Eric Strijbos: “I’m a fisher on the sea of solitude. It’s my element, but I know that if I get lost there it may kill me. In general my photographic works moves between absence, solitude and abundance.”
You can see the abundance pictures in this Amsterdam piece.
The colours of Amsterdam, what are they?
Are they the greens of Spring and Summer?
Are they prosaic browns and greys?
Is it red, white and blue? Which are not just the colour of the national flags on the herring stalls: If you look for them, they may pop up everywhere.
Or is it orange?
The colour of Amsterdam is money. Amsterdam is a merchant city. Capitalism was invented here. Paris and Milan have fashion, Lisbon has the Fado, but the soul of Amsterdam is sales.
Amsterdam is messy, dirty, gaudy, vulgar.
Amsterdam is also overload and clutter: the parked bicycles and cars, the countless signs, the texture of the brick walls and pavement itself, the graffiti… if you’re into a Zen-like less-is-more aesthetic, it’s not for you. There is too much of everything.
Of course, you can resign yourself to the blissfully overlooked beautiful corners, like many photographers have done before. Or you can go with the flow. On occasions I do the former – which need not concern us here – but for Street I do the latter. I dive into the thick of it. Streets which friends hate because of the crowds of tourists, the cheesy cheese shops, the nutella bars - they’re mine. Amsterdam has the urban pressure-cooker vibe that favours Street.
Smoke and mirrors, baby. Being a born ‘Amsterdammer’ myself (I don’t live there anymore), the commercial aspect of the city fascinates me. Shop windows, people shopping, the billboards, the piles of stuff on the second-hand Waterlooplein market.
Commerce often involves an element of make-believe, of being economical with the truth, if it doesn’t veer off into straight dishonesty and prostitution. The symbol of this the shopwindow: how it literally and figuratively reflects society. It’s a mirror. But just like a mirror may tell a brutal truth about ourselves, an illusionist may also use it to create an illusion. In a sense, the shop window does both too. In the beguiling reflections, our image becomes diffuse, to be replaced by bland dummies, design bags and identities that are internationally exchangeable. In our materialistic greed, our souls fade away.
The medium is the message is the messenger. In this limbo of fading individuality and humanity – medium and message, form, style and content merge. The “I want it all and I want it now” is confronted by the ease and control of the DLSR and the unpretentiousness of the cellphone. These are reflections reflecting and reflecting about reflections. Single and double exposures. The images are reflections, mirror images and they are about mirrors and reflections. And just as the salesmen direct the attention and the gazes of the onlookers, so does the Street photographer. Palming and directing, they both do it. They’re both illusionists.
I’m not shooting you, I’m really looking at that window.
I am a camera,
looking at pictures of you.
I am a camera …
Now you see me, now you don’t.
(Gentle Giant, ‘I am a camera.’)
But I’m really shooting you.
Home: Utrecht, The Netherlands
Profession: Travel writer and photographer, translator
Calling in life: books and images
Hobby: books and images
Last book read: Jennifer Teege, “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me”. I recommend it to anyone who comes from a family with a continental WWII history, even if you have grandfathers who are/were quite nice.
Last Accomplishment: I copy-edited the Dutch edition of the Xavier Barral book about Cas Oorthuys. Cas Oorthuys was one of my very early influences.
Favorite quote: “Photography will show you the way.” Joel Meyerowitz.
Favorite drink: beer