Angeniet Berkers


With my projects I want to depict sensitive subjects in an honest and nuanced way. The images are often sensitive and melancholic, but at the same time warm and intimate. My background in mental health care (I worked for about 13 years as a sociotherapist and counseled, among others, veterans and refugees with complex PTSD due to war and violence and young people with acute psychiatric problems) is reflected in the choice of subject and working method. I often combine different visual forms and 'languages' to translate a complex story into an understandable and empathetic whole. With my work I try to get a grip on the extremities of today's society by initiating projects that play with the viewer's frame of reference and make them think about their own (sometimes biased) ideas. I often choose subjects that are not or hardly discussed because of shame and guilt, so I try to break through taboos. Above all I look for depth, content and nuance.

Lebensborn - On December 12, 1935, a program was started in Germany to provide the Third Reich with the new generation of leaders and SS officers; Lebensborn (“Source of Life”). SS officers were encouraged to reproduce as much as possible, including out of wedlock. In several clinics spread over Germany, Norway, Belgium, France and Poland, (unmarried) women, if they met the requirements of the Aryan race, could give birth to their children. Outside of Germany it was mainly the case that Geman soldiers had relationships with local women. The architect behind this plan, Heinrich Himmler, aimed to improve the ‘racial quality’ in the new empire to be built on a National Socialist basis with these blue-eyed, blond-haired and light-skinned children. The birth rates had dropped dramatically and something had to be done. When it turned out that this program did not bring enough new Aryan souls, thousands (some estimates even say more than 100,000) children with blond hair and blue eyes were kidnapped from Eastern Europe and taken to German homes to ‘Germanize’. After the war, the children from these homes and families were often stigmatized and sometimes even mistreated or sexually abused. Many grew up with secrets, the past should not be talked about. The Lebensborn homes were thought to be brothels or ‘stud farms’ for SS-men, as quite some (B)movies implied. Non of these stories were true but they didn’t make life easier for the Lebensborn children. The purpose of Lebensborn is so immense, unreal and horrific that I believe it should never be forgotten. In view of our society that increasingly flirts with nationalism, I think it is important to document and tell these stories from the past so that they will not be forgotten. It is the ultimate example of a scewed sense of superiority. For the project I am tracking down these children to interview and portray them. I am also doing archival research and I have photographed relevant objects and documents such as birth certificates. In addition, I visited several homes (where women could give birth to their Aryan children) in Germany and Norway. Landscapes will be a part of the project as well. A landscape takes on a completely different meaning when these images are combined with stories, portraits and archive images that tell about its history. A further investigation into existing archival videos, articles and films that contributed to the mythical image of Lebensborn will also be part of the project. This project has been made possible by the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund, Fonds Anna Cornelis, Fotodok and Stichting Dialoog.
Three Sisters - A job in the hospital, a nice car, a house to buy and being able to go on holiday: that is the future that Nilda Gonçalves Tavares envisioned from an early age. A completely normal life - but the man at her front door doesn't care. “You're in debt, aren't you?” he asks. Nilda wonders how the man knows, as if he can smell it. She doesn't answer. “One ride, just abroad”, he continues. “And you are debt-free again.” ⁠ ⁠ It is not the first time that Nilda has been put to the test, that summer day in 2007. You could almost call it the thread of her life. Together with her two sisters, she has been constantly tested over the past twenty years. Again and again they were hit hard by the crises that hit the Netherlands. Again and again they had to save themselves. The future that Nilda had in mind was getting further and further out of sight.⁠ ⁠ On Vers Beton, you can read the compelling stories of Nilda, Dulce and Fatima. For Online magazine Vers Beton and local broadcaster OpenRotterdam, research journalist Adrian Estrada and I followed Nilda (45), Dulce (42) and Fatima (40) and their families in recent months: a family from Rotterdam who found themselves at the crossroads of three crises. We were allowed to visit them, talk to their children and reconstruct the setbacks of the past twenty years. Funnily enough, it wasn't a war or a deadly virus that damaged their lives the most. These were the officials of the Dutch tax authorities.⁠ ⁠ 🖋️ by Adrian Estrada ⁠ This project was funded by Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten ⁠
Paradies - In 2021 I decided to push the boundaries, not only literally but also physically and mentally. I cycled on my own along the Dutch borders, a trip of about 1400 kilometers in total. By cycling I wanted to slow down my gaze and surrender to the moment. Along the way I looked for a visual translation of this journey within the landscape. I saw how people and nature live together. Sometimes they have found a new harmony or balance, more often they get in each other's way. This work was exhibited in Brutus in 2022.
ECHO Dummy - On the 11th of april 2016, Attawapiskat, a small isolated town in Northern Ontario, Canada, was in the news around the world. On that day 11 people tried to commit suicide. Some of them were only 11 years old. Due to the Residential School System indigenous youth were taken away from their families for 10 months a year. It was a way of assimilating the youth to Western culture and Christian beliefs. Many children in the schools were neglected, harmed and didn’t get proper education. This resulted in a high rate of unemployment, intergenerational trauma, addiction, mental health problems and a high rate of suicides. Next to that many people in Attawapiskat live in overcrowded, substandard or condemned housing. ‘ECHO’ is a collaborative project that attempts to give Attawapiskat’s youth a voice and therefore attention to their life, while in the same time making critical remarks about the media’s portrayal of social minorities and about the consequences of our colonial past in the everyday life of indigenous kids. The project combines cold, empty and lonely landscapes with dark, warm and intimate family pictures. Next to that, drawings, writings and pictures of local kids show their actual thoughts and worries. This dummy was designed by SYB, shortlisted for the Book Dummy Award of Photo London and La Fabrica, the Luma Rencontres D'Arles and the Cortona on the Move Photo Book Prize.
In Limbo - In an old Amsterdam District Office over 140 illegal immigrants live together in the old offices on three separate floors. There is a womens floor and two mens floors.The group is a mixture of people originating from different countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia. Some of them are living in The Netherlands for over 15 years but after legalisation failed they couldn’t or wouldn’t go back to their original country. The group has been moving around Amsterdam from building to building due to evictions of these squatted buildings. This story was published in NRC