“Geuzenveld in Nieuw-West seems to me more like Amsterdam than a famous center that everyone is always talking about,” says photographer Katharina Gerritsen (30). “I experience the diversity of Amsterdam more in the centre, where there are mainly expats and visitors, in a neighborhood as diverse as Geuzenveld where people take care of each other.”
To underscore this, I collected a series of portraits of 15 Geuzenveld residents, who were hung at the New Metropolis Cultural Center in Nieuw-West and then traveled to Pakhuis de Zwijger and community centers in Geuzenveld-Slotermeer. Faces of Geuzenveld Her project is called. Gerritsen always brings a strong social side to this series, as in all of her photographs. In addition to documentary photography at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, she also studied Cultural Sociology at the Catholic University of Leuven. She prefers to call the latter “urban sociology”.
Due to the lockdown, she lost her usual job as a photographer. She realized that the world around her, the world of everyday local life in Gusenfeld, where she has been living since 2018, is wonderful. I have contacted the locals through women from AZC Geuzenveld and Buurtwerkkamer Geuzennest. “What surprised me,” she says as we walk along picture walls in New Metropolis, “is the main function that volunteers play in a neighborhood like this. They ensure social cohesion and quality of life in a rapidly growing and changing neighborhood like Geuzenveld, they protect what needs to be protected. They should get more recognition, maybe even a salary from the municipality.”
The color photos, all 35 x 35 cm, show just how diverse the neighborhood is. Each photo is shot in a place dear to him or her with great meaning. When asked if it’s hard to get people in front of the camera, she replied, “Sometimes it is, especially in these times when people are sometimes hesitant. But I work with a Hasselblad camera, the kind you look at from the top. So. I don’t shoot directly in someone’s face. Many people find this reassuring. These images mainly express peace and quiet.”
Gerritsen always depicts people in their environment, naturally paying attention to things like composition and lighting, but she focuses mainly on location: “The people I paint for Geuzenveld are strongly connected to the neighborhood and to each other. In my opinion they are stronger than they are in the city centre. I intend to show The power of Geuzenveld, though often portrayed negatively. In my sociology study, I actually learned that negative images can be very detrimental to an area of the city.” For example, it is easy for a municipality to think that waste can be left behind, she said. “It was also thought that you should put the rich in the slums, and then the rich would ‘raise’ the poor, as they were. But it doesn’t work like that. As a poor resident, there is no use for a rich man or woman next to you. Much more important is a social network in Neighborhood, like the Geuzennest here, where women mainly meet. Or the square of the little ones.”
The changes are part of the optimization, which also affects Geuzenveld. For example, there was a wonderful initiative for a thrift store, which was actually a distribution store: Owner Ben delivered things to the children. The building where his shop used to be has since been demolished.
Gerritzen sees gentrification or upgrading of the neighborhood based on the authority of officials and administrators is a painful development: “What happens is that people are forced to leave their social housing for renovation, because many houses in Gusenfeld are in poor condition. Also my house. Mold on the walls, dampness, leaks, late maintenance.” It is true that people are given a chance to return to their homes, but in the meantime, rent often goes up and exceeds the average of €700 for social housing. Not everyone can afford it, so they have to move to another place, where it is cheaper. This means in Often farther from the city, to the outskirts. In the meantime, the rich come to live here, in the free sector or in owner-occupied houses, which widens the gap between the rich and the poor. I hope that despite the changes, the initiatives I have depicted can continue in the existence “.
Surprisingly, Gerritsen took pictures of a girl with a horse at an equestrian center and a golfer. This is possible, she says, “because both the riding school and the golf course are affordable for everyone because they work with volunteers.”
Gerritsen comes from north of Amsterdam. There she was already fascinated by the hidden stories that live in the neighborhood. She continued this interest in Geuzenveld. She says: “Around 16,000 people live here, and the great thing is that social initiatives spread like mushrooms. I think it’s unfair that the poor are being driven out of the neighborhood by the influx of the rich. Such a thing shouldn’t happen. Through my photos and people’s stories, which we collected in As a brochure, I want to show how vibrant and resilient the neighborhood is. For me it is important to express the bond between the people and the neighborhood.”