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Vintage Photos of the Drunks and Weirdos in Amsterdam’s Red Light District Bars in the 1980s

Bettie Ringma and Marc Miller, two American artists, moved to Amsterdam in spring 1979. Both artists were well-known on New York’s downtown art scene, so they started taking portraits with the Polaroid SX-70 and sold them at six guilders each as a side hustle. Polaroid SX-70s has been the go-to for capturing images on the spot for many years before digital photography.

They captured all the different faces and places that characterized Amsterdam nightlife, from the rough sailor bars in the Red Light District to the transgender club Madame Arthur near the Leidseplein. The photos offer an intriguing look at a time when mustaches and sex abounded, and rowdy drunks gladly flashed their bits on the dance floor.

Marc Miller Said:

Every night we headed out for 4 or 5 hours seeking customers in Amsterdam’s entertainment district. Although we were not sure we would succeed at first, in retrospect, I can see our success was virtually assured. Our Polaroid camera was a money machine fueled by alcohol; each photo sold for 6 guilders (approx. $3), and we usually took more than 50 pictures a night. We were soon a fixture of the city’s nightlife, with many regular customers eager to get new pictures whenever we happened to cross their path.

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Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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