Until 2019 I was doing street photography in my free time as my personal work. Every now and then I sold a print or participated in an exhibition, but I was never really on a deadline. That changed in the beginning of 2020, when I took on a weekly street photography section in Dutch newspaper Het Parool.
I think it’s wonderful when newspapers give space to photography, without the necessity of a particular news value. Het Parool has a section called ‘Stadsbeeld’ (city image) with a photo from Amsterdam every Friday. It’s a whole page reserved for just the photo, with a caption for the location, and it should be new work – preferably from that week. At the moment I’m thrilled to be the photographer for the section, possibly for the whole year, and I have to say it has been quite an experience so far, mentally and physically.
Most of the photos that I like, I took when I didn’t have to. I have been struggling with this issue for a while already, because ‘going out to take pictures’ has often been a frustrating process. Often I didn’t come back with anything, or it happened when I almost gave up after 20 kilometers of walking. So this first month of Stadsbeeld has been a process full of trial and error, lots and lots of empty wandering and hoping for something to happen. Like usually, something came along on another day, during a 5 minute bike ride in between two assignments. It’s comforting that these coincidences still occur.
So far it taught me to stay longer at certain places, not being too much in a rush or too stressed to ‘get’ an image. It’s not entirely unavoidable though, and I’ve been doing a lot of pretending that I wasn’t looking for something. I’d often end up in a desolate area and getting more frustrated each hour. Sometimes something fun actually happened and other times I just went looking for comfort snacks, calling it a day. It’s a double-edged sword, as waiting for an image can be worth it, but it frustrates me even more when nothing happens after a while. The desolate areas are interesting as locations, but with no action, it increases the feeling of emptiness. Returning to a specific place mostly didn’t do the magic, except for the man jumping over the fence. It’s near a shopping centre in Amsterdam North and a lot of people, including my dad, take a shortcut by hopping over that fence. I photographed it at first but it was too dark, so returned to the same spot the next day.
“If you can’t relax the pictures come less easily.”
I’m sharing the weekly search for the image on Instagram and Matt Stuart gave a valuable reaction to one of the stories: “It’s difficult trying to do ‘street photography’ with a deadline, because you can’t relax. If you can’t relax the pictures come less easily. So my main piece of advice would be to think you will get pictures and that it is easy 😉 let your heart fool your brain.” Maybe subconsciously this helped. Last Sunday, when I was planning on relaxing, I walked past a botanic garden where I saw a big car decorated with flowers. Realising it was 02-02-2020, I figured a lot of weddings would be taking place. After a lunch with my parents I returned to this botanic garden and asked if there were any weddings. There was an Turkish engagement shoot. The bride to be looked fabulous and I asked her and the photographer if I could stick around for a while and they gave me their blessing. It was a very fun shoot for them as their photographer was doing a great job, making them laugh all the time. After approx 20 minutes I left to continue my lazy Sunday.
I’m not sure if these were just random coincidences or if I really got a little more relaxed about having to take the photo every week. That will probably become more clear in the coming weeks. I’ll be sharing the weekly stories on Instagram and writing something about it here when I feel the need to. I’m also interested in your experiences, please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thanks a lot.