“I give Rotterdam a face”, says Naomi van Heck, a 17-year old high school student and the creator of the ‘Humans of Rotterdam’ photography project. In the ‘Humans of Rotterdam’ project, van Heck shoots portraits of famous and non-famous Rotterdam citizens and posts them on Facebook.

Van Heck was born and raised in Rotterdam and is a high school student at the Rudolf Steiner College. “It is always funny when people find out I am the one behind ‘Humans of Rotterdam’, says van Heck. She explains that usually people think a professional photographer shoots the portraits. “But then they are really surprised when they see a 17 year old girl wondering the street with her camera by herself”, says van Heck smiling.

Why ‘Humans of Rotterdam’?

At the age of 16, van Heck was introduced to photography by one of her friends. What started as a hobby soon became her passion and way of life. “My stepmother drew my attention to the website ‘Humans of New York’ by Brandon Stanton”, explains van Heck, “and soon I thought of taking his idea to my own city Rotterdam.” Stanton photographs everyday people in New York and shoots their portrait. Van Heck uses this concept to portray people in Rotterdam in a similar way. Since June this year she has gained nearly 6000 likes on Facebook.

Everybody has something special

Van Heck especially loves just wondering the streets of Rotterdam and observing people closely. “If you look closely, you can see that everyone has something special about him or her”, emphasizes van Heck. With her ‘Humans of Rotterdam’ project van Heck wants to show the versatility and the multi-colored nature of the people in Rotterdam. “I just happen to like being around people, always have”, adds van Heck.

Followers from around the world

Van Heck takes photos of people in Rotterdam but also tries to emphasize typical well-known locations within the city. A significant part of the comments on the photos on the ‘Humans of Rotterdam’ website are about the location the portrait was taken at. “Internationals or other people who are not from Rotterdam get a honest view of the city Rotterdam by looking at my portraits, and indeed I have followers from around the world!” says van Heck.

Famous and non-Famous

Van Heck has photographed many people in Rotterdam, that every ‘real’ Rotterdam citizens knows. For example, the night major Jules Deelder as well as the street musician on the Lijnbaan. But, van Heck usually just approaches people who appeal to her in some way. “Often people are honored and surprised that I want to take their photo. It only takes me about 15 seconds”, says van Heck, “the first photos are the most spontaneous because people are not thinking too much about how to stand.” Revealing the pure nature of humans in Rotterdam, that is what ‘Humans of Rotterdam’ is all about. NdB.