This is my first trip alone.
No matter how carefully I try to plan everything, I forget to buy batteries for my film camera and therefore I have nothing but iphone pictures to show from my first day in Amsterdam. I visit a cat gallery and a handbag museum and eat waffles for dinner. All of this feels too good to be true.
In a few hours the fog comes out and the whole city is a gleaming golden wonderland. I wander through the streets, amazed like a child. I knew Amsterdam would be something very different, but I never imagined it to be like this. A true fairytale kingdom with canals for streets. I take the late train to Breda where my friend Karoliine who is hosting me lives, this departure is perhaps more bittersweet than I expected.
The next day I explore The Hague with Karoliine. Finally I manage to buy some batteries and feed the stubborn F70 some film. However, I never notice that the ‘panorama’ mode has been switched on, so by accident I shoot everything at 5:2 ratio which ruins most of the images’ composition. However, this is a good lesson of being more careful next time.
We come back to Breda with a late evening train, eat sweets for dinner and I start drawing in my sketchbook. After all, this is why I’m here. To be more creative than before.
I return to Amsterdam again the day after to find inspiration in the Huis Marseille (featuring Esko Männikkö & Hanne van der Voude) and FOAM (Magnum contact sheets). The exhibitions are so good that I lose myself for hours.
I’ve always been a museum person. Not even so much for the art but for the meditative state of mind that takes your thoughts to new heights. Not everything needs to have a meaning written next to it.
I finish the day with a vegetarian dinner at Latei where the cute waiter flirts with me so much that I stay for another cup of coffee, and then Tea texts me and we meet up for a brief moment before her performance.
We made friends in high school, she was one year younger than me and we did a shoot together when I first started out with photography.
I thought she looked like Olivia Wilde back then. In a way, she still does, with her crazy hair and sparkling blue eyes. Living in Holland has changed her a lot. I barely recognize the girl who stood in front of my lens in 2012. But it’s all for the best and I’m happy to be a small part of her life still.
I watch her perform a piece of modern theatre for forty people and it feels like an exclusive and intimate privilege to be there. I am an alien in the company of artists and contemporary dancers, this world seems so strange and distant that night. Little do I know, this is a mind-opening invitation to the art of performance that I only realize months later while organizing my first exhibition.
We walk home with Tea and her bicycle. I eat pancakes on the way and she asks me to climb a lion monument for a picture. It’s raining and 14 degrees outside but I don’t care, and in a moment I’m face to face with the ferocious, lifeless marble, and we stand there in the cold rain together.
We are finally at her home in Jordaan, our shoes behind the door, her lover Kajetan half asleep in their bed. He is watching a compilation of swearing in movies and it amuses me more than it probably should.
Soon, the room gets quieter and quieter until only the sounds and smells of the old city remain. My temporary bed is right under an open window with the soft orange darkness pouring in and the rain is flowing down on the brick roofs. It doesn’t feel like mid-November. Amsterdam is so fresh tonight, for the sky has washed away all the sadness and dirt and everything feels like a new start.
Just before falling asleep he whispers to her, “you were so brave tonight”, with a voice full of pride and adoration.
I stay with them until Saturday afternoon. We go to the Noordermarkt in the morning for groceries and Kajetan cooks a delicious vegetarian meal while me and Tea visit a nearby cat shelter (situated on a boat, of course). We come back to their home and I take pictures of them. Tea says they don’t really have photos together and I’m happy to finish my last remaining frames of film there before going back to Breda.
On Sunday morning I step into my own subconscious for a few hours. It’s cloudy and slightly windy and the nature sings in most enthralling patterns. It feels like all its colours are living and breathing together with me. I meditate with a mandala to open my heart more and draw a self-portrait in my sketchbook. The patterns will eventually fade but the glow will remain for a few weeks, and I promise myself to create something new every day to remember this experience.
The flight home is quiet. I take the vegetarian option for dinner and decide that this is how I want to live from now on, to refrain from hurting a living being with my choices, something I’ve wanted to do for years but never really dared.
(to finish this blog post, here’s a cute photo of us eating parsley at Noordermarkt!)