I’ve just got back from a perfect holiday for me – riding my bicycle through Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Cologne and Dusseldorf, seeking Photography, new landscapes, good biking, dark beers and amazing bakeries. Perfection.
I rolled off the ferry after a night crossing (the best way to travel, and so cheap!). I rode straight to Amsterdam along the amazing North Sea Cycle Route. First up was a visit FOAM, the gallery and publishers of the magazine with the same name. A real highlight was the Lee Friedlander show – his wit and humour shone through, and it was a pleasure to see so many of his pictures all together, especially his ‘New Cars 1964’ series – a commission by Harpers Bazaar meant to advertise each new car coming out of Detroit in that year. Friedlander preferred to photograph the cars truly immersed in the cityscapes, within its reflections and shapes, sometimes obscured almost completely – the results were not published for fear of upsetting the advertisers…
I decided to stay a little longer in Amsterdam to catch Unseen, a photography festival in the city. For those who’ve been, it is a little like Paris Photo, but I think I preferred Unseen – there was a bigger representation of smaller galleries and a great book fair that for me equalled the proper exhibition. Getting to look at some amazing high quality photo books offered a more personal experience and a nice tactile change from glossy pictures on walls. After sampling the cutting edge of contemporary photography across the globe, I realised I was more engaged with the collodion chap outside, with a portable darkroom. He was offering portraits – and allowed you to see part of the process. As this is something I’ve been keen to try for a while, especially in the obscura, it was great to watch the process at work. I’ll admit it, it has got me hooked.
The next day I visited the Rijksmuseum, (a museum you can ride your bike right through!) to see some of the original paintings by Vermeer and other Dutch masters who are not thought (by some, not all) to have used a camera obscura.
After Amsterdam, I rode to the Rhine and rode much of the way to Cologne to stay with a friend, before riding back to the Netherlands and boarding the boat once more.