Curriculum Vitae Leo Erken


Born on 4th of May 1964, in Bemmel, Gelderland, the Netherlands.

Married to Marie Louise Schipper.

Leo Erken (born in Bemmel, the Netherlands in 1964) is a visual artist working with VR, film and (collecting) photography. He has a past as a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder of nl12, an Amsterdam based media company producing VR, film, photography and other projects on social issues. He teaches at the combined film, photography & digital art department of St Joost School of Art & Design in Breda, The Netherlands.


1988: Graduated at AKI, Academy of Fine Arts, Enschede, The Netherlands. During his studies, he published his first photo book ‘Worldwide’ with the ITC International University of Twente. His graduation project was about the Sikh community in London. From that time he travelled the world especially Eastern Europe and the (former) Soviet Union.

Teaching qualification: BDB, BKE.


2022-23 working with composer Frieda Gustavs (1997) and the nl12 | lab team on VR The March (with Dutch Film Fund – Nederlands Filmfonds).

2023 Walzer was programmed for a week and completely sold out in Eye Filmmuseum Amsterdam.2022: The VR Walzer had it’s world premiere and was nominated at the British Film Institute London Film Festival XR/Expanded 2022.
2023 (21-22 January): Walzer had it’s Dutch première during the festival Gevierde Vrouwen (celebrated women) in Schiedam.
2021 (September):the first version of VR Walzer met a larger audience during the Gaudeamus music festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

2015-2022: working on ‘Walzer’, a virtual reality project about feminism via personal photography. This project is in co-operation with young female artists: Frieda Gustavs, Cris Mollee, Malou Minkjan and Nadezhda Titova.

Present (since 2015): building a photo collection on amateur and personal photography from the period 1850 – 1960. Collections concentrate on the themes: ‘women’s rights’, ‘war trough the eyes of soldiers’, ‘personal life in the Soviet Union’, ‘the princess as seen by the people (Wilhelmina)’, ‘personal lives in colonial times’ and ‘working life in the Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the 19th century’.

2018: study and reporting on the implementation of virtual reality in research for urban planning. Commissioned by the lector technology of HVA Amsterdam, University of Applied Sciences.

2027: researching and writing scenario for online film documentary series on new ways of nursing home care and management.

2016-2017: production and direction of the virtual reality children’s film ‘Frieda and the Hidden Animals’ with composer/singer Frieda Gustavs.

2015-2016: Directing and producing a series of commissioned films for medical and cultural organisations. ‘Enjoying Life’ on ethics in health care. Films on Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Tulip Seasons’ for the Amsterdam Tulip museum.

2010: Sound technician, in Japan, for the film documentary ‘Water Children’ by Aliona van der Horst. The film was nominated in 2011 for a ‘Golden Calf’, the highest award in Dutch film.

2005: Directed film documentary, ‘Tulip Gold’. Financed by the Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties (Dutch National Broadcasting Fund). Documentary about dreams and speculation in the Dutch Tulip industry. He followed three families for a year and a half in their struggle to make a fortune with new tulip varieties. The film was broadcast by a chain of regional television stations in the Netherlands. The book and the documentary film Tulpengoud was made without involvement from the Dutch flower industry which made it the first independent project in its form about this subject in history. It was shown for two weeks in the Amsterdam cinema ‘Ketelhuis’, in various film houses around the country and during the International Film Festival in Washington DC.

2003: Directed film documentary, ‘Eva Besnyö – de keurcollectie’ (the choice collection) for ‘Het Uur van de Wolf’, NPS televisie. With the film he curated together with art historian Tineke de Ruiter an exhibition of the works by Eva Besnyö for Foam, Photography Museum Amsterdam. The film was shown twice on prime time by NPS television (now NPO) in the Netherlands in 2003. Theaters: Filmmuseum (now Eye), Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam, Berlinische Galerie Berlin 2012, and Jeu de Paume, Paris 2013. Käthe Kollwitz museum Köln, 2018. Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen, 2019, Kassák Museum, Budapest, 2020.


2017: The virtualreality film ‘Frieda and the Hidden Animals’ was shown in Museum Hilversum, the photographic gallery Fotodok in Utrecht and Fotofestival Schiedam. (It’s is now in the open on YouTube.)

2013 – 2014: I was a part of the exhibition ‘Foreign Photographers About Russia’

(with Carl De Keyzer, Bertien van Manen and Rob Hornstra) The exhibition travelled to major Russian cities and ended on the Island Sakhalin in the Far East where I gave lectures at the university and the museum. On Sakhalin I gave a one week workshop to local photographers.

2006: Frans Hals Museum Haarlem. Tulip Gold, photographs and film combined with 17th century paintings from the museum collection.

2003: Foam Amsterdam, part of exhibition Anna Cornelis Fund.

