Past Postcards Project

Interview with photographer Steven Bos

Steven Bos Past Postcards Project Hofplein

Steven Bos is the face behind the Instagram page pastpostcardsproject. A place where he connects the past and present of Rotterdam every week through postcards.

The results give you a special insight into what time has done to the city. He shares how he came up with this idea and more in the interview below.

Steven, can you tell us how you got started with the Past Postcards Project?

"I had already done some photo projects about Rotterdam, such as the "Rotterdam anno nu" project, the "Project EMR" and a project "Olifantenpaadjes" after the idea of Jan Dirk van der Burg. When this was completed I wanted to continue with new photography projects."

"In the past I bought some old postcards of cities at flea markets. When I was at a flea market again, I saw all kinds of Rotterdam postcards there. I went home with a stack of 70 cards! With this new collection, I went to the locations depicted on the postcards to see what has changed and what has stayed the same."

"Now I get most of my cards from Marktplaats. But I also sometimes get them from followers on Instagram, super cool! I think I now have between 1000 and 1100 in my possession."

What appeals to you to connect the past and present in this way?

"I like to show the different faces of Rotterdam. Many places and buildings were lost due to the Second World War and changed beyond recognition. The city has also changed enormously due to the many demolitions and rebuilds in the past hundred years. Something I truly realize when I have the postcard in my hand."

"After taking the photo, I like to tell an interesting story. It is often about the history of the building or the place."

Steven Bos Past Postcards Project
Steven Bos
Steven Bos Past Postcards Project Rotterdam

How long does it take to create the postcard photo?

"It takes quite a while. Often with old postcards where Rotterdam has changed completely and you have no reference point, it is difficult to find out exactly where it is. That is why I use old maps of Rotterdam from before the war."

"Once I find the place, I get on my bike and look for the exact location where the photographer took the picture. I then take a picture of the place and a picture of the postcard in the same place. At home I have the photos digitally overlay each other, so that both photos remain sharp and so that I can accurately place the postcard in the right place."

"Then I go to the Rotterdam city archives, where I look for photos of that place. Finally, I write a piece about the history of the photo and then it's ready to post."

What is your personal favourite Past Postcard photo?

"The old gate of the disappeared Coolsingel hospital on the Lijnbaan is my favourite. Shoppers will walk right past it and not know what that gate was intended for! The hall of the old central station is also a favourite. the light that shines through here is so incredibly beautiful."

Steven Bos Past Postcards Project Centraal Station
Steven Bos Past Postcards Project Hofplein

What do you think is the most beautiful building in Rotterdam Centre?

"Of the buildings that have disappeared, I think the old Bijenkorf by Dudok. That must have been a really fantastic building. Especially in contrast to the 19th century houses that stood next to it. Of the existing buildings, my favourite is Het Groothandelsgebouw."

Did you grow up in Rotterdam yourself? Where does the love of this city come from?

"I grew up near Rotterdam. My grandmother lived in Rotterdam and we visited her almost every week. We visited many museums, the zoo and other nice places in the city. In my teens I went to school here and I often spent my weekends partying in the city. The love for the city has been developed from an early age. Now that I have lived there myself for eleven years, I can also say that the love has only grown. There is always something to see and experience in Rotterdam, it's really a city to love!"

Are you curious about Steven's creations? Make sure to follow him at @pastpostcardsproject on Instagram!