Willy Jolly – Biography in English

Batavia (former Dutch East-Indies) 1946 – The Hague

“Pas de belle photo sans un gros plaisir” is the slogan of Willy Jolly. The “plaisir” which his customers experience in his portrait studio at the ‘Westeinde’ in The Hague, doesn’t only involve the intimate ambiance, but also and in particular the final result.

Jolly’s camera is some kind of time machine. Everyone who has their portrait taken, is thrown back in time for more than forty years, and will find themselves the rival of the young Charles Aznavour, or of the forever dazzling dancer Josephine Baker. Jolly’s work, which represents retro-style and nostalgia, has been executed with great attention to detail and is therefore stunningly accurate. Jolly uses the imagery of the classic black and white glamour still, in the same way it was used in the European and American photostudios from the 1930ies until the early 1960ies, where actors, musicians and variety artists had their pictures taken. These photographs, printed on glossy paper or made into postcards, were used for promotional purposes. Characteristic of these publicity stills is the rather casual pose (cigarette!), the intense look and a very expressive use of lights, full of dramatic effects. In the past, many photostudios (like Heno in Amsterdam and Studio Harcourt in Paris) tried to embellish the final result with the aid of a retouching pencil, but Jolly decided to abandon this gadget. He rather accentuates the most beautiful part of a face, since he interprets the ideal of beauty in a wider sense. Antoine Bodar, a priest known through the media, artist Philip Akkerman, and footballer Daniel de Ridder, are amongst the few celebrities who had their picture taken in this classic glamour style by Willy Jolly, with amazing results. But mainly unknown people pose in front of his camera, and therein lies the strength of his approach. He meets them in restaurants or cafés, at parties or in the street; first priority a natural vanity, and he will portray them like the celebrities from yesteryear.

Willy Jolly’s career as a professional photographer really took off in recent years. In the late 1980ies, he started his first photostudio at the “Herengracht” in Amsterdam. Ten years later he established his new studio in the Hague, the city to which he moved with his family in the 1950ies, from the former Dutch East Indies.

Biography in French