De Donkere Kamer is the meeting place for exciting new talent in Amsterdam–Image by Bas de Meijer, courtesy of DuPho (Dutch Professional Photographers) and Pakhuis de Zwijger
Amsterdam has been a hub for bohemian lifestyles for years now, occupying a special place in the hearts and minds of the world’s creative types. Something you may not know about the city, however, is that it is an especially great place to be as a photographer or appreciator of the photographic arts! You might need some help navigating through the city’s many alleys and canals to find the very best photo destinations, so we’ve put together a list of our favorite spots for photographers in town!
Here is ONWARD's list of 9 spots for any photographers traveling to Amsterdam...
Foam's brightly lit spaces encourage you to engage with the photography–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
International Organization Focused on Photography
Underneath Foam is an ocean full of programming geared specifically towards photography, including exhibitions, publications, and educational projects. Indeed, its aim is to become a truly international organization with events held abroad. Visitors can witness the breadth of its offering by visiting its Amsterdam museum which contains “all facets of the photographic medium” throughout various periods, from contemporary to historical. It averages 16 shows a year, so visitors can always expect to find a fresh exhibit. Over 200,000 people a year visit the facilities at the canal side location on the Keizersgracht, making it the most popular museum in all of the Netherlands. In addition, Foam also publishes its own magazine showcasing both well-known and emerging photographers.
“Informs and inspires the widest possible audience by presenting all facets of contemporary photography”
Visitors enjoy themselves among the latest work at a recent opening at Seelevel–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
Leading Fine Art Photography by Dutch Talent
With both an online presence and an exhibition gallery, Seelevel aims to provide the best in fine art photography. With its focus on cutting-edge photography, the curators Manon Funcke and Caroline O’Breen, themselves both movers and shakers in the art industry, hope to expand the art form into a myriad of possibilities for transforming both the medium and the message. Mutimedia installations, collage, sculpture, and conceptual art are just some of the possibilities that can use photography as the starting point. As a platform for emerging avant-garde artists, the gallery aims to showcase their work to a larger audience.
“Seelevel can be seen as the trendsetter in the Netherlands”
Visitors can immerse themselves for hours in the vast photobook collection housed at the Huis Marseille–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
A Staple of the Photography Community
Along with its permanent collection of modern photography from national and international artists, the museum also has various exhibitions held throughout the year. Housed in a former residence built in 1665, the museum also features elaborate interior stucco work, ceiling paintings, a garden house, and coffee bar. The gorgeous view of the garden can be seen from the library at the back of the museum. Visitors can peruse through a variety of material, including contemporary and classic photobooks, monographs by Dutch and international photographers, and books on photographic theory and history. The photobook collection in particular hopes to highlight not only the works of the photographer alone but also the photobook itself with its unique physical characteristics.
“Focuses on a specific visual language and is characterized by a passionate spirit of inquiry”
Photo Q's inviting storefront is the perfect place to discover up-and-coming international photogaphers–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
Where Photobooks Are Conceived, Born, and Nurtured
Situated close to Dam Square, an historical and lively town square, PhotoQ bookstore not only has the latest photobooks, but also organizes workshops, book signings, and lectures. Edie Peters, founder, exhibition curator and photographic maestro in his own right, is well connected in the photography industry with an extensive body of work as a writer and critic, including his contributions to the photography news website photoq.nl.
Recently, PhotoQ began offering workshops on bookmaking which “will guide the way to enthusiasts of photo books from a raw idea to a successful published photobook.” There is no better venue than the Netherlands with its rich history of book design! Notable instructors conducting these workshops include Hans Gremmen, an established graphic designer, and lithographer Sebastiaan Hanekroot.
“PhotoQ needs to adapt constantly to the always changing world of photography.”-Founder Edie Peters
Large and medium-format film cameras line the shelves at Foto Den Boer, along with the very latest digital technologies–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
Leading Analogue Photography Store
The store has been serving Amsterdam photographers since 1950 and offers a great variety of supplies and equipment, particularly for analogue photography enthusiasts looking to restock their darkrooms. For visitors looking for expert advice on cameras or film, look no further than the shop owner himself, Ton, a walking encyclopedia of all things photographic. On selected equipment, the store also offers rentals to allow hesitant buyers to try it out before making the purchase.
“Almost everything you need to practice your hobby or profession.”
Johan Deumens is an important figure at Amsterdam's galleries and photo fairs–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
Gallery with Concept Photography at its Heart
Established in 1989, this gallery is dedicated to showcasing books from both established and emerging conceptual photographers who strive to interact with society through various methods, including giving public talks and showing off their works through gallery exhibitions, art fairs, and digital mediums. The gallery aims for a “conceptual and research-oriented artistic approach” and focuses on the gallery more as a public forum for photographic discourse rather than a commercial enterprise.
