• PhotoGenie

The Beauty of the City Lies in its Rough Edges

This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "Trendification".

Through visual stories, our curators research the question “How is gentrification affecting cities and their citizens?”.

Gentrification has become a severe problem in many modern cities. The term is often referred to as ‘the improvement or renovation of a neighbourhood’. This is to a certain degree a truthful description of the concept, but it fails to include the harmful consequences of this ‘renovation’. Often in renovating projects, lower-income neighbourhoods are ‘improved’ to the taste of higher-income people. This way, the area will attract wealthy people as well as entrepreneurs and businesses, who can easily invest in inexpensive real estate. Eventually, the value of property increases, rent rises and as a consequence, a lot of people who can no longer pay the increased rent are left displaced. Those who can stay in their homes because of legislation are often isolated because they can’t enjoy the new bars, restaurants, and shops that target a higher-income audience. Isolation may lead them to feel like second-class citizens because they are not able to participate in their own neighbourhood. Gentrification can be seen as the spatial translation of inequalities.

Many politicians, scientists and artists are pleading to stop the gentrification of cities. It forms the basis of a big inequality problem, leaving many people displaced and unable to find housing. It also leads to all neighbourhoods becoming increasingly monotonous. The same kind of ‘trendy’ bars and restaurants settle in neighbourhoods, replacing all local one-(wo)man businesses with big chains. Between all the renovating, lunch-room chains and coffee bars, nostalgic brown cafes and old ‘shady’ pubs in Amsterdam vanish together with the old charm of the city. Whatever happened to ‘Amsterdam is poep op de stoep’ (‘Amsterdam is poo on the sidewalks’)? Why do we all want to live in areas that have high class bars and restaurants? Who doesn’t love the atmosphere of Ed van der Elsken’s documentation of the old Amsterdam?

The series Betondorp by Jan Dirk van der Burg shows a part of Amsterdam that hasn’t fallen prey to the ongoing gentrification. According to Jan Dirk van der Burg, Betondorp is ‘the last hipster-free zone in the capital’. No Bagels and Beans, no CoffeeCompany or Marqt supermarkets, just the old bakery ‘de Lekkernij’ on the corner. The series shows how beautiful the neighbourhood can be, and was made to accompany the story of Marcel van Roosmalen in the Correspondent, who composed a beautiful tribute to the old socialist worker's village. Van der Burg’s story and photos show a nostalgic place that still reflects the old, charming Amsterdam, where many residents embody the motto ‘Our dear Lord gave us life, and the barman gave us everything else’. What a shame it would be if this neighbourhood was molded into another ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’ area. We should treasure Betondorp and its equivalents, and Jan Dirk van der Burg shows us how.

About the Artist: Jan Dirk van der Burg (1978) lives and works in Amsterdam. He was named photographer Laureate of the Netherlands in 2018, and is famous for his humorous approach and documentation of (Dutch) habits and people. Besides his work as a photographer, Jan Dirk van der Burg does ‘photocomedy’: evenings in which he explains and comments on his work. His ‘photocomedy’ evenings and lectures are very popular in the Netherlands.

To read Marcel van Roosmalen’s column on Betondorp head on over to https://bit.ly/2YHj8Gg

Check out Jan Dirk van der Burg’s full body of work at www.jandirk.com and on Instagram @jandirkvanderburg.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Our weekly themes always include three photo series by different photographers.

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Written by Myrthe Peek

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