Cees & Annerie van Gemerden
Community and Activism along the Waterfront
Alternate View
Photographers and activists Cees and Annerie van Gemerden have become champions of community formation in Hamilton. The pair have dedicated themselves to uplifting Hamilton as a buzzing artistic hub – capturing the everyday people that gathered on James Street North, the precarious environmental landscape at the waterfront and the spirited emerging artistic community.

No Trespassing

‘No Trespassing: a photo-chronicle of space; a text-chronical of time’ became Cees’s most iconic and enduring work, representing the themes he carried throughout his life and work. Focusing on the Hamilton waterfront, Cees photographed a series of signage along a six foot high heavy wire fence that ran along the shore from Bayfront Park to the Windermere watershed. This fence became a symbol for a city that prioritized industry and pollution over the protection of the land and health of the people who lived on it, priorities which Cees and Annerie aimed to combat through their art.

Hamilton Artists Inc.

‘No Trespassing’ was first shown at Hamilton Artists Inc. in 1989. The series of 75 black and white photographs and text critically examined the exploitative practices that were able to flourish in the privatized spaces along the Hamilton waterfront. The exhibit was also shown at the Harbour Front Gallery in Toronto and was featured in the Greenpeace show No Time to Waste, held at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

Cees with panels from 'No Trespassing' at Hamilton Artists Inc., Hamilton Spectator, 1989.
While Cees photographed the majority of the 'No Trespassing' series, in 1991 Annerie created a triptych of photographs, "The Post Industrial Family Takes a Bath in Lake Ontario". This series showcases a seemingly safe and pleasant beach trip with overlay text outlining a list of 377 hazardous chemicals released into the Great Lakes from surrounding industries.

“So, we’re different in photography. I have a different approach than Cees. Cees thinks about it more intellectual probably and I…”

“Annerie is an intuitive photographer. She just…I wouldn’t even think of taking a picture of that. Why did you take a picture of that? “It’s wonderful.” How did you take it? “Well, I don’t know. I just took it.” And it’s true you know, she takes the most amazing photographs, you know, which I never would even think of taking.”

“So, you could say we complement each other, right?”

“Yeah. Somehow, we do. This is kind of nice, isn’t it?”

– Cees and Annerie van Gemerden in conversation, 2018