But then I discovered John Green.
John Green, whilst most famous for his endeavours in vlogging, is first and foremost an author with a passion for Amsterdam. Like me, John expected to find a Dutch Las Vegas in Amsterdam and was shocked at the green, well regulated city he came across. After falling in love on the first visit in May 2007, he and his wife Sarah, moved the family temporarily to Amsterdam whilst John wrote his latest book, The Fault in Our Stars. It was reading this novel that changed my perspective and convinced me to book my flights.
John spoke of a city that was as intelligent as it was free spirited, and continued to document Amsterdam through his vlogs, which can be found here. These vlogs, subtitled 'Thoughts from Places', draw poetry and philosophy from everyday surroundings and global culture. For me, it was through watching these videos and reading of Hazel's awe in the city that changed my perspective of Amsterdam. To quote John himself, 'some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.'
John noticed this insight and freedom in the city's graffiti - both intelligent and beautiful. I took that on board and was pleased to come across some of my own when in Amsterdam myself. I merely thought that I had captured a one-off piece of street art when I posted this photo upon returning from my trip. What I now know after some research, is that the graffiti both John and I were inspired by is the work of one artist - Laser 3.14.
To quote his translated Wikipedia page:
Laser 3.14 is the pseudonym of an anonymous graffiti artist, painter and poet in Amsterdam in early eighties at about age eleven began writing graffiti.The poet behind the pseudonym Laser 3.14 syringe socially critical short poems on fences and street construction sites, particularly in Amsterdam . His pseudonym is a reference to his love of science fiction . 3.14 herein is for Pi, which is also an abbreviation for 'Public Image'.Laser 3.14's work is magnificent, innovative and incredibly clever. I did not just photograph a pretty image, I documented a piece of contemporary street art that inspires humankind to see the world with optimism and hope, just as John Green does with his vlogs.
I am absolutely going to see more of Laser 3.14's work. My favourite quotes (so far as I am still uncovering others) include Life's too short so bend over and I stuck a fork in the road but my doubt remained the same. Through the industrial settings, the sometimes broken English and the limits of the law on a can of black spray paint, Laser 3.14's humour, lust for life and human spirit shines through. Move over Bansky, you're old news.