1996: Exhibition on the war in Chechnya during the photo festival Naarden, Netherlands and Turnhout, Belgium.

1994: First retrospective exhibition with work from Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union in het Nederlands Fotoinstituut (now Netherlands Photo Museum).

1991: Part of exhibition ‘A New Generation of Photojournalists’ during Photo Festival Naarden, the Netherlands.


Present: working on a book of essays on the history of photography. Working title: ‘A Requiem for Photography’.
Present: Initiator of the ‘Culture Time Button’. A proposal for a payment system for online cultural publications.

2020 Technical realisation (lithography) and advisor for the photo book ‘Amsterdam’ designed and edited by the late Anthon Beeke in 1990. A project by Sasha Happée and RobStolk printers. Published in summer 2022.

2013: Publication of the Photo Book ‘Улица-Street-Straße, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union 1987-2003, Weiw publishing house Amsterdam/Stralsund. International presentation at the Buchmesse in Leipzig. Dutch presentation at Foam, Photography Museum Amsterdam.

The book ‘Улица-Street-Straße’ is bilingual. There are two versions: Russian/German and Russian/English. Target group were Europeans with Eastern roots living in the West. Many of their children are not fluent Russian speakers, a bilingual book might help the different generations to discuss the recent history that concerns them. The book got great reviews in the Dutch national press (NRC, de Volkskrant, Trouw et cetera). The Guardian and the Calvert Journal listed me among what they called the ’25 most prominent foreign Photographers in the Post-Soviet World’.

During the years he was involved in conserving and even saving archives of old photographers like Eva Besnyö, Ata Kandó and Dolf Toussaint. Working in cooperation with institutions as the Amsterdam City Archive, the Netherlands Photo Museum and the Maria Austria Institute.

2008, Edit and production of the book ‘Ata Kandó, Photographer’, with Ad van Denderen. Text by Rosan Hollak, design Teun van der Heijden, published by Schilt publishing, Amsterdam

2006: Publication of the book ‘Tulpengoud’ (Tulip Gold) with an exhibition in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. Photographs and film combined with 17th century paintings from the museum collection. Over the Easter weekend, the exhibition was completed with hundreds of ‘speculation tulips’ – new varieties of tulips directly from the testing fields of Noord-Holland. These tulip varieties would never be on sale in ordinary flower shops. Guests of the museum where invited to take them home. The exhibition was also shown in Keukenhof in Lisse, Cultural Embassy of the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam and various local museums, like The Black Tulip in Lisse and the Museum in Anna Paulowna. The book Tulip Gold was an inspiration for the scenario of the feature film ‘Shocking Blue’ by director Mark de Cloe.


2016 – present: Lecturer at the combined department Film-Photography at St. Joost School of Art & Design in Breda the Netherlands.

2015 – 2016: Lecturer at Aki-ArtEZ Moving Image, Enschede. At Moving Image he taught photography and cinematography.

Jan-Apr 2015: Lecturer in Image (Photography), at Communication & Multimedia Design, HVA Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

2007 – Sep 2015: Lecturer in Photojournalism (full-time and part time studies) and coordinator and coach of part-time studies, Department of Photography at Royal Academy of Art KABK, in The Hague. At the academy he was also lecturing on professional skills and co-coordinating the admissions procedure. In 2010, he also served as coordinator, coach and professional skills teacher of the full-time department providing maternity cover for my colleague.

As Coordinator of part-time studies he organized various work trips with students to countries as Poland, Latvia and Ukraine. During these work weeks students and teachers co-operated with local professionals and students in order to find new possibilities and connections.

2010 – 2013: Lecturer in Photography, at the Academy of Art, Communication and Design in Tilburg (Part of Fontys University of Applied Sciences).

2010 – 2013: Lecturer and co-curriculum writer at the Fontys Future Medialab. Inter-disciplinary education with students and lecturers from ICT, Journalism, Communication and Art. Students developing new media concepts; this combination of arts and ICT students was very energising and exciting in terms of their co-dependant creative resolutions and capabilities.

2013-2016: Guest Lecturer at Fontys Future Medialab and Fontys ICT.

2014: Lectured at the ‘Brothers Lumière Centre’ in Moscow, whilst promoting ‘Улица-Street-Straße’ in Russia.

1996 – Present: Leo provides internships for arts’ students at his studio in Amsterdam.

2013 – Present: Coaching Russian photographers and holding workshops for both Russian and Ukrainian talents.


1996 – Present: owner production company and workspace studio NL12. Here Leo works with others on many productions and events. The studio in the Amsterdam quarter ‘de Jordaan’ has all kinds of facilities, like a photo studio, an editing table for film and virtualreality, large format films scanners and even still a dark room to develop film.

