As the saying goes: We live in strange times! More than three months ago, in March 2020, the myriad of things that give a city its vibrancy came to an abrupt standstill. I was reminded of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, about a beautiful princess who is cursed by an evil witch. After pricking her finger on a spinning wheel she falls into a deep sleep, and also everything in her immediate world is brought to a halt.
Positive side effects
Despite all the distress and anxiety of these past months, there were also positive aspects to the compulsory lockdown. For instance the peace and quiet and clearer skies all over . . . the world momentarily returned to old-fashioned dimensions with the space to think about what is most important in life. As a photographer, I was faced with the challenge of taking meaningful pictures – tasked with capturing the essence of this Covid-19 era.
When the lockdown measures slowly started to relax, I decided to go downtown to explore how the virus and the subsequent restrictions put into place had affected physical contact between people. My assistant Dominique accompanied me. We chose several places and invited passers-by to take part in my photo series.
Curiosity or fear
The corona virus had frightened people and admittingly, I was nervous that first day. I wasn’t sure if people would be scared or possibly react in an unfriendly way when I asked them to play a role in my photo.
Yet, it soon turned out that my fears were unjustified. Most people were more than happy to join in, as they usually are. Others just didn’t feel like it and that interaction also went fine.
How would I define a pleasurable society? I’ve come to the conclusion that such a society is a world where you don’t have to be afraid of those around you. Given an option between curiosity or fear, which would you choose to control your life?
Feeling safe is a great good, it means having confidence in others as well as yourself. It is partly a personal feeling, but also a social reality.
I am so happy and grateful for all the friendly people who contributed their images to these photos. Thanks to all of you, Amsterdam still is – at least in my eyes – a very pleasurable, liveable city.
Below follows the entire series I shot in the period 12 May to 12 June 2020 (in chronological order).