Along came Paul

“Why showcase an exotic animal? Just because it looks cool? That’s not our style. Stick to your genuine narrative.” Says Paul Zeper, founder and Creative Director of NewAmsterdam Surf Association.

And so Trip to the Moon Films ended up amidst a herd of cows during our first collab with the surf apparel brand. The genuine narrative. We’re talking about our campaign film for their FW 20/21 collection: “Road Trip”, directed by Jan Oudemans. As the collection is almost sold out, we catch up with Paul.

We enter the brand new-NewAmsterdam Surf Association store on Amsterdams Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Yes, lots of News and Amsterdams in that, and there’s more of that as you enter the store. There’s a creative tanning bed installed, artwork for the brand’s collection SS 2021 “After Sun”. There’s red velvet cake – sadly, there’s also some of us on a diet. There’s Tisja Janssen – starring in our Road Trip campaign film – doing her daily work for the office above the store. And of course, there’s Paul, welcoming us, wrapped in a pink sweater, seated by the store windows.

His brand took a leap forward since our collab. Dropping in the de Bijenkorf Amsterdam; opening their own store around the corner soon after that; and so on. We wouldn’t dare to suggest anything.. that’d be something… but this Trip to the Moon Films… could there be any correlation between the joint project and the following success…?

Could there be any correlation between the joint project and the following success…?

Along came Paul in the bittersweet COVID-spring of 2020. Introduced by – both Trip to the Moon Films’ ánd NewAmsterdamSurf’s – wünderkind Niels Jalving, we took off. After a short chat about content shot on a one-day-shoot, portraying the travels necessary for surf in Europe, the idea was there. Both Paul and we remember the crystal clear brief: “Road Trips for surf in NL and Europe have no ‘aloha’ or ‘coconut-feel’ in them. There’s only one guarantee: it’ll be a long trip in packed cars, through meadows filled with cows. Picture that.”

Paul looks back on a straightforward brief followed by a fitting concept and production: “We decided to keep the impressions in the film genuine while staging the feel in fictionalized set-ups.” Trip to the Moon Films worked together very closely in all phases of the production with the NewAmsterdamsurf crew in all production phases. Next to art direction, both camerawork and casting were joint efforts by the NewAms team and us. It all adds up to Paul’s strong ideas about keeping his brand close to the people who actually build it, in every single aspect. “The current Lookbook we’re shooting will be a mix of our surf-team and the people working at this office”.

Paul looks over his shoulder at a team that is steadily creating new content, campaigns, and designs. “If you start shooting with models, you already take the first step in creating a ‘fake’ image”, Paul continues, “just like this thing with forcing tropical islands in surf pictures: in no shape or form that’s what our surf experiences look like. The same goes for the clothes. They are designed for surfers in Europe, also with a practical intent: fleece-sweaters for the cold North Sea beaches; jackets that work well with wet suits; and so on.”

The atmosphere suddenly becomes somewhat awkward

“So… that’s why your new collection is pink? Because that’s practical? And are we, as non-surfers, even allowed to wear your shirts, Paul?” Paul says no to the latter, and the atmosphere suddenly becomes somewhat awkward… Nah, that’d be edgy. Paul just continues: “For sure, our main core and identity are focused on surf – that doesn’t exclude an aesthetically appealing design, nor does it exclude non-surfers from wearing it.” Paul summarises: “people choose to like what we, as a surf- and clothing brand, design, instead of us choosing to design what people might like.”

Wearing our new NewAmsterdamSurf T-shirts – now feeling confident enough doing so – we leave the store. We wonder what the future holds for NewAmsterdam Surf Association. One thing we know for sure is that they’ll stick to what feels right for them, as we all should.

Trip to the Moon Films creates work to trigger audiences. Through storytelling we propel ideas into the world, finding the particular that move the individual.

American guides to perspective

First stop: Jersey City. The all-American conurbation emerges from the snow. Manhattan-skyscrapers surround the Jersey residencies from all sides. While technically distant, their proximity is felt clearly. It is as if peeking through a looking glass, preventing the observer from putting things into perspective.

No time for sightseeing yet – there’s a charger missing (of course). But if you could choose any place in the world to go out for a specific charger in the middle of the night, you’d pick Manhattan – so we confidently hop onto a PATH train and drive into the darkness. The five-floor B&H Photo Video-store, run by Hasidic Jews occupying the twenty-something registers, is at our disposal. Then and there, we realize anything is possible in this country of cultural pluralism where the consumer occupies the throne. The result is a paradox of segregated but fluidly evolving cultural identities, pushed to their extremes while never betraying efficiency.

Anyhow, we’re ready to shoot. During our week in NYC, we’ll meet two masters of perspective. The 92-year-old Marvin Newman and Sante D’Orazio, a few decades younger. The similarities between the two: both New Yorkers, both inspired by Brooklyn, and both loyal visitors of Coney Island throughout their lives. Any other comparison or connection would be out of place, except that both artists are represented in Europe by the Kahmann Gallery.

First, we meet Newman. A pioneer in photography and one of the first to integrate color into art photography. He is known for capturing American street and sports culture in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. After his art studies, Newman’s career took off in the early 50s’ New York City. He was one of the first well-known photographers to provide audiences with the hidden beauty of everyday life. From locker-room photography in professional sports games to the shadows of anonymous trespassers: Newman’s gentle approach towards his surroundings allowed him to see more than meets the untrained eye. As we walk and talk with Newman, past the city and the people he’s been photographing for decades, we start to feel humble. We feel humble towards this man, his camera, but above all towards the hidden aesthetic in the city, overlooked. Marvin is kind and gentle – his eyes still curious, his mind still sharp. We’re thankful to him and his wife Christine for taking such good care of us as we depart.

As we walk and talk with Newman, past the city and the people he’s been photographing for decades, we start to feel humble

The next day we meet with Sante D’Orazio in Soho. From “the last true Italian deli” in Little Italy to his gallery: we get the complete treatment with Mr. D’Orazio. D’Orazio earned his spot in the world of photography by showcasing new archetypes of the female body. He’s covered many famous magazines in the 80s, 90s, and zeros: from Campbell and Crawford to Kate and Klum. We get to know D’Orazio as an artist who’s profoundly connected to the people in front of his camera, from Pamela Anderson to the Catholic priests he portrayed in his later work. He acknowledges somewhat of a metaphysical relationship between the subject and the photographer. He’s concerned with finding the proper form God depicted within the subject. Ain’t that a piece of clean-cut Plato?

D’Orazio’s spirit might be different from what one can expect from a “celebrity and nude photographer,” yet everything you hope of one of Helmut Newtons’ successors. It’s as if we’re a witness of D’Orazios’ ongoing journey of finding himself through his photographic language. We’re happy that this includes some of the last “true-Italian” mozzarellas out here – together with his colleague Diane. The food is excellent – hopefully Italian. We leave fulfilled.

D’Orazio’s spirit might be different from what one can expect from a “celebrity and nude photographer,” yet everything you hope of one of Helmut Newtons’ successors

After a last change of perspective, provided by an evening at Brooklyn’s House of Yes, it’s time to head home. We’re inspired by the plurality this city has to offer. More than that, we realize and feel there’s an infinite amount of individual perspectives we can connect to – every day, everywhere, all over the world. It’s intriguing. We leave the country, not realizing intercontinental traveling will be impossible for a long time, but more conscious of the relationship with and knowledge of the beauty that’s so close to you every day. It helps to take a step back from the looking glass, to put things into perspective.