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Mirja de Vries

Dutch photographer and artist, Mirja de Vries, has enjoyed great success as a teddy bear photographer and boasts the largest collection of teddy bear photographs in the world.

In 1983, Art Unlimited brought out a series of Mirja’s Teddy Bear Postcards that became an immediate success. Since then, Art Unlimited has published more than 400 of her teddy still lifes as postcards, posters and calendars, to date selling more than 4-million copies worldwide. Mirja’s photographs have also appeared in numerous publications in Germany, Japan and Great Britain. And in 1991, the Dutch teddy bear magazine Beer Bericht presented Mirja with its “Award of Merit” for her talents in spreading interest in teddy bears.

Mirja developed a natural interest in photography helping her father, a professional photographer and journalist, in his darkroom. Then in 1975, her good friend Joost Elffers, took her to an old canal house in Amsterdam. Sitting in the window were some 30 teddy bears, both large and small, old bears that had almost been hugged to death. There were also two grown-up people sharing this home with the bears. At Joost’s suggestion, the seeds were planted, and de Vries’ photographic “study” of teddy bears has blossomed over several decades.

Over the years, Mirja has had the privilege of photographing some of the oldest, rarest and most unusual bears ever made. She became more and more fascinated with teddy bears – especially old bears who had experienced life to the fullest -- and began photographing them in all their favorite places. The result of this initial work was a book entitled De Knuffels (The Cuddlies), published by Meulenhoff in 1980. And despite her best efforts to refrain from becoming a fanatic teddy bear collector herself, Mirja now has about 60 old teddies who frequently model for her still lifes.

Mirja de Vries truly understands the enchantment of the teddy bear – the affection we feel for them and their deep emotional impact in our lives. More important, she can see into the very soul of bears who have truly lived life together with a child. Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott has suggested that when objects like the teddy bear help us make emotional transitions, it is not the object used but the use of the object that is significant. Mirja’s photographs capture this “use of the object” – the very essence of the emotional life that the bear has experienced. And this “TedFeel,” as de Vries calls it, has enabled her to create for Teddy’s World, pure and utterly engaging scenes that in turn reflect our own emotional connection with the Teddy Bear.

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