The three times I’ve received a phone call from Nina Stenske from the Netherlands my heart starts to race, my palms sweat and a chesire cat-like grin spreads across my face. “You are a winner in this year’s World Photo Contest”, are not only the magic words opening the doors to one of the highest accolades in photojournaism worldwide but also to a week of viewing inspiring photojournalism and good times in a city known more for it’s red light district and coffee shops.
After a 18 hour excursion in a plane from San Diego over Northern USA and Canada, my wife Lauren and I landed in Amsterdam feet running after getting the huge complimentary first-class upgrade on the long flight. We cabbed it to the Grand Hotel Kranopolsky in the heart of the city at the Dam, and decided to pop our heads into the Felix Meritas building were World Press Photo holds their presentations during Awards Days to check my Saturday presentation. I had no intent in doing a presentation this year but Nina Stenske pressed me until I conceded and I am glad I did. The top photojournalists, editors and staff from many of the largest publications are present during the Award Days, so it’s great self-promotion if you don’t mind speaking in front of a couple hundred people. You can watch my presentation here:
The Award Days this year fell a little later and happened to coincide with Queen’s Day, a national tradition in honor of their Queen where everything in Amsterdam closes down and the city turns into a enourmous party and flea market. In addition to all of the city’s inhabitants, one million visitors flock to the city as well to enjoy this enormous drunken celebration. We fully absorbed and enjoyed the day, walking around, buying things from street vendors, people watching, visiting the Van Gogh and Rijks Museums, and having a couple beers as well. It was a great start to a wonderful weekend, and I hope I can be in Amsterdam again for Queen’s Day.
Speaking of royalty, the guest of honor at the Awards Ceremony was the crowned HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands and his wife Princess Laurentien, who my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting and briefly speaking with. It was interesting to find out that the Prince ontop of being the 5th in line to the Dutch throne and having a degree in law, loves to draw and take photographs which makes him a the fitting Patron of World Press Photo. The Awards ceremony held at the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ, a beautiful auditorium on the water, while the opening exhibition was at the Oude Kerke (“the olde church”) a 13th century church located in the center of Amsterdam’s notorious “Red-Light” District. The church is an amazing place to hold an exhibition down to the fact that the entire floor of the church are crypts, so as you are walking around looking at photos, you are walking on dead people!
A view from the attic in the Anne Frank house. This window was the only way her and her family saw the outside world. Very moving and interesting museum if you’re ever in Amsterdam. (Photo by Donald Miralle)
But the best thing about attending the Awards Days in my opinion, it getting the opportunity to meet other photographers and place faces with bylines and work you’ve seen for years. It was great to meet and spend time with the legendary Eugene Richards and his wife Janine Altongy, who were both just such pleasant and admirable people. We had a blast with amazing National Geographic photographer and all-around great guy Paul Niklin and his wonderful wife Lynn, whose work made me want to move up to the Yukon and shoot nature. It was great to see Robert Gauthier of the Los Angeles Times, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working next to for years, give a moving presentation dedicated to his wife Rene. And other photographers like Elizabeth Kruetz with husband James and son Charlie were a pleasure, Magnus Wennman of Sweden and very pregnant wife, Lara Panack, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Petersburger, Matt McClain representing Denver, Kent Klich, Walter Astrada, Adam Ferguson, Charles Ommanney, and finally Zed Nelson who in my opinion gave the most entertaining presentation to date. Great meeting all of you, thanks for the good times and inspiring me to push my art a little harder. And special thanks to everyone from World Press Photo for putting together the best weekend in photojournalism…Cheers!