Sammie - straight through the lens - PhMuseum

Sammie - straight through the lens

Els Zweerink

2018 - Ongoing

Sammie - straight through the lens (2018-ongoing)

Sammie (2000) is the son of Els Zweerink. In her series she tells in an intimate way how her camera enabled her to stay in touch with her son, from the very moment she felt like she was going to lose him: the day he turned eighteen.

It is the first day he can legally buy a joint, which he holds up, while looking at his mother triumphantly, but at the same time puzzled. At that moment he is already in a treatment for his soft-drugs addiction. Zweerink captures the moment and has followed her son closely ever since.

Sammie has ADHD, is expelled from school in his final year and currently works in a restaurant. His life is largely determined by his group of friends from Amsterdam (the 'squah', consisting of 21 friends). They represent the urban Generation Z, a group of sensitive young adults who do not feel at home in the performance society they grow up in. Colorful characters, who look for their own path in a unique way. They don’t consider themselves as just a group of friends, but as family, where they find understanding, support, love and above all a lot of fun.

‘Sammie - straight through the lens’ is about growing up, having fun, loneliness, expectations, prejudices, finding your own way, dealing with ADHD, panic attacks, addiction and the fear of losing contact with your child. And it’s about the power of the camera, which allows Els Zweerink to see her son, to distance herself and approach again, to be a photographer and a mother.

As Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen put it during a Magnum-masterclass: 'Sammie doesn't look to anyone as he will look to you.' And perhaps more importantly, 'Nobody will look at Sammie like you do.' 'This goes beyond photography.'

I became part of his life again, got to know his friends, got to understand him better and got more and more insight into a group of young people who grow up with a lot of things going on. I photograph, talk, listen, I see their vulnerability and their fun. They color life in their own way.

A family history that forms the basis for a broader dialogue. This is particularly true for this series by social documentary and portrait photographer Els Zweerink. With ‘Sammie’, she not only captures a group of friends, but also the relationship between mother and son and the interaction between generations X and Z. It typifies the work of Zweerink, who searches for worlds that are not immediately visible.

A part of the serie has been published in June in 'de Volkskrant Magazine' one of the leading journalistic newspapers of the Netherlands. From July till September 2020 'Sammie - straight through the lens' was shown on the Noorderlicht International Photofestival 2020. The story will continue and she will keep photographing, following and interacting with Sammie and his friends. Every half year she photographs them individually and put these portraits together in a group-portrait as in a schoolpicture. She will continue photographing Sammie at home and with his friends. It is important to give a voice to a group of sensitive young adults.

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  • Sammie and his friends are being photographed every half year. The portraits are put together as a 'schoolpicture'.

  • Sammie walks down the hallway of the high school he was expelled from. He goes to the graduation presentation of his sister's final project.caption: Sammie walks down the hallway of the high school he was expelled from. He goes to the graduation presentation of his sister's final project.

  • Sammie at home through the window he hit in a panic attack (he sometimes suffers form panic attacks due to his ADHD).

  • Sammie and friends on Pieter’s twentieth birthday.

  • Portrait of Sammie. After he got expelled from school in his graduation year, he found a job as dishwasher in a restaurant.

  • Sammie in front of the club he used to go out.

  • Sammie at home. He is not allowed to smoke inside the house. When it rains he lays inside with just his head and the joint outside the door.

  • Sammie and Meyer in front of the garage box; where they make music; smoke and chill out.

  • Sammie at home; sleeping during day. He lives in the. night and sleeps during day.

  • Sammie returns from the emergency department of the hospital; where he had to go to check his hand as he hit the window of the door in a panic attack (he sometimes suffers form panic attacks due to his ADHD).

  • Sammie on his 18th birthday. On the balcony they smoke the joint he just rolled (it's a double joint: an elloe).

  • Sammie on his 18th birthday. He shows his mother the joint he just prepared (it's a double joint: an elloe).

  • In the garage box; where they make music and chill out.

  • Portrait of Sammie.

  • In the garage box; where they make music and chill out.

  • Sammie and his friends in a park in Amsterdam.

  • Sammie at Pieters nineteenth birthday; having fun with his friends.

  • Sammie and his friends at Tom’s; who is celebrating his graduation party.

  • Sammie and Sofie in the club where the birthday of Sofie and Yezen is celebrated.

  • Sammie comes home at night. It is October and cold. Yet he walks bare-chested onto the balcony to smoke a cigarette. He looks back at a nice night out with his friends.


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