Alexandrine Tinne: explorer and pioneer in photography

Alexandrine Pieternella Françoise Tinne was born in The Hague, the Netherlands in 1835. When she was eight years old, her father died which made her and her mother extremely rich. With their fortune, they could do whatever they wanted. Maybe that’s why Alexandrine was such a liberated and extraordinary woman. Besides the fact that she dressed in weird and self-designed clothing, she also rode her horse like a maniac through the fancy streets of upper-class The Hague. She clearly knew how to shock everyone.

In these years, she also developed a great love for photography. It wasn’t a very obvious hobby because photography was still in its early stages, but historians think she received help from the photographer of king Willem lll. Around 1859 she started making self-portraits and she photographed the city dozens of times.

The Hague between 1860 and 1861, photographed by Alexandrine

Especially in this time, it wasn’t easy to make photos. In her carriage, she created a darkroom to allow the processing of the light sensitive photographic materials. But even though her carriage wasn’t the most comfortable place, it was a smart move because now she could also develop photos on her journeys to distant places, another thing that Alexandrine was highly interested in. Since a little child she cherished a fascination for other countries and cultures and by the time she was twenty she made her first trip to Africa. The Nile, the Red Sea, she saw it all. But under very luxurious conditions. She had many servants, who carried her clothing and even some furniture with them, and her dogs had their own servant too.

Her Dutch servant Hendrik with her dog Mahrouka photographed by Alexandrine
African maid Aubiba photographed by Alexandrine














In 1869, Alexandrine starts her last journey: an expedition through the desert. Something that no European had done before. But in the meantime, a lot of people found out about this ‘rich white princess’ and her particular journeys. That’s why she got attacked by the Toearegs, a tribe she knew and was intrigued by. With two stabs and a gunshot, Alexandrine bled to death at the age of 34. But somehow this liberated and extraordinary woman from the Hague had foresee this event. A year before her death, she wrote a letter to her brother John:

I never understood the happiness of getting old. Instead of living a boring life, which I saw many people do, I prefer to die happy and brave by a gunshot or stabbings. So if you hear today, or tomorrow, that I past away, please remember that my last moments weren’t filled with bitterness. Overall I am satisfied with my life. I’m not in a hurry to die, but if it happens I had a short but very good life.

Although her life was short, Alexandrine was a very special photographer. She had an eye for composition and detail which you can see in the way she portrayed her servants, for example. And that was quite unusual in this era because she didn’t have many examples to learn from. An unusual talent from a unusual woman.

Author: Hanneke Bijker



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