Summer in the City: Humans of Amsterdam

De zomer staat voor de deur en dat betekent de start van een nieuwe reeks blogs Stad in Beeld. Met het thema ‘Summer in the City’ lichten we deze weken een fotograaf of kunstenaar uit die op zijn of haar manier de zomer in de stad heeft vastgelegd, of je gewoon een heerlijk zomers gevoel geeft. Deze week: Debra Barraud die in haar project Humans of Amsterdam de diversiteit van de stad in foto en verhaal laat zien. 

Door: Willemijn Oosterhof

De 2000 gezichten van Amsterdam

We wonen in dezelfde stad, we fietsen door dezelfde straten, we leven van dezelfde lucht. Maar wie zijn al die Amsterdammers eigenlijk? Kijk eens om je heen als je straks op het terras zit in de zon. Want achter ieder die je ziet zit een eigen verhaal. Het foto-project Humans of Amsterdam, een initiatief van Debra Barraud, maakt de verschillende gezichten en verhalen kenbaar van deze diverse stad. Meer dan 2000 foto’s heeft ze al in Amsterdam genomen van mensen die ze op straat tegenkomt. Waarom? Omdat ze benieuwd is naar de verhalen die in hun schuilen. 

Haar interesse voor storytelling komt uit de tijd dat ze in Tel Aviv heeft gewoond viereneenhalf jaar geleden. Naast haar stage werkte ze in een cultureel centrum waar dialoogworkshops werden gegeven. Door haar studie, culturele maatschappelijke vorming, raakte ze geïnteresseerd in sociale cohesie en conflict. Wat ze opmerkte, is dat door het delen van verhalen bepaalde vooroordelen worden overbrugd: 

“Het vertellen en horen van verhalen maakt de mens weer menselijk. Grenzen of vooroordelen verdwijnen. De verschillen die tussen mensen bestaan, bijvoorbeeld door religie, worden door verhalen overbrugd en daardoor gaan we over bestaande grenzen heen.” 

Deze realisatie leidde ertoe dat ze storytelling mee terug nam naar Amsterdam waar ze Humans of Amsterdam opzette. Enkele foto’s en verhalen zijn hieronder weergegeven. 


“When he was born the nurse said, this baby is excited to discover the world. I feel she was really right about that.”

“Having a child was the last thing on my mind. I have always been very focussed on my studies and as a student I had many extra jobs so my life was very chaotic. While working on my thesis something inside of me changed and I realized I wanted to have a baby. I thought it would take time to get pregnant because I had been on birth control since I was a teenager but within a few weeks I was pregnant. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I have put this tiny human is into this world. I had to put my studies on hold but I’m still planning to finish it next year. My timing wasn’t perfect but honestly I don’t think it ever is. ”


“She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. We were opponents during a korfball match. After the tournament I plucked up my courage and asked her if I could give her a ride home. She told me that it wasn’t necessary because she came by bike. I asked her if I could bike her to her house and she agreed. After that I took her to the movies and we started dating. We were in love but unfortunately her parents disapproved of our relationship. She was Chinese and they did not approve of her relationship with a boy from Ambon. One day my uncle came by our house. He worked at the consulate and told me he had received an application for a visa to Hong Kong for her. Her parents wanted to send her away so she would end our relationship. My uncle ended up refusing her visa which is absolutely illegal but she was happy to stay with me. She passed away seven years ago and I still miss her every day but I was lucky enough to have called her my wife for over 50 years.” 


‘’I’m about to become a primary school teacher in February. I have always loved working with children but during my studies I had many doubts. I want to give each child the attention they deserve but in reality you are not always able to do that. There was a period where I was doubting if I was the right person to educate children. At that time, I was also an intern and one day after class a student came up to me and said: ‘’Miss Vildan, you make school fun again!’’ It was such a boost to hear those words. It took away my insecurity. ‘’


“I never thought I would find love again. We ran into each other at a high school reunion. We hadn’t seen each other in 30 years but it was love at first sight. On our first date we went to the park to walk our dogs. 6 months later we were watching this terrible Adam Sandler comedy when he all of a sudden asked me: ’‘Do you want to be my wife?” That was 6 years ago and we are still happily married. “


”I design clothing with many Afghan features. It’s my way of showing people that Afghanistan is more than a place of violence and terrorism. It’s also my way of doing something for my country. My parents always found it difficult to accept my ideas. We think differently about many things. For example, I have many gay friends and I speak very openly about my ideas on religion. Two weeks before I launched my first clothing collection I got into a huge conflict with my parents. We have had arguments before but this time it wasn’t fixable so I left. I lived in my car during that period. I was so stressed out but I managed to finish my clothing line anyways. I never thought I would be one of those people who break all contact with their family. It’s really hard to live without my family but I felt as if I could no longer hide myself. I don’t intend to become rich of what I’m doing or to gain fame. I don’t care about that. I just want my message to come across.”


“I swear I didn’t go swimming.. I just wanted to figure out what exactly was happening at the bottom of the water…”


‘I just started to work at Mac Donalds. I’m from Peru but I came the Amsterdam to study Dutch. Many of my colleagues are also immigrants and at work we teach each other our languages. I came to Amsterdam just to learn Dutch but now I also know some Italian, English and Arabic.”


“You know how some people feel about their children being the smartest, brightest, most beautiful creatures?”
“Well, that’s how I feel about my dog.”


Meer lezen?

Meer bijzondere beeldcolumns vind je in Stad in Beeld de ‘Summer in the City’ editie. In de serie ‘De stad door andere ogen‘ zie je de stad ook door ogen van kunstenaars en fotografen, maar ook vanuit het perspectief van water, voedsel of stilte bijvoorbeeld.