I liked the way the light entered this dark bar in Amsterdam, it reminded me of bars in Hull. There was an older man in a dark suit in the corner who looked alone and morose, but he lit up once a very attractive lady of a certain age appeared; or rather she lit up; the smoke is all hers.
She transformed the atmosphere in a few seconds, exhaling great clouds of smoke from an enormous cigar in the direction of the ceiling.
What bothered me was the bar counter which cut right across them. I tried moving positions and standing up, but that only drew attention to my presence. I thought a very atmospheric photograph was ruined because I couldn’t get a clear view of the couple.
The thing is, the bar counter bothered me, but it bothered no one else. The lighting and the atmosphere seemed to captivate people, even those who don’t like to smoke.
The Brown Bars in Amsterdam are famous, they don’t seem to ruin their bars and cafés the way we do with constant refurbishment, doing theme decor or installing ‘fake old’. They treat their bars more like old friends, you can visit them after a long absence and pick up where you left off, nothing much has changed. I visited one bar where on the top shelf at a slight angle and quite dusty there was a photograph of Winston Churchill, I reckon it was probably put there just as the war finished and no one saw any reason to move it.
I noticed some bars had their tables covered in carpets, a strange practice. I thought maybe they were just getting their customers ready for the night ahead – you know, just bringing the floor a little closer to them so it wouldn’t be such a shock later. There’s a famous remark made by a drinker in one of the American Bars, he told the bartender they really should get their carpets cleaned – they tasted awful.
You certainly don’t get bars like this anymore
Some Barlife images now on show at The Gallery Norfolk 60 St Giles, Norwich and also available from the Bircham Gallery Holt
More Barlife images here: http://www.davidmorrisphotographer.com/porfolio_index/Barlife_index.xhtml