Sammie - life and friends

Els Zweerink

2018 - Ongoing

Sammie - life and friends

Growing up Amsterdam

A photo documentary about growing up in Amsterdam. Main character is 19-year-old Sammie. He is my son, he is diagnosed ADHD and was expelled from school without graduating in his last year from highschool, he now works in a restaurant. Since his 18th birthday I follow his daily life with his happy moments and his struggles. An important role in his life is his group of friends (the ‘squah’, consisting of 18 young adults), it shows a close picture of a generation of Amsterdam-born-kids around the year 2000. Young sensitive people who are about to take their final exams, started a study or already work. The city of Amsterdam (Eastside) forms the background for this group. They spend a lot of time outdoors, in city parks, on squares, in their garagebox, in the club or at someone's home. They help each other, they care for each other, there are no prejudices.

Sammie is a positive, vibrant, unique character, he enjoys life, but also he has his struggles, he suffers from anger / panic attacks, he finds it difficult to find his place in a society that obviously is not taking into account a character like his. He has difficulties organizing his life, his room, his clothes, finding keys, losing his passports, keys, everything. He wears not matching socks, but enjoys wearing nice colourfull clothes. During day he sleeps, in the evenings he works in a restaurant, doing the dishes and preparing the tables. At night he meets his friends whom he can always count on. The large group of friends is close; there is always someone to join. They all love music, fashion, hanging out and going out.

At first sight a normal group of high school students and first-year students, but if you look better, you will see a number of early school-leavers, such as Sammie and also high school students who are doing well at school. Some of his friends live in their own room, others are still at their parents home. Every individual has his dreams, difficulties, opportunities or limitations. As a group, they succeed in listening to each other, encouraging each other and helping with their "struggles". They don't consider themselves just a group of friends; they see each other as family. Together they find what they all desperately need: understanding, support, love and above all a lot of fun.

The first photo was taken on Sammies 18th birthday, the day that he can legally buy a joint for the first time. At that moment he is already being treated by an institution to help him stop smoking and drinking. When he is expelled from school a week later, I decide to follow him as a photographer. During a period that I had less visibility on him and his friends, photographing my daily life with him helped to capture this moment of growing up, it helped to have a certain distance at difficult moments, and it also helped to keep him close.

The focus is on photography, I will also interview them at certain moments and I can use the music fragments that they have recorded together. The goal is to follow them for a longer time as this is such an interesting period of life: coming of age. His 19th birthday was two weeks ago.

BIO: I work as a documentary and portrait photographer, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Graduated cum laude at the Amsterdam Photo Academy in 2011 with the project 'Finding Guillermo’: a personal documentary story about the search for my Foster Parents Plan brother Guillermo from El Salvador. The serie 'Finding Guillermo' has been published in several magazines and was exhibited during the Noorderlicht Photo Festival and Photo Festival Naarden. Since 2011 I work for several clients and I am part of the photography team of Dutch quality newspaper 'de Volkskrant’ and 'Volkskrant Magazine’. The documentary Sammie, life and friends is a long-term project in which I follow him in his daily life and with his friends. The portraits are part of the photo documentary. They are put together as a school picture. The result of the documentary will be an exhibition and the publication of a book. A publication in 'de Volkskrant' is part of it.

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  • Enjoying with his friends.

  • The garagebox they use to hang out, listen to music, and make their own songs, based on their lifes.

  • At home, hungry and in a hurry.

  • In the park.

  • After swimming, getting dressed and having a drink.

  • State of mind.

  • Swimming at night in the IJ (water in Amsterdam).

  • No matching socks in the house.

  • At work, at the bar of the restaurant in the reflection of the window.

  • Smoking at the balcony, and enjoying from a nice night out. He doesn't feel the cold.

  • Leftover of an evening in the garagebox.

  • The portraits of Sammie and his friends, put together as a school picture.

  • Celebrating his 18th birthday at the balcony of our house.

  • Portraits of Sammie.

  • Outside of the garagebox hanging out.

  • The glass window of the bathroom.

  • Smoking is not allowed inside the house.

  • First week in the restaurant where he works, doing the dishes.

  • Going to the emergency department of the closest hospital, after a panic attack, and hitting a glass window.

  • In the garagebox.

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