Looking close in the evil mirror Crow saw
Mistings of civilizations towers gardens
Battles he wiped the glass but there came
Mistings of skyscrapers webs of cities
Steaming the glass he wiped it there came
Spread of swampferns fronded on the mistings
A trickling spider he wiped the glass he peered
For a glimpse of the usual grinning face
But it was no good he was breathing too heavy
And too hot and space was too cold
And here came the misty ballerinas
The burning gulfs the hanging gardens it was eerie
The old city is covered with a misty dampening blanket where it used to sparkle and bustle so fetterless, city of freedom and expression, city of art and sin.
Alongside the river Amstel, where the web of canals sprouted, a strange, gloomy imperturbability took over. The freezing, watery cold drew the few people outdoors even further into their coats.
The hotels closed, the numerous bars, terraces and restaurants again in firm lockdown, some handwritten messages on the door, the despair of the bar owner reflected in every word.
Two years have passed since I last took a photograph in the old city. Amsterdam is at its best when alive. Where others jumped outside to shoot the unique, empty streets, I lost motivation completely.
Nevertheless, it was now, after again a Christmas period in seclusion, where suddenly the darkness and somberness became nostalgically attractive. Fuzzy associations brought me back in time. The work of George Hendrik Breitner (Breitner, 2016) is never far away. The low-hanging mist is firmly fixated between the stately canal houses on either side of the Amstel, smoothening the sharp silence and resignation, covering modernity, ambition, the rush, the traffic, the tourists. Two strong young men cleave the silence just appropriately in their piercing skiff.
This series of photographs depicts the river Amstel exclusively, calmly entering Amsterdam in its unique serpentine form, giving the city its name and its character. Living in the old city centre and looking out on one of the side-canals of the Amstel, the water is always present. In creating the images, I used slow pinhole lenses on my Leica M10. By using these lenses, digitalism seems to fade, together with sharpness. Form over detail, tones of grey flow into each other, piercing blacks enhance the darkness, never there is light. I remind images made by my former tutor and photographer Andrew Conroy (Andrew Conroy, s.d.) in his magazine ‘Marketing Forces’.
In postprocessing using Adobe Lightroom, I limited myself to endless spot-removal (by using pinhole lenses, every dust particle shows), balancing the grey tones and
reducing some graining and some minor cropping. Most of the atmosphere was already there; the cold fog made my hands shake beyond acceptable sharpness levels for even more authenticity in the images.
As always, creating a selection is my biggest hurdle. Balancing between cohesion and monotonous. Despite the constant need for consultation, my stubbornness precludes this route practically, ending in endless doubts anyway.
I hope this short project takes the viewer back in time with hints of nostalgia and will be intrigued by the obscured somberness of pandemic lockdown in my city, Amsterdam; Silence, but the sound of crows.
Andrew Conroy (s.d.) At: https://www.andrewconroy.info/work#/staggerwort/ (Accessed 14/01/2022).
Breitner, G. H. (2016) Spleten in de Stad / Cracks in the City. (s.l.): The Netherlands Institute for Art History.
Hughes, T. (1974) Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow. Faber & Faber. At: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=wWIOnwEACAAJiterion