Shooting in Amsterdam Part 1: Canal Rings


What defines Amsterdam is the canals.  The canals are essential to the identity of the city, and the water, boats and canal houses throughout the city make it a truly unique place to photograph.  

The canals were created by a 16th century urban planning project, quite possibly the most successful  urban planning project ever undertaken.  The Netherlands rose in revolt against Spanish rule in the 16th century, in defense of public freedom and religious tolerance.  By the end of the century, Amsterdam was growing and developing very quickly, pressing against the confines of the Singel canal which encircled the medieval city.  


A vast canal ring expansion project was carried out in the 16th and 17th centuries to improve defense of the city and the prospects for urban growth.  The project built a network of three new main canals to drain swampland and provide waterways for docking of trading vessels.  Canals were dug and spaces between the canals were filled to extend the center of the city, leading to the construction of a new port and trading hub. 

The project allowed the city to grow and become one of the great European capitals, and the port became the most important for international maritime trade. By 1685 the city's per capita income was four times that of Paris.  

Amsterdam continued to develop its tradition as a mercantile, middle-class, humanist, and tolerant city. The city continued to welcome immigrants, particularly the free-thinkers of Europe.  The progressive attitude of the city enriched its economic and artistic elite, but also its expertise with the arrival of highly skilled craftsmen. Amsterdam had become one of the cultural capitals of Europe and among the most brilliant and most dynamic, notable for its printers, whose products were sold throughout the world. The orderly growth of the city's new districts along its canals became a reference urban model, an image of the ideal city that would be adopted and repeated right across 18th century Europe.