1988-2005: Photography for Ireen van Ditshuysen Tv Dits bv. From 1988 to her retirement in 2005, he was responsible for the photography accompanying the documentaries directed or produced by van Ditshuysen and designed many posters and brochures for her. An enormous website was built in 2001-2002 by a team under his guidance. It contained hundreds of illustrated stories covering the enormous archive of the production company.

1998 – 2000: – International photo documentaries from the Middle East and the USA. – Publications in HP/de Tijd, The Scotsman, Vrij Nederland, Volkskrant Magazine et cetera.

1999: Photography and production of ‘The Swimmers of the Zuiderbad’, Nine enormous billboards of pictures made under water of locals swimming on the facade of the historical building during the renovation. Art project with the Amsterdam Fund of the Arts and the City of Amsterdam.

1999: Design and production in cooperation with a textile factory in Enschede of a towel for the swimming pool ‘Het Zuiderbad’ Amsterdam.

1989 – 2003: Working as a photojournalist in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Publishing all over the world, including: Libération, Die Zeit, Time Magazine, the Independent, de Volkskrant, Vrij Nederland, Trouw, Het Parool.


2009 – 2013: Chairman of the GKf, the Dutch professional organization of documentary photographers. The GKf was founded in 1945 by photographers who had been active in the resistance movement against the German occupation of the Netherlands. During my time as chairman, the GKf organized an international one day festival in the Foam Museum with photographers from many countries speaking to over one thousand guests. Together with the One Minute Foundation they organized a multi-media-film festival bringing photography students in contact with an old generation of photographers (or their archives). They together produced incredible one minute films that were shown in the museum on that day and also on the web side of the Dutch Doc organisation.

As the chairman of the GKf, Leo negotiated with other photographic organizations to merge and build a new national photography platform. In 2014 the GKf merged into the new organisation DuPho (Dutch Photographers).

1993 and 1995: Co-founder (with Sander Veeneman) of the Photographers Platform. Bringing together photographers to discuss social issues. The first campaign organized 600 Dutch photographers to ask their printed media employers to make available one page of their publication for us to engage the public on the consequences of the war in former Yugoslavia. Most media did. Some gave the Photographers Platform their front page. Photographers in talk shows and news programs on television and radio. Twenty billboards with war pictures from Bosnia on the Museum Square in Amsterdam. On the day of publication and the weeks that followed the organization covered 16 phone lines with photographers as volunteers fielding questions from the audience on how they could help.

The 1995 campaign was about the image of asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Photographers showed the lives of asylum seekers in a different way. Not only documentary but also fashion and commercial photographers were involved. The Photographers Platform printed a magazine with 350.000 copies and together with five exhibitions and spread it to many schools, for more than two years.


Over the years Leo has received many stipends, including working scholarships of the Mondrian Fund, Foundation Anna Cornelis, Fund for Special Journalistic Projects, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, Sem Presser Fund and others.


2017 The vr film ‘Frieda and the Hidden Animals’ got nominated for the Dutch Silver Camera Innovative Journalism Award 2017 and got third place during the ceremony in Hilversum.

2008 – 2011: Member of the jury of the ‘Silver Camera’, award for photojournalism in the Netherlands.

2014: The book ‘Улица-Street-Straße’ was chosen as the ‘Best Dutch Book Design’ exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

1996: Winner of the most prestigious prize for Dutch photojournalism: ‘The Silver Camera’ for a series from the warzone in Chechnya.

1994: Chosen as ‘Photojournalist of the Year’ by the organisation ‘The Silver Camera’.

Silver Camera category prizes: 2001: 3rd prize political news series: Dutch crown prince Willem Alexander in the USA. 2000: 1st prize Foreign series: Back to Chechnya and 2nd prize Foreign documentary: girls dancing on board a Wolga boat, Russia. 1995 1st prize Foreign news: War in Chechnya. Nomination Foreign documentary: Sochi at the Black Sea, Russia. 1994: Nomination Arts and Culture: Ballet in Minsk. Nomination Foreign documentary: Cossacks in Russia. 1993: 1st Foreign News series: Russian president Yeltsin and the political crisis in Moscow. 1991: 3rd Portrait: French president Mitterrand, 3rd Foreign News: Yugoslavia, 1st Foreign features: Young people in the Soviet Union. 1990: 2nd Foreign series: election Poland.

1990: Honourable mention World Press Photo for picture of Lech Walesa, Poland.


1993 – Present: Member of picture agencies De Beeldunie (Netherlands), Laif (Germany) and Panos (UK).


English (good)
German (reading and understanding sufficient, speaking and writing in progress.)
Dutch (mother tongue).


Over the years Leo has collected a large library of photo and art books which are also a great resource for teaching. Besides listening to jazz music and reading books he tries to relax by growing plants and vegetables in my roof garden in Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer. It’s a meeting point for his friends; in the kitchen downstairs he and Marie Louise love to create never-made-before recipes.


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