SAMMIE - life and friends

Els Zweerink

2018 - Ongoing

SAMMIE - life and friends

A photo documentary about growing up in Amsterdam. Main character is 19-year-old Sammie. He is diagnosed ADHD and was expelled from school without graduating in his last year from high-school, he now works in a restaurant as a dishwasher. 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 (consisting of 18 young adults; they are united in the whatsapp group named 'squah'), it shows a close picture of a generation of Amsterdam-born-kids around the year 2000 (Generation Z). Young sensitive people who are about to take their final exams, started a study or already work. They spend a lot of time outdoors, in city parks, on squares, in their garagebox, in the club or at someone's home in the city of Amsterdam. They celebrate together each other birthdays, graduation and christmas-dinner. They help each other, they care for each other, there are no prejudices.

Sammie is my son, he has 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 lives, 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. Most of them still live 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.

Sammies 18th birthday marks 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 his daily life 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. He will let me photograph all moments, as he finds it important to show how life can look like, and how easy people might think in prejudices. Its not always what it looks like.

The focus is on photography, I also interview them at certain moments and I can use the music fragments that they have recorded together. The goal is to follow him with his group of friends for a longer period of time as this is such an interesting period of life: coming of age.

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 will be put together as a school picture. And repeated every half year. The result of the documentary will be in an exhibition and the publication of a book. A publication in newspaper 'de Volkskrant' is part of it.

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  • Portrait of Pieter.

  • Portrait of Imro.

  • Portrait of Rembrandt.

  • Portrait of Lola.

  • Portrait of Osei.

  • Sammie works as a dishwasher in the restaurant.

  • Portrait of Roemer.

  • Sammie at night in front of a club with a coffee, a cigarette and his mobile.

  • Portrait of Leya.

  • Graduation party of Tom.

  • Portrait of Sofie.

  • Sammie’s 18th birthday.

  • Portrait of Pip.

  • Portrait of Sammie.

  • Sammie at home smoking ‘outside’.

  • Meyer and Sammie in the garagebox. Where they hang out; play music and make music.

  • The garagebox, where they hang out, play music and make music.

  • Sammie and friends enjoying the birthday-party of Pieter.

  • Sammie and Sofie dancing in the club at the birthday-party of Sofie.

  • Sammie smoking at the balcony after a night out.