The next stop on our trip takes us to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. If you missed the last city, Munich, click here.
Amsterdam is an enigma. As my friend put it during the trip, “nothing makes sense about this city.” Nicknamed the “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam boasts 165 canals and over 1280 bridges, and yet, despite the opportunity for boats and cars to overtake traffic, 32% of traffic flow comes from bikes. And even though this city grounds itself in its historical roots, it is still one of the most progressive cities in the world. Amsterdam is riddled with paradoxes, and I don’t think I quite connected the dots until now. It may be a stretch, but I believe Amsterdam’s bike-friendly culture has played a huge role in developing the values of the city and its people, and placed its priorities on one thing: freedom.
To me, bicycles represent growth, progress, and improvement. I know it may sound like a lot of credit to give to a bike, but the fact that those two thin wheels can take you anywhere is incredible. The people of Amsterdam seem to have unlocked the sense of freedom found in bikes, which explains the city’s emphasis on expression and choice. Amsterdam’s citizens are not contained by roads and lines when they want to go somewhere; they choose where they go and they do so without boundaries. Freedom gives purpose to the Red Light District, where the craziest of sexual fantasies exist. Freedom also explains the presence of so many “coffee shops.” But this freedom is also what creates the contrast revolving around different ways of life in Amsterdam. Founded in 1275, Amsterdam has survived and thrived throughout the years. Over the past few decades, the city has demonstrated the connection between progress and tolerance for the rest of the world to observe. Amsterdam embraces its rich history as it steps towards the future; historical buildings are now home to brothels in the Red Light District, and ancient canals have been given new life through the surgical hands of street artists. This juxtaposition is a reminder of why expression through art is so important.
Amsterdam, this city of eclectic choice, taste, and practice, reminds us that art in its most beautiful form isn’t on canvas or chiseled out of marble; rather, it exists through the spirit and capabilities of humankind. Art is beautiful because of the message it provokes. Yes, the technicalities matter, but art is expression…it is choice. And those choices give life to purpose.
So even though this city may not have made sense to us at first, I found that Amsterdam represents much more than I ever thought possible. The city itself is a moving, living piece of artwork. I hope that my pictures convey just a fraction Amsterdam’s beauty, its freedom. The atmosphere of the city is intoxicating (no pun intended), and it leaves you content, appreciative of existence and all that it entails, just as any good piece of art should.
What I love most about this picture is how there is a boat docked on the river for every car that’s on the road. Like I mentioned above, I think a lot of Amsterdam’s beauty comes from the contrast between different elements in the city.
In this case, the cars and boats add depth to the image, bringing out the trees and highlighting the tower structure in the back. The lines of cars and boats create focus towards the middle of the image. So as you scan outwards the rest of the image comes together to complete the scene.
Two things stick out to me in this picture. First, the bikes. Lots and lots and lots of bikes. Lots of em. Second, the graffiti. What is distinct about the graffiti (and you should be able to tell from this angle) is that it doesn’t interfere with the vines nor physical structure of the building. The artist chose to include these element into his or her piece . The simple existence of this street art speaks to the mutual respect between the building owner and the artists. Each acknowledges the other’s form of expression. The owner left the graffiti up, and the artist didn’t destroy the integrity of the building.
This was taken within the Rijksmuseum, one of my favorite museums from the trip. This particular piece is one of the largest constructed paintings in the world, (it is made up of multiple canvases placed together). Further down, another photo demonstrates the scale of the painting, but I particularly like the contrast the gentleman on the left provides in comparison to the artwork. The artwork truly comes alive in this piece – it seems more rounded, more three dimensional, more real. And for a fraction of a second you wonder if it is alive.
This is a piece of the famous “I Amsterdam” sign with the Rijksmuseum featured in the back. Again, we’re going back to the topic of contrast. In the background there is an older, more traditional representation of art, and in the foreground there is a more modern piece. But even with all their differences they manage to mesh and create a beautiful scene for the city of Amsterdam.
Biking in Vondelpark is a beautiful and wonderful experience that seems to transcend time. Seconds feel like minutes, minutes like hours, and hours like days–but this carefree aura is what makes Amsterdam, Amsterdam (and no it wasn’t the weed).
I think this picture is the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing Night at The Museum in real life. The focus of the balding gentleman in the lower center of the photo allows Rembrandt’s The Night Watch to come alive. The centermost figure in the painting gestures to the crowd as if he’s critiquing the man below him for not wearing a wig–because that balding is worthy of a Rogaine commercial. On the left side of the painting, the pointing figure also seems to transcend the canvas and gesture aggressively at the crowd. This painting is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Taken inside the Rijksmuseum, this suit of armor was perfectly displayed within the exhibit. Placed at an angle that naturally gave half the suit a shadow, the light tells two different stories. On the left, one of despair and death, while the right represents the glamor and fame that came with being a knight.
This picture seems to have tricked a lot of people so far. Look in the bottom right corner and you’ll see my friend Eric. The window, the mirror, and the shadows all come together to create a mood that impacts everyone a little differently. It’s personal, it’s meant to be interpreted on a case by case basis rather than carry one distinct message. Here, we get an insight into Eric’s interpretation of the play of light, as it subtly highlights his profile.
Ultimately, this image represents what Amsterdam is about: a city that encourages individuals to experience things for themselves, and then decide the path they wish to take.