Grey heron in Dutch local election

Tomorrow, 21 March 2018, Dutch voters will vote in the Big Brother referendum on governmental Internet spying on citizens; and in local authority elections.

This 19 March 2018 photo shows a grey heron at the office of the Party for the Animals in Amsterdam. Did the bird come to say Don’t forget me?


White ‘black-tailed’ godwit back from Africa

This photo shows a white ‘black-tailed’ godwit in North Holland province in the Netherlands. The bird is back from spring migration from Africa.

Women, niqabs and photography

This Dutch language October 2017 video is about Saskia Aukema winning the International Photo Festival Leiden.

In this 2017 Dutch language video, photographer Saskia Aukema tells about her winning subject: depicting women wearing niqabs.

Conservative Christians, ultra-orthodox Jews, ultra-orthodox Muslims and other right-wingers often see women wearing miniskirts as bad women. They are supposedly dangerous seducers ruining men and making decent women indecent by their bad example, they are sex-addicted whores; or else, some pimp must be forcing them to wear these ‘immodest’ clothes.

However, if one gets to know these miniskirt-wearing women better, the clichés prove to be wrong.

In photographer Saskia Aukema’s work, clichés about other women prove to be wrong as well.

About her photo book, Veiled: Too Busy Being Awesome:

There is perhaps no more controversial garment of clothing in Western Europe than the niqab: the face veil that leaves only the eyes visible. Who are the women who choose to wear something that generates so much discussion? What do they find important, beautiful and funny? In Veiled, photographer Saskia Aukema reveals a world that has always been hidden to most of us.

Interview fragments provide depth to the photos, which won a Zilveren Camera [photo contest award] in the portraits category in 2016. Professor Annelies Moors (Amsterdam University) wrote the epilogue.

Translated from a Dutch Leiden University site interview, 14 March 2018:

‘I want to show different images of niqab wearers’

March 14, 2018

For her photo series ‘Veiled’, Leiden University alumna Saskia Aukema portrayed women in niqabs, eg, with the clothes they like to wear privately. With this series she won the International Photo Festival Leiden. …

With your photo series ‘Veiled’ you won the International Photo Festival Leiden. What is the series about?

‘For more than three years I have followed a number of Dutch and British women who wear niqabs. I have spoken to them about their reasons for wearing the niqab and what their life looks like. And I have portrayed them, in their niqabs but also with the clothes they like to wear privately. First they all came with festive clothes, the most beautiful evening dresses. One of the women said: I will just show a pair of jeans, because we do not wear all those nice dresses all the time! Or the woman who saw herself as a feminist, and arrived with a sweater with ‘Power to the girls’ on it. This series is also a combination of image and word: the series is published in book form in which the photos are accompanied by statements of the women. Because although you can tell a lot with an image, you can never answer the why question. ‘

‘There are an estimated 200 to 400 niqab wearers in the Netherlands, they are not many. It is one of the reasons why making the series took so long. I first came into contact with a woman wearing a niqab, because I made a series about converts to Islam, for my graduation at the photography school. For that I visited sister groups in mosques, and some women wore niqabs. At first I was shocked by it, but when I talked to them, I soon discovered that my image of niqab wearers was not right. Then I thought: I want to make a series about this.’

In what way did your image not match their reality?

‘It was actually the standard image we have of women in niqabs: we think that they are strict fundamentalists, and that they are forced by their husbands or their fathers to wear niqabs. But I discovered that these women choose it themselves. In fact, their husbands and relatives are opposed to it, because they are afraid that the women will be verbally abused or harassed because of their niqabs. My conversations made me want to show the other side of niqab wearers. Without the prejudices, the fear, the idea of ​​coercion, but just colourful, cheerful and very light. Where we often associate niqabs with dark or black, I have exposed my photos enormously, almost overexposed. I wanted to offer a counterweight to the standard image.’

Which story has impressed you most?

“What hit me a lot was the aggression with which these women have to deal. That is really excessive. People wish them the worst things. I think everyone agrees, including the niqab wearers themselves, that their way of dressing can make people uncomfortable and sometimes can be frightening. But because of that fear, someone supposedly can throw all sorts of threats at their heads? I do not understand that. I would like to say to people: go talk to them. Because there are very nice and colourful people behind that niqab.’

USA: Horrifying Facebook videos show racist moms teaching children how to “be patriots” by vandalizing mosques.

Pheasant visits house in winter

Pheasant, March 2018

As there is snow and ice now in the Netherlands, this female pheasant visited a house in the Haarlemmermeer local authority.

Pheasant, stone birds, March 2018

She sought the company of other birds (stone ones).

Kingfisher in winter weather

Kingfisher catches fish in hole in ice, photo by Arianna

This photo by Arianna from the Netherlands shows a kingfisher catching a fish in a hole in the ice.

Kingfishers don’t like ice, as it makes it harder to find food. Dutch conservationists advocate making holes in the ice to help kingfishers.

2017 was a good nesting year for kingfishers: about 1000-1300 couples in the Netherlands.

Winter Olympics starting in South Korea and squirrels

Olympic squirrel, photo by Geert Weggen/WENN

In less than an hour’s time, the Winter Olympics in South Korea will have their official opening ceremony. There will be gold, silver and bronze medals for the numbers 1, 2 and 3 in various matches. No, no pine cones, like for this squirrel.

This squirrel photo and other Olympic squirrel photos are by Swedish photographer Geert Weggen, who put toy skis, toy bobsleds etc. in the snow outside his window and waited till the red squirrels came to play with them.

Meanwhile, before the official opening, sports people have already been active in Korea. The Norwegian curling team unexpectedly beat the Canadian favourites. In the ski jumping qualifications, German and Polish participants did best. Happiness for South Korean spectators as one of their two competitors qualified for the final round, and sadness because the other Korean did not.

Finally, happiness for South Koreans as their curling team beat the USA 9 to 1.

Photographing honey bees, video

This video says about itself:

1 February 2018

National Geographic asked photographer Anand Varma to work on a story about honey bees. What he came up with is a work of art.