Astrid Ullens de Schooten Whettnall
Astrid Ullens' story is the story of someone who thought she was nobody ("in the environment I grew up in, girls didn't exist, boys had value - not girls"). The story of someone who became a personality on the way to becoming a public figure. At 82 years of age, Astrid Ullens is very busy making the most of every moment ("every minute is a miracle that will never come back") and created the Fondation A in 2012. The institution, which for a long time has been running workshops for local children in the municipality of Forest where she lives, focuses on the philosophical significance of documentary photography.
After becoming interested in contemporary art, she discovered a field of exploration in photography corresponding to her expectations as a spectator and her appetite as a collector. Her collection of photographs began with a photograph of Brancusi in his studio ("failing to purchase a sculpture, I bought this photo at the Basel Fair"). Three other images of the Romanian artist followed, joined by a portrait of Picasso by Brassaï - the beginnings of a collection that has since opened out to contemporary trends - Walker Evans, Lewis Baltz, Lee Friedlander, Robert Adams, Nicholas Nixon, all exhibited at the Foundation. Young photographers: Francesco Neri, Georges Senga, Massao Mascaro, etc.
Photography, the discipline that watches the world go by and captures history in the making, is the raison d'être of the Fondation A Stichting, which gives meaning to Astrid Ullens' commitment, but even more so to her life - a place where, she says, "at my age and on my last stretch of the road, it is all about cultivating a spirit of openness."