"Photography's just a playground for me. I'm not a photographer at all.” –Conceptual Artist Edward Rushcha
Boekie Woekie fills its shelves both inside and outside with photo books from emerging talents–Jordi Huisman for ONWARD
Small Press Devoted to Artists’ Books
With over 7000 titles of self-published or small press books, the bookstore itself is a work, or rather “sculpture”, in progress for its owners who also have their own thriving careers in the arts. They publish 3-4 titles a year and often participate in major books fairs across the world, in cities like London, Frankfurt, and New York. The store also has its own gallery space where it holds regular readings and exhibitions. Of particular interest is the “Diary” on the website, a day-to-day account of one of the owners as a book seller, dating back to the year 2000. In one entry, Rúna poetically recalls her homeland: “My surrogate for Iceland is a small wooden cabin in the back yard.”
“The entirely self-financed enterprise is Europe’s, if not the world’s, venue for artists’ books.”
De Donkere Kamer attracts talented photographers to it's presentations, like this one from Erwin Olaf–image by Bas de Meijer, courtesy of DuPho (Dutch Professional Photographers) and Pakhuis de Zwijger
Where New Ideas are Illuminated
With the various cultural events and activities taking place, including the local goods market, cultural festivals, and meetings on sustainability, The Silent Warehouse is anything but. For photographers, the re-converted warehouse is also home to “The Dark Room” where once a month Dutch and international photographers are interviewed regarding their latest projects. In the past, guests have included Hellen van Meene, Phillip Toledano, and Awoiska van der Molen, among other prominent figures in photography.
In addition, photographers have an opportunity to pitch their new project ideas to the audience who get to vote on their favorite idea. The one with the highest number of votes receives start-up money (allocated from the entrance fee for the event) to fund their respective projects. Finally, a talk is given about the technical side of photography such as how to choose the right equipment.
De Donkere Kamer is a co-production of DuPho (Dutch Professional Photographers) and Pakhuis de Zwijger.
“The Dark Room draws you into the world of photography.”
9. Unseen Photo Fair / World Press Photo /Amsterdam Art Weekend
Unseen Amsterdam's central exhibition area is not only an architectural marvel but a photographic one as well–Image courtesy of Unseen Amsterdam
Photography Festivals Abound
A slew of prominent festivals take place in Amsterdam throughout the year. Unseen Photo Fair, held in September, involves 54 international galleries and showcases the latest trends in contemporary photography showing everything from emerging artists to yet-to-be-seen work by established masters. It also offers a venue for lectures, debates, and a book market.
World Press Photo, founded in 1955, has its roots in Amsterdam, but since then has exploded onto the world stage with local exhibitions held in various countries including Australia, Turkey, Japan, and Canada to name a few. With around 100 exhibitions held every year, visitors can find a venue closer to home without having to travel to the Netherlands. Its focus is “visual storytelling to inform and to shape us.”
Finally, Amsterdam Art has collaborated with 40 art and cultural centers around the city to promote the best in contemporary photography. A major event, the Amsterdam Art Weekend is held annually in November and is intended for new and young artists wanting to showcase their budding talents. The various venues including participating galleries and museums offer special exhibitions, performances, screenings, and active dialogue.
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” -Vincent Van Gogh
Amsterdam is a city famous for its winding canals and gorgeous bridges, passable by foot, boat, and many other forms of public transit. So what's the best way to explore the city? To really immerse yourself in the Dutch capital there is no better way than to explore with your own two feet! Getting anywhere in the city center is fairly easy and quick, and there are sights to be seen all around.
Amsterdam is also quite famous for its bicycle culture, and is one of Europe's most cycle-friendly cities. If you're in a little bit more of a hurry, bicycles can be rented from any number of locations throughout town, allowing you to zip through like a true local! In 2013, there were about 1,200,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, outnumbering the amount of citizens in the city.
To trek larger distances the Dutch capital has sixteen tram routes and four metro routes, as well as a bus system. Three fare-free GVB ferries carry pedestrians and cyclists across the IJ lake to the borough of Amsterdam-Noord, and two fare-charging ferries run east and west along the harbor. There are also water taxi's if you want to get the real canal experience! Get the full run-down of where to go and how to get there with our downloadable PDF Map and Guide!
The ONWARD Global Mentorship Program is a brand-new program, even for us, with a lot of ambition and expectation. As the course progresses, we will be tweaking the format so it stays as beneficial for participants as possible.
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