Where are you from and how did you get into street photography?
I’ve lived in Amsterdam for about 25 years, but I started to discover street photography about 15 years ago. I tried a lot of things like architecture, stock and model photography, and eventually street photography seemed to fit me the best. In some ways, it is the easiest to do because you don’t need anything but a camera and the street begins when you leave the house. But at the same time it is the hardest form of photography because I had to overcome the fear of shooting and making pictures of complete strangers.
What elements do you think are needed to make for a good street photo?
I like photographs that tell a complete story in a single image. And the story doesn’t have to be the truth, the best pictures are open for the imagination of the viewer. And a good picture helps the viewer with the looking. For this the photographer has his tools like framing, light and dark, depth-of-field, leading lines etc. This doesn’t mean that a picture has to give itself away immediately, good photos are multi-layered and have a lot to discover, but they have to draw you in and guide you.
“I like photographs that tell a complete story in a single image. And the story doesn’t have to be the truth, the best pictures are open for the imagination of the viewer.”
Are there any street photographers in particular that you draw inspiration from?
The early work of Stephan Vanfleteren is really great. Now he makes more portraits and nature photos, which are also very good, but I really like his earlier street photography. They are strong photos in which you can relate to the situation or the person immediately. You can feel the atmosphere, or at least you think you do.
Where is your favorite place to take photographs and why?
It doesn’t really matter, as long as there are people. When you look carefully you can see stories everywhere. Obviously, I work mostly in Amsterdam, but it seems to be easier to shoot in foreign cities.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in street photography and how have you overcome them?
My biggest fear is shooting people and I haven’t overcome that completely yet. But most of the time there is nothing to fear at all, most of the time people don’t even care and sometimes they even like it. I remember shooting a middle aged woman in the streets of New York. On the first photo you see a woman hurrying on the street, on the second she looks right in to my lens and on the third she walks by, shoulders up, big smile, expressing the sentiment, “I’m still worth looking at.” And then I asked myself, “What was I afraid of?”
What is your most memorable moment or photo from street photography?
That’s probably the first week of the lockdown in Amsterdam. Where the city center is normally crowded with tourists, the streets where so quiet and beautiful. Only pigeons on Dam square and nobody in the passage under the Rijksmuseum. It was a kind of scary beauty, but I’m glad the life is slowly coming back to the streets again.
What has street photography taught you?
When I am photographing, I see lives passing by. Little pieces of the lives of complete strangers, but most of the time very recognizable moments. It’s good to recognize these little moments in your own life which normally pass by unnoticed but are worth being seen.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Maarten and see more of his work, be sure to visit his Flickr photostream. This photographer was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine.