out to be 'debiter in the Royal Dutch Lottery' (lottery collector). to be.

Restless, he traveled through the country with his large family: in 1844 he returned to Groningen as a 'merchant'; In 1852 he settled in Amsterdam and in 1855 he settled in Leiden.

Initially on Levendaal, in the southeast of the city, not coincidentally near the synagogue, which also had a social function for the small community of about 500 Jews. Kiek then gave up the profession of merchant. According to one source, he opened a cigar shop there.

In 1858 the name 'JD Kiek & Sons' appeared for the first time in the Leiden Address Book as 'portraiteur', although the profession of merchant remained listed. In 1859 he settled on 'JD and LJ Kiek'. LJ was the eldest son, Louis Israel, who later went his own way.

His son Lion, 'young Kiek', assisted him in the last years of his life. Ultimately, his five sons: Louis (°1838), Abraham (°1839), David (°1840) (in Paris), Lion (°1847) and Gabriel (°1851) would all practice the profession of photographer.

Abraham ('Bram') – later he made a living as the director of an orphanage in Rotterdam – said shortly before his death in 1926 that all boys were trained as photographers by their father; after which he promptly asked them to move to another city.

Sat on the roof

Kiek's studio at the Rijnsburgerpoort was located between the busy 'Sociëteit Amicitia' and the equally popular Zomerzorg café, on the way to the station. A strategic place, so to speak.

A former Leiden resident wrote in his memories in 1910: 'It was absolutely not the intention to have an ordinary portrait made; that was why they had not come to Kiek at that early morning hour.

No, they wanted to be “nice”, something witty, at least something grotesque, had to appear on the photographic plate and the plan for this had not been thought out in advance but had been put together at the scene of the action itself.'

What has been preserved is a group portrait with five students, one of whom sticks his head through a ladder. A picture in which a person is sleeping, another sticks out his tongue and a third holds his finger to his nose, as if he is going to blow his nose.

Two men are standing in the gutter of a sloping roof and two others have installed themselves on a high chimney. A scene with six young people on the same roof. A man standing in front of a fence mounted on a wall; a second standing on top of the fence: a breakneck feat.

Often one of the subjects in such a photo is holding a sign that clearly states the reason for the display.

But the restless Kiek and his house also kept moving within the city of Leiden: in 1866 he moved from Levendaal, where he had already moved, to Haarlemmerstraat 380 and in 1868 to Turfmarkt number 7, each time a little closer to his home. studio'.

It was important for the students to know where he lived, where he could be woken from sleep 'by banging on his door'. Shortly after the construction of the Rijnsburgersingel in 1879, he moved there with Lion, right next to his somewhat meager studio.

Farewell party

Former student H. Burger was able to testify about his adventures with Kiek in 1947.

He had kept forty photos: 'The memorials to the most wonderful, the most cheerful, the most carefree time of his life', 'The fruits of a drunken night.' All students knew that Kiek could be a bit grumpy sometimes.

Another time he asked 'with an indescribable grin' 'Should it happen?', to which everyone shouted 'yes' in unison. At least you could count on him.

The day after the photo session, each student received his snapshot delivered to his home for a cash payment of one guilder. 'If there had been thirty, Kiek would have earned thirty guilders in that hour.

Gross: because in addition to his costs, he also had to suffer a disturbed night's sleep and rude treatment. If there had been only two enthusiasts, those two guilders would have been dearly earned.'
In 1892 - when he was 81 - he celebrated a big farewell party at which he transferred his business to Lion. A former student: 'Not only did his neighbors flag, but representatives of the Leiden Student Corps, even the Municipal Council, appeared at his reception.

That was the most glorious moment of Kiek's life, when he was 'lifted into the air' with warm words and his popularity in many circles was witnessed.'

Henderika died later that year, at the age of eighty. Kiek lived with Lion for a while, went to the Leiden Student Reunion for a few years, had a daughter in Arnhem in 1889 and returned to Lion in 1898, who continued his father's business at Rijnsburgersingel number 40.

Israel David Kiek died here on May 14, 1899, aged 88. He was buried next to his wife at the Jewish cemetery in Katwijk. When he died, the word 'kiekie' was in a dictionary and Afrikaner students had already taken it with them to South Africa.

Kiek was a Jew and this can be seen not only from his first name but also from his family tree. At least ten of his grandchildren died in the horror camps of Auschwitz, Sobibor and Bergen-Belsen.

The city of Leiden honored his illustrious son by attaching his name to a simple path in the Noorderplantsoen opposite his residence on the Rijnsburgersingel. The city party 'Leiden Weer Gezellig' erected a monument on this Kiekpad in 2001.

It consists of a stainless steel tripod, 120 cm high, with a stainless camera case on top. Anyone who looks through the lens sees nine reproductions of authentic 'snapshots'.

The monument is somewhat small, but, as the artists Hester Keijser and Norman Beijerle said: 'We have opted for an inconspicuous, accessible and modest statue for a man who must undoubtedly also have been inconspicuous and modest himself.'

Peeking walk

Setting up a Kiek walk in Leiden is not that difficult. You simply travel from the southeast straight through the city to the northwest. Starting at the synagogue on Levendaal, where Kiek arrived in 1855.

Via the Breestraat, where the students 'booed a bit' on the way to Kiek, you go to the Haarlemmerstraat, one of the longest shopping streets in the Netherlands. Kiek and his son Lion lived here at numbers 380 (since 1866) and 61.

The Turfmarkt is immediately on the right on the western corner of Haarlemmerstraat. Kiek lived at number 7 – now a mobile telephone business – between 1868 and about 1880.

If you then continue across the Nieuwe Beestenmarkt towards the De Valk Mill Museum, the Noorderplantsoen with the Kiekpad and the Kiekmonument is on the left. At the end of this path is the Rijnsburger Bridge. The Kieks lived at many numbers (1, 2, 5, 40) on the Rijnsburgersingel.

But it is according to Dr. Leijerzapf is unclear to what extent a renumbering of the houses can occur.