Shutterspeed: Rotterdam in black and white

A few weeks ago my brother and I took a trip to Rotterdam. I’d never been in the city proper before, only to concert venues on the fringes, and I was surprised at how modernist and industrial it is. To get the Netherlands to surrender, the Germans bombed Rotterdam on May 14 1940, threatening to do the same to other cities, like Utrecht. Rotterdam used to resemble Amsterdam in its architecture, but is now full of interesting postwar and more recent buildings. For architecture and culture, Rotterdam is hard to beat.

Like many other Dutch cities, Rotterdam is perpetually in development. Even before it was bombed in 1940, many of its characteristic buildings and canals were being removed in favour of something more modern. I found an interesting blog post (in Dutch) that laments Rotterdam’s constant drive for getting rid of their own cultural heritage. Certainly it’s very interesting to compare pre-bombardment pictures with modern photographs of the same places. I thought Rotterdam had an industrial charm; I’m beginning to appreciate that modern architecture can be beautiful as well, though the Netherlands is full of ugly concrete blocks dating from the 1960s and 70s, and I generally prefer pre-WWII architecture in all its different forms and styles.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Rotterdam’s world-famous modern buildings, visit the tourism agency website. Here is a very interesting video showing footage from Rotterdam before the war, a bustling port town, and during the war, under German occupation.

It was a bit of an adventure taking photographs in Rotterdam, as every corner we turned provided a very different view than I’m used to walking around in cities. I like using black and white photography for such industrial settings, as I think it’s better matched with sharp angles and deep contrasts.

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