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Process 090 ☼ A Day with The Fire Brigade
A new photo essay
This week I’m excited to share a new photo essay about a day spent with the fire department of Amsterdam. It was a fascinating and wonderful experience!
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Visiting The Amsterdam Fire Department
I’m an endlessly curious person and always on the lookout for new and interesting people, communities, and topics to document and share. This is what drives my photography and my camera is a passport that allows me to discover, and travel into, other people’s worlds. I recently had the opportunity to photograph Fire Station Teunis in Amsterdam and it was a great experience full of amazing people and stories.
My goal was to document the daily routine of these brave men and women who put their lives on the line to keep their communities safe. We’re all familiar with the visuals of the spectacular and dangerous part of their work, so I wanted to capture the more mundane parts we never get to see. The training exercises, their lunch break, their equipment, and daily life at the fire station.
The first thing that struck me about the Amsterdam Fire Department was their dedication. They work 24-hour shifts and in that time they are just like any other household. They cook their own food, do their own laundry, and clean their home.
Every morning, they start their shift with a rigorous exercise routine to stay fit and prepared for any situation. The exercises are designed to have a practical purpose that corresponds with situations that might arise when out on a job.
I captured the intensity and focus on their faces as they completed each exercise and supported each other while also maintaining a fun competitive atmosphere.
During their lunch break, I was able to capture a more relaxed side of the firefighters. They gathered together to share a meal and chat, still remaining alert and ready to respond to any call that might come in. It was clear that the camaraderie and sense of community among the firefighters is an essential part of their work.
Next, I followed them through a training session, where they practiced swiftly putting on a new oxygen mask that was recently introduced.
It was impressive to witness the teamwork and coordination that went into the exercise and how seriously every detail is taken. At the same time, there’s a lot of fun and curiosity embedded in each moment. These folks are passionate about their job!
Of course, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph their equipment and trucks. The firefighters were proud to show me their tools of the trade, from axes and hoses to thermal imaging cameras and breathing apparatus.
And their trucks! These massive vehicles are equipped with everything from water pumps and hoses to ladders and rescue equipment, all designed to help them respond quickly and efficiently to any emergency.
Overall, my experience photographing the Amsterdam Fire Department was an eye-opening and humbling one. These men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect their community, and their dedication and professionalism are truly inspiring. I had wonderfully open and honest personal conversations, ranging from mental health challenges to the influence of politics on the job, and much more.
We are already planning a second visit to document the evening part of the 24-hour shift. During my next visit, I plan to shoot portraits of each firefighter to complement the photo documentary work to create a larger and more intimate picture with some personal stories. Many thanks to Michél and the rest of the department for their hospitality and openness!
Note: The images above are a small selection of what I documented that day. To see more visit this gallery on my website. I also shot a bunch of film, and those images are still on their way to Carmencita Film Lab to be developed and scanned and I’ll share those another time. (Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade.)
That’s it for this week!
Next week: a look at a digital back for my 50-year-old Hasselblad and my complicated thoughts about it, plus a new Hasselblad photo essay.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS Shout Out to my friends at MPB.com, the largest global platform to buy, sell, and trade used photo gear. They serve over 625,000 visual storytellers and recirculate over 400,000 products annually –– all of which come with a six-month warranty after being carefully inspected by product specialists. I just bought a second-hand Canon 28mm lens from MPB and will share some first images soon.
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