"God Roept U" - "Jesus Loves You."

 

Amsterdam, Christmas 2018.

 

It's a cold, overcast evening as I first scan Amsterdam from in front of Centraal Station. On the left looms an imposing building with two neon blue signs: "Jesus Loves You" and "God Roept U" ("God Calls You"). Though not a believer, I do feel that fate governs my existence; I shall follow no given path, just wander where my feet lead.

 

Over three days, I hope to catch some of the spirit of Amsterdam: the architecture, the canals, the Christmas decorations, but most of all, the human pageantry of the city. These are the busy streets photographed and filmed by Ed van der Elsken. He called the city his "hunting ground". I hope to make it mine, maybe create a connection to his work, though I'm an outsider and times have changed. The freewheeling 70's are now the low cost, Airbnb 2010's. Am I treading the same streets as van der Elsken? Is it even the same city? The hippies have given way to hordes of tourists - including me  - expensive cars abound, there seem to be few poor, replaced by a cosmopolitan population of consumers flush with Christmas money. It is all very enchanting and a visually rich environment for a photographer. It is easy to meet and talk with people. I can't complain. But the edginess van der Elsken so wonderfully caught is missing. This change is why we continue to photograph what has been photographed so much already. Each new era needs to be recorded. This is how we remember the past.