After a lot of chiding from my wonderful wife and friends, here is the second installment of my Picture This series. The first highlighted our time in the UK, so I have some catching up to do.
After a year on the road I have found that my passion for photography continues to burn, but the focus of my pictures changes over time. Early on I would shoot pictures primarily of nature, capturing a beautiful waterfall or mountain scene. I still love these images, but the more time we spend in cities the more I find I love capturing the mood and vibrancy that only a city can offer.
Amsterdam: a photographer’s dream city
Virtually any subject you enjoy shooting is at your fingertips in Amsterdam. The only challenge is that the days pass faster than your shutter can capture all you want to explore. When we first arrived I was immediately drawn to the variety of art around the city. From colorful buildings to sculptures, Amsterdam is filled with artistic expressions.
The one that really captured my eye was the street art, specifically graffiti. In every city, and most villages, we have been in there has been graffiti. Typically is the eye-sore of a city as each person “tags” their name (or gang name) to any available surface. Occasionally though you find a piece that is striking and causes you to stop and admire. Amsterdam seems to be filled with these and here are a few that I could not simply walk by.
Want some cheese?
Bikes and art, you will see this theme throughout this series. On the one hand, I view this as a way to capture the unique mood of Amsterdam and provide context for the art. On the other, it is virtually impossible to photograph anything in this city without a bike in the frame. Here I embrace this completely and included a full rack of bikes to frame the image and give the viewer a bit more interesting to look at.
Ganesha the Painter
Sometimes you walk down the street and something reaches out, slaps you in the face, and says “Hey, take a picture of me”. This is exactly what happened as we were walking back to our house-boat one afternoon. Sitting there on the side of a bar was the Hindu god Ganesha, sitting above a bicycle. How could I not capture this moment? I love the colors here and the way that Ganesha seems to be hovering just above the bike. Plus, the words on the bike “I Love Elisa” are an added feature that adds to my love of this scene.
Building Goes Boom
It seems that not everyone here in Amsterdam is in love with the “men in blue”. Though I don’t know the details of this political statement, it is hard to argue the artists dedication to the message. We first walked by this building and noticed the sign, but not the art. Then, walking across the street I was surprised at just how fantastic this piece is. The artist used an entire 5 story building as their canvas to get out their message. I cannot help but fall in love with a city that embraces this freedom.
Fish and a bicycle
There is a lot going on in this picture and I considered cropping out parts to focus the eye a bit more. Then I realized that part of the fun of looking at graffiti and street art is often the backdrop that the art is placed. I left it to get a sense of some of the various different expressions that fill spaces here. I am not sure if the phrase is true, but it is hard not to look at the image without thinking of the phrase borne in the feminist movement “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle“.
Condom machines need love, too
This was actually not on a street, but in the dining area of a bar we popped into. In all my years of seeing these machines it was the first time I had seen one outside the men’s room. Also, it was certainly the first time I had seen someone use it as a canvas for their art. This image screams of the creative spirit in this city and the ability for people to see beauty in anything. Wandering the streets you can be taken aback by the in your face culture of sex, but instead I like that for some it is simply a part of life. As such, why not dress it up to look nice and accept that sex is part of who we are. Don’t hide it in the bathroom but feel free to talk about something that everyone is doing.
Exploring a city does not only need to be about seeing the “check list” sights. Instead, take time to wander around and see what gives the city it’s unique vibe. Whether it be art, architecture, or something wholly different it is wonderful to see an area through a different lens.
What captures your attention about your city?