Sint Antoniesbreestraat, Amsterdam 1966
Not long after I had seen the photographs in The Family of Man, the book about the exhibition in the MoMA, curated by Edward Steichen, my mother bought me my first camera. A little box with a lens. ‘To keep me off the streets’. I must have been twelve or thirteen years old.
She had probably noticed how the book with ‘the man with the flute’ on the cover fascinated me, probably in the same way it had fascinated the nine million people who would eventually visit the exhibition it belonged to.
I went through it over and over again.
What I liked so much about it was that the expression of emotions of the people in the pictures, despite their diversity in looks, culture and habitat, was apparently the same, all over the world, universal. Sadness was sadness, happiness happiness, compassion compassion. It was clear there were more similarities than differences between all those people and nations, regardless where and how they lived and what they looked like. It made me enthusiastic about life and the world we were living in and I became aware of something which was hard for me as a child to describe, but connected us all: humanity.
I started to look at things differently and was able to understand people better.
The Family of Man has probably been the inspiration for all of my later work in which, consciously or not, I was always looking for a timeless, universal, human story.