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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dutch Photography Shines in Queen's Absence




The queen may have bowed out of her trip to Moscow, but the show still goes on. Two weeks ago, the Dutch Embassy started its second annual cultural promotion month in part to warm Moscow up for the arrival of Queen Beatrix. Then when President Boris Yeltsin fell ill again, she was asked to cancel her trip, planned for last week.


The cultural awareness month, though, is in full swing. With more than a week to go, there are still three photo exhibits, a concert and a book discussion.


"Timeless Moments" at the Photo Center is an exhibit of works by Wim van Passel. An industrial and commercial photographer for 30 years, Passel was inspired to document the top of Europe after a second honeymoon with his wife of 25 years on a mail boat along the Norwegian coast.


Falling instantly in love with the arctic landscape, he traveled extensively over the last four years photographing the North Pole, Lofoten Islands and the tip of northern Russia. His adventures included getting stuck in arctic temperatures in a Russian icebreaker heading toward the North Pole, meeting killer whales and polar bears and dog sledding among reindeer.


Passel's style is somewhat like American nature photographer Ansel Adams' in that he has the gift of making nature a dramatic, religious experience.


"This all changed my life deeply and irreversibly," Passel wrote of his journeys.


Crisp and clean, the lines of the landscape are frozen moments of time. The coldness in the pictures is a clean serene coldness unlike Moscow's frigid winter.


The pictures are "a straightforward plea for the preservation of the last piece of wilderness at the top of the world and its natural inhabitants," Passel wrote.


Another photo exhibition, titled "The Netherlands: a Land Born From the Sea," is located at the Maly Manezh. From the title, you might expect a similar nature-orientated exhibit, but the work is instead a portrait of the industrialization of a land ever ready to be swamped by nature.


There are no children with their fingers in the dike but instead run-down apartments, truck drivers and quick-stop gas stations. One set of photographs visually documents the flood of 1953 when 2,500 people died in one of the Netherlands' worst battles with the sea.


Instead of being a tourism promotion package for the Netherlands, the exhibit is refreshingly honest and educational. The final wall is devoted to abstract patterns formed by aerial views of the intricate highway system. These final pictures close an exhibit that make you despise industrialization while showing the potential harmony that can be achieved between industrialization and nature. You leave believing that the Netherlands still has windmills and tulips.


The final exhibition, "Pictures of the Moment," by Joris van Welzen opens Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Moscow Fine Art Gallery. This collage of abstract photographs isn't about nature or the Netherlands. In the photographers own words, it's about "vivid, bright, spontaneous moments captured with a cheapo plastic camera." Using a Lomo, the trendy Soviet camera beloved by the likes of Brian Eno and U2's Bono, Welzen didn't even look through the viewfinder when taking the strange and often blurred pictures.


"Pictures of the Moment," at the Moscow Fine Art Gallery, 3 Bolshaya Sadovaya Ulitsa, Building 10, in the yard of the Pekin restaurant, Metro: Mayakovskaya. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Dec. 12, closed Sat. and Sun. 251-7649.


"Timeless Moments," at the Photo Center, 8 Gogolevsky Bulvar, Metro: Kropotkinskaya. Noon to 8 p.m. through Dec. 3. 290-6996, 291-8602.


"The Netherlands: a Land Born From the Sea" at the Maly Manezh, 3 Georgiyevsky Pereulok, Metro: Okhotny Ryad. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Dec. 15, closed Mon. 292-4459.


As part of the festival, Dutch pianist Pieter-Jelle de Boer will play Dec. 3, at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, 7 p.m., 4/31 Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, 299-0378, Metro: Mayakovskaya.


There will be a discussion on Dutch author Hella S. Haasse's book "Secret Source" on Dec. 7 at Biblio Globus, 6 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, 928-3567, Metro: Lubyanka.