Fifty Years of Perpetual Light

Checkpoint Color celebrated fifty years or photography yesterday, and Rob Vermeer’s 75 birthday.

The store on Columbusstraat is an iconic destination. We all went there for passport pictures, family portraits, glamour shots, baby baptism, communion and wedding photography. The people behind the cameras, escorted us through the various stages of our lives, remaining constant as photography underwent transformation, going from black & white to color processing and then to digital.

Photography you could say, underwent most changes than any other area of expertise in the past decades.

The reception on Thursday was attended by family members, artists, government ministers, and some of Rob’s former models, who were in their teens or young adolescence when Rob’s camera first captured their youth, purity and exuberance. They are now in their 60s, perhaps more, as lively and attractive, only much older.

Which proves again that beauty is eternal.

Rob first opened Checkpoint Color on Nassaustraat 71, Tel: 2284, with his mom as investor and cashier, on August 3rd, 1972. He specialized in wedding photography, and snapped away at Marjory’s first attempt at matrimony. She soon was working for the business, later marrying Rob, and raising two kids Fernando & Cher.

Fernando is one of the leading, unsung artists of Aruba, his work is photography-based, manipulated by technology.

Fernando took me for a short tour of the Checkpoint Color walls where some of Rob’s work is on display, restored, printed and framed. He was teary-eyed as he spoke. I was too. The images on the wall depict an innocent era, late 70s, early 80s, when Rob was the coolest, premier photographer on Aruba capturing the beauty of clothes, people and locations, surrounding us.

We all wanted to be photographed by Rob, many times in tasteful nudes. His models look into the camera candid and fearless, which is the secret of Rob’s photography, his models bared their soul and allowed him to look inside them, see the real person rather than hide behind a pose or a fake smile.

Rob’s photography looks so honest and un pretentious, which are qualities long lost in photography, hence our sentimental, dewy eyes.

The camera was also important. Rob saw the world through a Hasselblad 500c/M, highly regarded among professionals as legendary for its optics, built as a work of art, by hand.

The exhibition features a series of commissioned portraits of Betico Croes. Fernando reports he was in the studio, as a child, to witness the session and he recalls Betico, the Father of our Nation, in front of the full-length mirror practicing senatorial poses. Indeed, the photographs transmit his charisma and humanity, by how he hold his hands and how open and welcoming he is to the photographer’s lens.

Aruba’s COBRA group of artists from the 70s, top models of the local modeling agency, Di Aruba Moda, the immortal Bill de la Vega, the many faces of comedian Vale Croes, beauty queen Pamela Brown, the expo will speak to old-timers, who witnessed the journey of these wonderful people, in and out of our lives.

The exhibition looks at the passage of time, and things we forgot, innocence we lost, faded beautify that nevertheless lives on.

Thank you, Checkpoint Color, for documenting the past 50 years. While Rob seemed shy and surprised by the fuss, Marjorie was in her element, looking fantastic, playing the perfect host!

Worth visiting.

Much of the archive of Checkpoint Color was lost to fire, flood, computer crashes, what was saved is historical, including Rob’s original color processing machine, that still had a typical communion negative stuck in it. I wonder who the kids are. Will they recognize themselves.

Credit for curating and producing goes to Fernando Vermeer and Natusha Croes.


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August 05, 2022
Rona Coster