He's known for portraying Amsterdam in a very attractive, positive and vivid way. Photographs with a story and series we can look at for hours. Meet Thomas Schlijper, a street photographer giving Amsterdam a face, who knows his way around and has a say in how this city has evolved throughout the years. We are a big fan of his work and therefore proud to share his story with you in this Local Heroes #14 interview. Enjoy!
When did you start being a photographer?
I finished the Art academy in 1999, so for almost 15 years now. The anniversary would have been a week ago on the 31st of August.
Did you always wanted to become a photographer?
Not really, I joined the art academy for all the wrong reasons: I had no idea what I wanted to do. I could draw and paint, but through a photography course and shooting around, I discovered the love for the profession. So I finished the Art Academy and made photography my profession.
Something you do full-time?
Yes, immediately after graduating and I haven’t done anything else ever since. I receive my earnings from client assignments and spend most of the day shooting for my own website schlijper.nl.
Clients such as the Smart-car series on your website?
The Smart-car series on my website isn’t a clients’ assignment. It’s my own car that I’ve portrayed, which resulted in a life-story inside the city. Clients include lawyer offices or real estate projects development parties, who ask me to capture their newly build projects, buildings and neighbourhoods. But I also sell archive photography that certain clients like to use for publishing purposes.
What would be the best way to describe your work?
I would call it street photography, of everything that happens and is visible on the streets. Architecture, people and portraits, bikes, cars, public spaces, actually everything that crosses each other ways. I personally find it interesting to see what has been demolished and built inside the city. But it’s the combination of all, which is the reason I currently shoot from a higher top angle, to see the balance of everything that happens on the streets, such as the architecture, people crossing the street, etc.
And your website, Schlijper ‘Today’ is about 1 picture of Amsterdam each day?
Even more than 1 a day, sometimes even up to 25 pictures and always about the ‘now’ in chronological order. So if I shoot 10 today, they will be up on the website later this afternoon.
Has Amsterdam changed a lot in 15 years of photography?
I actually never look back (which I maybe should) but of course a lot has changed. There’s a lot of construction in Amsterdam, such as Amsterdam Noord, Zuidas, Damrak and the Rokin. Streets are very much changing, with the ‘Amsterdammertjes’ (iconic street poles) disappearing. Clothing that people wear change, phone booths that have been extinguished from the street scenery, same as shops that come and go.
A positive change?
In general yes, because Amsterdam is doing well and looks more neat and cleaned-up. The city does get busier though, a lot more people on bikes than ever before. Sometimes it’s even handier to take the car and find a parking sport, than taking the bike. Ever since last decennium you can’t find a parking spot for your bike.
What would be your favorite neighbourhood in Amsterdam?
Where I live, de Haarlemmerdijk area is of course one my favorite, alongside the Noordermarkt. But Amsterdam is a city which is very international, but at the same time a very quiet village. Just beautiful!
Any other city you’re portraying?
Tel Aviv, is my other love that I almost visit 4 times a year. A fantastic city with almost the same format as Amsterdam: pedestrian and bike friendly, but where so much more is changing than here. Every 3-months a new skyscraper is finished, so a skyline that’s constantly changing. Tel Aviv is a city of contrasts (old vs. new), but with so much energy and one with a very promising future. To give a few examples: you can eat all night (even a salad) and electric bikes have been adapted in no-time.
Any other cities on your wish list?
Certainly, there probably are a lot of cities that I could fall in love with which I haven’t visited yet. But Paris is one of my favorite and I might visit Buenos Aires soon.
You have brought out a few books. Have these been your ideas?
I never approach publishers myself at all. Most of the times they approach me with an idea, a story line based upon photographs I’ve shot. If I like the idea, I collaborate and extend the series. But I only want to focus on photographing, not on publishing books, which would cost me too much time.
What’s next in regards to Schlijper.nl?
Well, certainly nothing new. I don’t do news and what I currently do is something I would like to do for another very long time. Things will not drastically change. I do have some ideas but I’m currently really happy with focusing on my website. I shoot what I like and put photographs online that I like. Visitors can look at it for 1 second, 10 seconds or not all, but I don’t really care. I don’t want harass people through advertising myself. And of course I’ll keep on improving as a photographer. Photography is about seeing and you start to see more, looking ahead and you’ll get even more patient over time. At the beginning I was very focused on being caught in the action, but sometimes you just have to wait and beauty passes by.
Thank you very much Thomas for your time and the nice background story in this Local Heroes #14 interview. For more information, please visit his website and like the Facebook page for a daily dose of Amsterdam street photography: schlijper.nl www.facebook.com/schlijpernl
- Robin -