Discover the allure of Amsterdam through the eyes of this artist
There is a certain sense of nostalgia that hits us while looking at polaroid images. What started as an American company making polarized glasses, and later on instant films and cameras, has become the broadly known term for instant photography. Not only the beautiful haze that lays on the motifs that might obscure details leaving the viewer curious about the unseen; people who have grown up in the digital age without first-hand experience of analog cameras might think that this pale effect looks like an Instagram filter. Beyond the visual appeal of polaroids, it's probably also the attention needed in order to take the perfect instant photo: you can't retouch it, you have one try at capturing the moment, hence we appreciate polaroids that speak to us even more.
It's also through polaroids, that Dutch artist Ferry van der Nat realized he wanted to work in photography. Back then, Ferry already worked in the fashion industry, "I started as a make-up artist many moons ago, and at one point I started to take polaroids; from there, it developed naturally." His friend Jasper Zwartjes of Amsterdam's The Ravestijn Gallery sent him a message saying he appreciated Ferry's work and wanted to talk about representation. The first exhibition followed shortly, "and that was when I saw all my work together and realized this was the medium with which I wanted to become an artist," Ferry remembers.
It's this collegial atmosphere that the photographer says is special about the gay fashion and creative scene in Amsterdam. "I would definitely say I have made some great friends along the way. Of course, there's competitiveness, but I feel lucky to feel supported by other photographers I admire, so that feels very nice."
Ferry van der Nat has published his work with iconic magazines such as Dutch editions of L'Officiel, Harpers Bazaar, and Vogue, plus shot the latest campaign for fashion designer Tom Ford. But the photographer is actually best known for his intimate polaroids of topless men, which were finally printed in 2016 in a hardback monograph called Mr.
The images of this series exude arresting beauty and unabashed queerness–qualities synonymous with the Dutch capital and many of its locals. Ferry says, "The DNA of Amsterdam is love, peace, and sex, and that remains forever." This aura is, of course, particularly present in the city's red-light district. But attitudes toward sexual freedom extend far beyond those narrow streets.
Amsterdam is "a very liberal place that embraces the LGBTQ community very much," Ferry says who is appreciating this even more, as the same is not true of where the photographer grew up, "an hour away, near Rotterdam–there's a very big contrast in the mentality of the local people. Amsterdam, however, has always been a liberated city that attracts a lot of tourists; there's an international vibe here and anonymity." You can view more of Ferry's work here.
Within our title, Mr Hudson Explores–The Gay Man's Travel Companion, we introduce travel experiences across the world–from Paris, London, and New York City to less-charted territories such as Shanghai, Portland, and Tel Aviv. Co-edited by Bastiaan Ellen (aka Mr Hudson Explores), we shine the light on organizations, businesses, and initiatives that get it right by being inclusive and relevant at those destinations. One of those features is Ferry van der Nat.