Student Spotlight

City Portrait: Leiden

Monica_BBy Monica Barrasa
Senior/Media and Communications
Madrid, Spain
Photography and PR

All Pictures contained in this post are copyrighted with all rights reserved (C) Monica Barrasa 2016


Leiden is a small city in the province of South Holland, Netherlands. Its rich history attracts a lot of tourists and students every year. I wanted to portray Leiden by using three different images series. The first one is the Molen de Put, which is an iconic windmill of the city. The reason why I chose to photograph this particular image is because it represents Leiden quite well. Leiden is a place full of canals and windmills, so this image gets both essences in one. Despite being an iconic place, and the fact that I wanted to photograph less popular places, I thought this image was necessary for the series because it is one of the prettiest views one can get in the city. Also there is a boat captured within the image and that is an important part of Leiden too since a lot of people like to go out on their boats during a sunny day. It is quite typical for the citizens of Leiden also to have a boat and wonder around the canals on nice days out.






The second image of the series was taken nearby a canal in the street of Hooigracht. The canal is also one of the most important canals of Leiden, the Nieuwe Rijn, which is one of the biggest ones in Leiden. The reason why this image belongs to the series to represent Leiden as a city is because it contains the canal (as mentioned before) and also shows the typical Dutch house architecture. The houses tend to be quite narrow and joined together. On the left side of the picture you can see that the description of what a typical Dutch house would be like fits perfectly within the image. Another reason why I chose the image too is because it shows a typical Leiden bar on the left. I say typical because there are many that tend to be on a wooden platform or such on the canal, and despite being empty on the image, on sunny days a lot of citizens tend to go to this sorts of places to enjoy the weather.

The last image of the series if a photograph taken nearby the Hoofvliet supermarket. The image consists on one street in which a lot of people use to commute with their bikes. One of the reasons why I picked this image is because it shows how a typical street in Leiden would look like. Usually streets (not counting the Harlemmerstraat) have a bike path in the middle and the walking part of the sides. This is because biked are essential if one lives in any Dutch city. Biking is the easiest way to use as a transport in order to go from one place to another. That is why I also chose this image, because it contains bikes, and those are all part of what the city of Leiden is made of. Another reason is also because it shows again the architecture of the city.



Leiden is known to be a university city, which means that there a large amount of students living in the city. For this part of the project I did not want to photograph students because for me that would be a typical thing of Leiden, and since I wanted to go beyond the typical, I decided to aim at other kind of people. In the first image I photographed an old couple who were walking in front of me. I was walking around Leiden to see what was going on, and the couple were walking a bit ahead of me, while holding hands. I noticed it and thought it was quite cute, so I went for the picture. The reason why they made it to the final cut is because they also represent other parts of Leiden’s citizens. Apart of students there is also many elders living in the area, especially couples, they all seem to be really in love, since they are always talking, holding hands, or smiling at each other, which is why I believe this image represents them. The second image of the series is a shot of a woman carrying her two kids on her bike. The picture was taken in the Harlemmerstraat on quite a busy day. There are several reasons why I chose this image for the series, one is that I believe that the citizens of Leiden are hardworking people, and the effort of the mother carrying both her kids on a same bike for me it represents that hard work. Also Leiden is quite a family friendly place to be living in and therefore I wanted to photograph something that represents that, so I found myself taking pictures of the mother with her kids. The fact that the picture was taken in the Harlemmerstraat also makes the image better because the people of Leiden like to go shopping on that street, so it also represents their likeness for shopping in that particular area, since in the image one can also notice quite a lot of people in the street. The last image of the series was photographed in the market of Leiden. The market is set up on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and it’s the place where everyone in Leiden goes to for groceries shopping. The people of Leiden appreciate fresh food in general, that is why most of their shopping is made during market days. The image portrays the people who do this kind of groceries shopping and also the workers behind it. I thought it was important to show the people who work in the market because they are the ones who provide the food to the others. It also shows again the hard working part, as mentioned with the mother. I think this image teaches that is important to know that we should not take everything for granted and that there is a lot of work behind a bunch of fruits or vegetables, and I think that is something that people in Leiden seem to understand, since they are always smiling to the workers and asking them how they are doing.



Food & Culture:

For the series of food and culture I wanted to photograph different aspects of the culture that surrounds Leiden and its food. The first image of the series is a picture that was taken on the part behind the Hooglandse Kerk, which is one of the biggest churches of Leiden. The reason why I chose this image for the final series is because it contains one important symbol of the city of Leiden which are the keys. The keys are an important symbol of the city, they are placed in various spots throughout Leiden and can sometimes be spotted when you least expect it. The keys represent a symbol taken from the Bible and Saint Peter, that is why I chose this image, because it represents a big part of the culture of the city. The second image of the series is a picture taken nearby the canal next to Webster of one of the poems that are written around the city. I personally believe that these poems represent the more artistic side of Leiden. I wanted to put one image of the poems because I thought that as a person who has been living in Leiden for quite a while now, I tend to not pay much attention to the poems on the walls, so it would be interesting to investigate around the city and try to find as many as possible. I found out that there are quite a few of these poems and that they are all written on the language of the author. I thought it is a pretty cool concept that the city has and that maybe people like me not pay much attention to it, that is why I thought it was perfect to add one image to the series of the Food and Culture part of Leiden. The last image of the series is a shot taken in the market of Leiden. This image would represent both the food and the culture side of Leiden. It is really typical for the citizens of Leiden and the cities surrounding to come to the market to get groceries, or to have a walk around it. I think it is part of their culture to have fresh vegetables and fruits, and try to be as healthy as possible. I always thought the whole country has quite the healthy and ecological life style, and I also believe other countries should take an example of it. This image for me represent that life style and it can also be considered to be part of the culture of Leiden.





This project has helped me a lot when it comes to develop my photographic skills in many ways. First, it made me come out of my comfort zone and make me actually walk up to strangers and talk to them, ask them if it is fine to take a picture. This is something I have never done before, and it feels nice to have a change. Another aspect is that it made me realize and focus more on the small details. Leiden is a city I have lived in for about three years, and this project has made me see more than meets the eyes, and pay attention to the small details for example, the keys of Leiden and their meaning, the poems on the wall, new bars, and new canals. Overall the images chosen for the final project relate to one another because they are all something special to the city of Leiden. The keys is a strong symbolism and part of the culture, so is the market, and the poems. This small details are what makes Leiden the city that it is now. The people are all friendly and hard working, and that represents Leiden a lot in terms also of their history. The worked hard during the siege, when they constructed their canals, and more, and that is something that the citizens still have in them. I enjoyed making this project for various reasons, but I believe that the most important one is that I cam out of the comfort zone and became more observant. All the images represent Leiden to me, and the things that I never noticed before or payed attention to.