Amsterdam is one of the most diverse cultural capitals in Europe. We are very happy to have Thijs van Velzen as part of the local FvF editorial team opening our eyes to many fascinating personalities that shape the city.
Together with photographer, Jordi Huisman, the curly-haired gentlemen has introduced us to guests that include: 100-year-old artist and publisher, Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht; inventor and poet, Lorenzo de Rita; and FOAM curator Colette Olof. Thijs has a curious streak – he loves to travel and discover unusual places such as Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in East Siberia, Ramallah in the central West Bank and Firebaugh, the “Cantaloupe Capital” of California.
This curiosity is the catalyst for the trained engineer and sociologist’s choice to pursue a career in journalism. Discovering the world with open eyes Thijs loves investigating people’s personal motivations and passions while reflecting upon current global issues. When he is not portraying people for FvF, he can be found researching and writing about contemporary technology, science, and societal trends for a number of magazines such as: The Engineer, Disputed Waters and De Groene Amsterdammer.
Currently he is working on a new technology-society publication and continues to deliver us with new portraits from the Dutch capital. A little while ago, Thijs was so kind to provide a little overview on what makes his hometown so special, in our Journalpost “Living in Amsterdam: Mediating Modesty and Extravagance” that you can read here.
What’s your favourite daily ritual?
Riding my bike in Amsterdam cycling rush hour. Speeding along the canals I am always moved by the elegant flight of gulls over the water.
What do you do when you are not working with FvF?
Writing stories about technology and science. Trained as a mechanical engineer and sociologist, I publish articles that explain the impact of technological development and scientific findings on our everyday life.
Where do you go when you want to relax or get inspired in your city?
Canoeing. Amsterdam is just a large village. It takes about twenty minutes to bike to the countryside, where I have a canoe. The quietness of the water and wind are my ingredients for relaxation.
How has technology influenced you?
In every way. As a journalist with a focus on technology and science, it is my job to explain the tremendous impact technology has on our daily lives.
What’s your best travel memory?
Severodvinsk in Russia. I went there for a story on crumbling nuclear submarines. The city is still off limits for foreigners and access is only granted with paperwork from three state departments. The place is a relic of the cold war. It was fascinating. I was struck by the warmth and friendliness of the people there.
Your latest artistic discovery (musical, art or design)?
Fondation Bemberg, a stunning museum in Toulouse I recently visited. Tiny rooms filled with awesome works by Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Van Dongen, Rouault, Caillebotte and Gaugin. It just goes on and on. Complete awe!
What was the last great meal you ate and where?
This Friday, we had ten friends over at our place and made a splendid meal with wine and beers. It was not so much about the meal, but the people on the table, and they were great.
Three websites – more or less – you visit daily?
Here it gets boring. I am news addict, leaning towards high quality news: Financial Times, New York Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine. Also, Mr Motley, a wicked magazine!
Who would you like to see featured next on FvF?
Someone without a Mac. Someone who lives his or her life differenting without the intent of doing so. They are hard to find these days. The truly self-willed have become scarce. I keep looking for them. Stay tuned.
What makes your personal neighbourhood special?
The contrast between old, new, intermixed with loads of Chinese and other cultures. We live in the oldest part of Amsterdam; the red light district is a five minutes walk alway. Every house, every corner, every street has its story. Once you start talking to people the history of the city reveals itself.
What is your favorite FvF picture?
Wow, that is a tough one. But the double portray of Jen and Maxime struck me, and still strike me.
Thank you Thijs for this interview. We are looking forward to our next projects together!