Tens of thousands of glass negatives are the legacy of Fotostudio Merkelbach on Amsterdam’s Leidseplein. Merkelbach photographed the bourgeois chic, but the firm also supplied photographs to the world of stage, dance, film and fashion. In 2013 Merkelbach was a digitization project, an exhibition and a book. The book had no difficulty in winning the panel over.
The integral binding has been fed through the digital printing press: a thousand different portraits adorn 2,500 covers, enhanced with a fingertip-caressing laminate.
Open the book and you are taken firmly by the hand. Once open, the left-hand pages have a white background while the background to the rectos is black, producing a fore-edge which is white on the left and black on the right. Close the book and the fore-edge is grey. The main text takes up two-thirds of the left-hand page under a row of usually two or three supporting images.
After two hundred pages the focus shifts from the photos to the sitters and over the next ninety pages we are given an impression of the archive, now with photographs on left and right on black pages, and with the captions in the index. Full-page images alternate with ensembles of two, four or nine to a page. One black and one white ribbon marker and silver-grey endpapers are perfect for the subject matter and complete the whole. A book like a foxtrot.