Europe, Photography, Travel

Photo Essay: The Red Light District in Amsterdam

Red Light Amsterdam

It is one of those places that, I promise, you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into when you head into the red light district. I can understand why this “taboo” tourist attraction garners the attention it gets and attracts thousands of people to wander the streets.

I saw Johns staring into the windows daring to consider. And yes, I couldn’t help but gawk at the few guys who came out with a huge sh*t eating grin on the face.

I curiously looked into the windows. With a giggle and a wink, the girls send me running to distance myself from the red windows, my cheeks burning. They are good. They are really good.

With the inspiration of Bethany of Beers and Beans and her experience with the Red Light District, I took to the streets with my camera – something that is not ignored. Keep in mind that I’ve heard of cameras being thrown into the canals. So in super spy mode, I made my move. Meandering the streets I captured some of my favorite images from the trip.

…and it still keeps its mysterious quality.

Welcome to the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

Red Light Amsterdam

Red Light

Red Light Roxanne

Red Light

Red light

Taboo Amsterdam

Red Light

Red Light District-16

Red Light District-17

Red Light District-21

Red Light District-23

40 thoughts on “Photo Essay: The Red Light District in Amsterdam”

  1. Great photos! How did you sneak photos on a DSLR? Kind of creepy looking at these women selling themselves– they look like dolls or mannequins.

  2. That’s brave, taking pictures of the windows :). You know you can be beaten up for that, I’ve seen it happening. Nice pictures in any case.

  3. Wow – awesome! I’ve never seen anyone take pics through here – I’ve heard the ‘pimps’ can chase after you, and it can get a little violent! I love the colours and angles from the incognito camera… how on earth did you manage to conceal it (your photo secrets!.. we wanna hear them!)

  4. Hi, I have lived in Holland and I have to say I don’t like that you took photos. You never know what lives these girls have lived to end up in this situation and one of the only controls they have over their lives is that the public are not meant to take photos of them. I think it is quite disrespectful to these women who even though they may be in a profession you don’t respect are still humans. I have to admit we have walked through the Red Light District many times and taken visitors to see it but I think the least we can do is respect the few rules that surround this bizarre situation. Just my thoughts.

    1. Hey Trudy! Thank you for commenting here, I love to hear all opinions on the matter, it isn’t that I don’t respect them. These ladies can do as they want – I have no issue how they make their money or what they do or don’t do in their free time. I just think that, if it is such a part of life for them, it shouldn’t be hidden.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

    2. Trudy,

      In my opinion it is you that is being disrespectful. First, you admit that you have been to this place more than once. Second, not only do you admit to visiting several times but you also state you take visitors!!! Why…so you & your guests can gaulk at these women??? We are all very aware there could be a zillion reasons why these ladies “choose” to do what they do. They are adults and make their own make choices. Everyone of the ladies in the photos look healthy enough to do another type of work if they so choose. Third, no where do I see where the photographer made positive or negative statements towards prostitution. I apauld the photographer, who is very much like a reporter and takes on great risks and sacrifices to bring us these great shots.

  5. amazing how you’ve managed to sneak such a great pictures! this place has always depressed and fascinated me at the same time! and my camera has almost been taken away from me first time I was there – I was heading to red lights district to see what the whole fuss is about and was taking a pictures of some pretty canals – intead I haven’t notticed I’m already in the district itself 😉

  6. Very brave. My friend drove us down a canal side in Utrecht and there was a long queue of traffic ahead with pervy old men ogling the girls. It made my skin crawl!

  7. It’s a hard place to get these kind of photos from.

    Next time I’m there I’m going to try and disguise my camera and use my GoPro to get a few pics… so we’ll see.

    There are few places I’ve been that are as ‘singular’ as the RLD in Amterdam….

    1. You know, I didn’t think much of it – just that it was what I needed and wanted to do. Weird that I didn’t feel in danger at all.

  8. Interesting post. On one hand I too am fascinated by taking photos of forbidden places… nothing makes me want to whip out my camera more than a “no photo” warning! But on the other hand Trudy’s comment above really made me stop and think. I’m not sure what I would do.

    You might like the book “No Touch Monkey!”, one woman’s short stories about backpacking the world in the 90’s. She has a story about being beaten after taking photos here! That would put the fear in me 🙂

    1. Yeah, Trudy definitely brings up some good points. I have different theories on the no picture thing but to each their own.

      I didn’t worry too much because there is no way they could have known I was taking pictures. But I think the risk really paid off.

  9. I’ve never seen photos of the Red Light District. I’ve only ever walked down it once … but, that was when I was in my early 20s, and let’s face it, I don’t remember it. Last time I was there, I really wanted to go on the tour, but the people I was with didn’t want to go. I would love to go back and take the tour and explore the area. It fascinates me and I would love to actually meet some of the girls and talk to them.

    1. We would have hung out even longer if the rain had stayed lighter but it got intense and I didn’t have anything to protect my camera.

  10. As a journalist, I am “freedom of the press” all the way. As your friend though — BE CAREFUL!!! Those photos really are brilliant. They look eerie and wax-like, totally like dolls. But the fact that they don’t look real doesn’t give off a “dead in the eyes” feel that you’d expect. Instead, they take on a totally bad-ass, in-control gravitas. Seriously, I TRY to look that confident in my day-to-day life and usually fail!

    1. It is so heartwarming how many people are worried for me!

      But yes – these were badass ladies. There were a few that looked sad but some were definitely not.

  11. These photos are good even without knowing the backstory, but considering you had to take them steathily they’re amazing! Thanks for taking the risk to share these.

  12. I want to support Trudy. I understand it is tempting to make photos, despite of all the no pictures signs,though they are there for a reason. I live in Amsterdam and do volunteer work with this women. There main point of frustration are the tourist taking pictures, they rightfully get very angry. When walking through I always adress tourist who take pictures, in order to protect the girls. Now I want to adress you. The women told me that sometimes the pictures end up online, I could not believe this! This women have families in their home country they support, children, friends and maybe even husbands who do not know they are behind the windows. So please, have some respect for their privacy and remove the picutres where the girls faces are showing.. You would not want to be caught on camera if in their position.

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