When the music’s over
Amsterdam was known as the Capital of Happiness, Love and Solidarity in the 90s. This reputation was owed to a liberal, tolerant and multicultural climate. Liberal with regards to drugs: ‘Nederwiet’ (hash or marijuana) could be bought freely, and so could XTC (Made in Holland too); tolerant with regards to homosexuality and extravagance and open to influences from other cultures. The nightlife was thriving like nowhere else in the world. Much talked about clubs like iT and the RoXY pumped out house tunes until the early hours and the Reguliersdwarsstraat was a long stretch of trendy clubs and bars. One side of this street was dedicated to the straight crowd, the other all things gay. The two crowds got together for immense, communal street parties where men, women, gays, lesbians and straights collectively and unabashedly surrendered to joyful abandonment and hedonism.
All and sundry graced the floor at nightclub 36 Op De Schaal Van Richter: the old, the young, straights, gays, Dutch celebrities, locals, artists and criminals. These were the years of wild house parties and a dance & club culture that had never been seen before. Charter flights from the USA, Germany and the UK were set up.
Christopher Regis-Gludd (London, 1964) went to Amsterdam for the first time in 1993. Bewitched by the vitality of the city he threw himself, no-holds-barred, into the nightlife, or ‘night clubbing’ as he called it. Come nightfall, armed with a reasonably heavy, somewhat awkward Leica R4, he would slip into the nocturnal world. He was a legal alien that couldn’t speak the native tongue, on the look-out for interesting characters, seeing just how far he could go with his camera. In the wee small hours of the morning, somewhere between 4am and the crack of dawn, Regis-Gludd would leave his house on the Hoogte Kadijk for the deserted club and bar district. He would cross the Blauwbrug, walk down the Amstelstraat, past iT, across a deserted Rembrandt Plein, along the Singel and past the RoXY to the Reguliersdwarsstraat where April, Exit, Havana, Oblomow, Downtown, l’Entrée, Rose’s Cantina and 36 Op De Schaal Van Richter could be found. He would photograph countless people en route; the homeless with their plastic bags; the drunks relieving themselves in the gutter who made work for the nightshift that Regis-Gludd would also photograph. Street cleaners, night watchmen and nurses and the morning shift besides. Bakers, paper delivery men, tram drivers and the first trams of the day, bus drivers and the last night bus. The refuse collectors, the loved-up couple caught up in a long goodbye, the hard working personnel and the homeward bound partygoers of the night before.
At nighttime he would plunge into the nightlife again. Too restless to do so, he didn’t give himself the time to develop his rolls of film. Detlef Eckert, a photographer of East German origin who documented the red light district of Amsterdam, offered to develop the films and make contact sheets for him. By this point Regis-Gludd had taken almost a thousand rolls of 35 mm. It was only then, when Eckert developed his films, that he actually got the chance to see what he had been shooting all that time. Pure street photography; tough, uncompromising, raw and of the moment. That moment could be compared to being in the eye of a storm: the pandemonium subsides, but the tension remains. The self-taught Christopher Regis-Gludd has since become a professional photographer and has his work printed onto traditional, fibre-based, gelatine-silver paper by Wim ‘Silver Hands’ Dingemans.
© Pim Milo, 2009