Raimond Wouda and I became curious about the situation on board the Sandrien after reading a short article in the local newspaper. This item about the ship that had been detained in the port of Amsterdam for the past few months had attracted very little attention. We contacted the Sandrien’s crew and went aboard. It was a strange experions to step in to a little India in the middle of my home town. At first, there was no question of them taking photographs. The captain regarded it as an intrusion on his crew’s privacy and refused permission. Only at a later stage, after Raimond and I had visited them several times and built up a more friendly relationship, were they allowed to use their cameras.
Our documenting of this somewhat absurd indian society-in-miniature on board the Sandrien grew into a project. The first photographs remain discreet and descriptive. We show the interior of the ship and its crew, but give little insight into the specific situation in which those men found themselves. lt was a long time before we felt sufficiently free to take more direct shots. These later photographs show the harsh reality ofthe situation on board: the cold, the bad food, the total and utter boredom. The portraits of the crew become more cynical and less classical. We also gathered materials about the ship and from the crew to supplement their photographic work.
When the situation on board deteriorated and those responsible for the affair were evidently making little effort to hasten the proceedings, Raimond and I concluded that we could no longer be just spectators. Our occasional personal initiatives to help the crew were insufficient. ln order to break through the impasse, we decided to make use of our photographs and thus draw attention to the case. Het Parool published an extensive article, using the photographs to illustrate the story. Many people reacted. Individuals brought food or organised trips for the crew. Politicians took action and after months of waiting the seamen gradually began to see the prospect of the case being finished and receiving an air ticket back home.