“Play Me!” at Amsterdam Centraal

January 5, 2016 - single portrait

“Play Me!” says on a side of a grand piano, standing in one of the halls of Amsterdam Centraal or a central railway station. The piano is out there for everybody to play.  I always thought it was a great idea to give passengers and passers-by something more than just kiosks with fast food and shops.

So, one day I took my camera and spent a few hours next to the piano, photographing players and audience, listening to music and talking to strangers.  I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the day,  how many interesting individuals I have met.  Like Yaël, for instance.  A young man, plugged into some gadget, chatting and playing at the same time.  Made me smile, so typical seemed that multi-communication nowadays. I heard Yaël playing, and then had a little chat about himself, music and photography. A 20-year old student, a wanna-be-a-photo-model (yeah, I took a mental note of that), his life packed with all kind of activities,  most important among them being his girl friend.  Naturally.  The pictures were shown, the laughs were shared, and I felt I had known that young man for ages.  By the way, when I asked Yaël if the group of young people hanging around him while and after he was playing were his friends, he said: “We are now.”  Oh I liked that a lot, how total strangers meet at the piano, play it, or listen to, and they get to know each other… Yaël told me that there was a group on FB where all the players of that piano – total strangers, obviously – could get together, united by their experience: playing piano “in the street”. That needs some guts, I suppose. Well, I would need to have some, to be honest. I used to play piano for years, but then again – never played for a decade at least. Yaël and others, who played that day, were so … enthusiastic and had so much fun, no matter how their pianist skills varied, that I couldn’t resist but touched the keys when for a moment there was nobody around.

I’ve made a video “Play Me!”, with my photo impressions of that day, and it was one of my most feel-good projects of 2015.  Also, meeting Yaël had a follow-up: me shooting a series of his portraits and getting into the mood for a new big project “Young Holland” (portraiture, both street and studio) with youngsters like Yaël in focus. So, thanks to a total stranger, I have now a video,  a project to continue building on (the grand piano is still out there, being played every day), a photo-model and a friend.

I thought that was an appropriate story for “100 Strangers”, with its idea of “de-strange-ing” people we meet in the street, wandering with our cameras. This written on the first day of a new year, I wish all of you, who’s reading my post, to have a wonderful year full of great people and great stories. With a great follow-up, too.

› tags: 100strangers / Amsterdam / blackandwhite / digital / film photography / photography / portrait /


  1. we had something around 20 pianos in TelAviv and Jaffo. it was great to see how people stand around pianos and had connection. the condition of instruments was not something so it was very hard to play on but still funny.
    great moment and idea for the project Olga !

  2. Olya says:

    Victor, thanks for your comment! Great to know about street pianos in Israel, too. Yes, we have pianos – grand pianos, mind you, and of a decent quality, tuned properly too, by the sound of them – at three railways stations now. And even I finished my series, every time I pass by such a commotion, I feel like joining in. Have to force myself to walk away without taking yet another picture! 🙂 Whoever invented this was a genius.

  3. Lena Konstantinova says:

    Olga, I love the idea , the story and the portrait! Missed reading your posts and seeing your photos recently ! Have a wonderful year, I want to see one day you, playing this piano in Amsterdam! Can you post a link to video, please ?

    • Lena, the link is in the post, where I am mentioning the video, just click on Play Me, and it will get to Vimeo. And thank you very much for your kind words. Last few months I’ve been photographing nobody but strangers, so there will be more stories to share, that’s for sure. 😉

  4. Lena Konstantinova says:

    Thanks, Olya !

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