Webmag Emilio Brizzi
 
     

AMSTERDAM

old & new














- 4x5 inch. photography

- lith fiber base prints

   
 

For the past three years and a half I have spent many grey and cold days taking photographs of my city. In the beginning I had no idea of where this would lead to, but slowly a series began to take shape. I had set a few rules for myself, so as to keep the work in line and my approach coherent:
All photographs were taken with a 4x5 inch. field camera, with the same 120 mm Schneider Angulon lens set af f. 32.
The camera was always kept water levelled and approximatively at 1,60 m. from the ground.
I tried to have no or as little as possible people in the shot.
By and large only one plate was exposed for each photograph, of the same type black and white film to be processed in the same way.

The weather had to be grey, overcast sky, so that the light would be very soft with no hard shadows. Late autumn and winter were best, also because the trees had no leaves on their branches. The cold could be a problem, as it jammed the drop bed rails. I left the field camera open, then.

Although there are no people in the photographs some locations were far from deserted and I had to wait for the moment when everything looked perfectly still, between passers by and traffic.

On a good day I would expose up to 24 plates. As many as I carried in my bag: twelve holders, a light meter and a black cloth wrapped around the camera, tripod in another bag. Travelling light, I could go by bycicle, which was great because you see a lot more than by car and you cover much more ground than on foot. On short distances I just kept camera and tripod balancing on my shoulder as I pedalled, and that was sort of tricky. I was lucky not to end up in a canal, bycicle and all.

I had been noticing places and buildings or details that I thought would be worth photographing for a long time, but somehow I wouldn’t get to it. These were the logic locations to start with, but as I was working many more things came to my attention. Amsterdam is a rapidly changing town, and a feeling of haste was sometimes caused by the notion that some subjects would not be there for long. As it happened quite a few of the photographs could not be taken again today, but this is not what they are about, not in the first place.

Taking photographs and looking at them is one way to see things, details and composition, that would otherwise escape our attention. Obviously it is also exclusively visual, and many impressions and feelings that we experience in reality are left out by the limits of the medium. Sometimes sound, temperature, maybe even smell can be suggested by a photograph but most of the time it is just a visual impression. Not even colours in this case, so you concentrate on what is left.


Familiar places can look strange, even unrecognizable, and details unexpectedly revealing when seen through the eye of a camera. Those who know Amsterdam well will look at this work and try first of all to guess the location where every shot was taken. They are often mistaken.

Those who don’t know the city will form their impression only on these and other pictures. On visiting in person they won’t find what they saw in the photographs, because reality and images are separate things.

This is what a camera does: it translates one into the other.

At this point (summer of 2004) I have taken more or less 350 photographs for this series. I am planning to organize an exhibition and am also looking for a way to publish them in print. A selection of 18x24cm prints has been acquired by Amsterdam's municipal archives.
I look forward to going out again next winter.

In Oktober 2004, after the publication of a portfolio from this series in Het Parool , Amsterdam's daily newspaper, two young, enthusiastic and daring publishers- Harold de Croon en Arjan Weenink (uitgeverij 521)- came forward and we made this book.

AMSTERDAM is a selection of 180 photographs from the series printed in duotone, bound and hardback. ISBN 9085650046

The first edition of 2000 books came out in April 2005 and almost sold out in 6 months. There are still a few books available through the internet or in some stores in the centre of Amsterdam.

Uitgeverij 521, now part of Pimento Publishing, is at present (Nov 2005) considering a second edition.

An exhibition of 20x25 cm prints from the series can be seen in the gallery above the lobby of the Jolly Hotel Carlton, Vijzelstraat 4, next to the Munt and the flower market. Reproductions 20x25cm on metallic paper (gold) can be ordered through the sales department of the Hotel.
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