Maria Austria (Marie Oestreicher)
Visual biography

Marie Oestreicher was born in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic) during the First World War in 1915, two months after the death of her father. Her brother, twenty years her senior, was a medical student and her elder sister was already at secondary school. After attending secondary school in Carlsbad, she studied photography in Vienna. Because of increasing anti-Semitism in Vienna, she went to Amsterdam following her final exams in 1937. There, her sister Lisbeth Oestreicher had established a studio for knitwear designs. They worked together under the name ‘Model en Foto Austria’ for several Dutch magazines. It was then Marie adopted the professional name Maria Austria.

In 1942 the Nazis decreed that all Jews in the Netherlands had to report to the Westerbork transit camp. Hans Bial, whom Maria had recently married, did go to Westerbork but Maria joined the underground resistance to work as a courier and to assist in forging identity papers. It was there that she met Henk Jonker, who would become her second husband. She taught Henk photography. Directly after the 1945 liberation, they established the photo agency Particam Pictures (a contraction of Partisan Camera) at Willemsparkweg 120 in Amsterdam. There they were joined by the photographers Aart Klein and Wim Zilver Rupe. The agency’s portraits and photographs of post-war reconstruction gained widespread recognition. In 1948 Particam Pictures became the main photographic agency for the newly established Holland Festival, an annual festival of music, theatre, opera and ballet. When Aart Klein and Wim Zilver Rupe left Particam Pictures to go their own way, Maria and Henk remained the most important photographers for the festival.
From the start, Maria was highly active in promoting photography within the Gebonden Kunsten in de federatie (GKf), an organisation that represented the interests of artists. She pleaded with the Ministry of Culture to recognise photography as an art form in its own right so that subsidies would also be available to photographers.
She was very demanding of her clients, insisting that she be credited for her photographs published in newspapers and magazines and, more importantly, forbidding cropping of her images.
Gradually Maria focused on her true passions: contempory avant-garde music, theatre and dance. She documented performances at the Mickery Theater from its inception in 1965 and photographed the cultural protests of the 1960s such as the Aktie Notenkraker and Aktie Tomaat. She continued to document all aspects of the Holland Festival until the end of her career.
In 1962 her marriage with Henk Jonker ran aground and she continued Particam Pictures alone with the assistance of Jaap Pieper, Vincent Mentzel and Bob van Dantzig. She died unexpectedly at home at the beginning of January 1975 from a bout of flu that she had not taken seriously.

For the outside world she was a wel-known photographer, a champion of avant-garde theatre and music, but for the three of us she was a wonderful aunt who documented family events, gave great presents and drew us into with her enthusiasm for music, theatre and ballet.
She left an extraordinary archive of negatives and prints that had to be preserved and made accessible. In consultation with friends and family, the Stichting Fotoarchief Maria Austria-Particam was established. With the help of assistants Bob van Dantzig and Jaap Pieper, the aim was to maintain the archive so that it could still be a source for publishers and exhibitions. One of the founding statutes of the Stichting Fotoarchief Maria Austria-Particam was the establishing of the Nederlands Fotoarchief (NFA) the aim of which was to care for the archives of important photographers in the Netherlands. Maria Austria was practically the first photographer of her generation to leave behind an important photographic archive.
But things did not proceed as envisioned. The trustees of the Stichting Fotoarchief Maria Austria-Particam established the NFA with a state subsidy that was granted on the condition that the NFA be based in Rotterdam. The trustees of the Stichting Fotoarchief Maria Austria/Particam were unwilling to comply with this condition and decided to keep Maria’s and Particam’s archives in Amsterdam together with those of Hans Dukkers and Carel Blazer. To this end, they applied for a subsidy from the City of Amsterdam. Meanwhile, the NFA went to Rotterdam. The City of Amsterdam granted the subsidy in 1992 for the Stichting Maria Austria Instituut (MAI), in which the archives of the Stichting Fotoarchief Maria Austria-Particam were housed. Since then the MAI has grown to become a leading organisation for photography with fifty archives of important photographers, housed in the Amsterdam City Archives. In 2009 the archives of Maria Austria, Henk Jonker, Particam and Hans Dukkers were donated to the MAI on the condition that they remain in Amsterdam. The partnership between the MAI and the Amsterdam City Archives promises a healthy future for the photographic archives maintained by the MAI.

Biography of Maria Austria (Marie Oestreicher) 1915-1975

1915 Marie Karoline Oestreicher is born in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic)
1932-1937 studies at the Höhere Grafische Bundes Lehr und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna
1937 partnership with her sister Lisbeth under the name ‘Model en Foto Austria’
1942 marries Hans Bial
1943 joins the resistance under the assumed name Elizabeth Huijnen
1945 founds ‘Particam Pictures’ with Henk Jonker and others
1950 marries Henk Jonker
1956 Aart Klein and Wim Zilver Rupe leave ‘Particam Pictures’
1963 divorces Henk Jonker
1963-1975 continues working under the name Maria Austria-Particam
1975 dies at home in Amsterdam
1976 establishment of Stichting Fotoarchief Maria Austria-Particam
1992 establishment of the Maria Austria Instituut (MAI), Amsterdam
2009 the archives of Maria Austria-Particam and Hans Dukkers are donated to the MAI