Polaroids of the Colorful Characters in Amsterdam’s Red-Light District Bars During the 1980s

Amsterdam barflies in the '80s partied hard.

Every city has its own red-light district, but Amsterdam’s is the largest and most popular, brimming with sexy (and sleazy), boozy, and cannabis-filled good times. In 1979, New York City artists Bettie Ringma and Marc H. Miller captured the raucous parties happening in the capital district. Broke and armed with Polaroid cameras, the artists decided to snap portraits of the hard-partying drunks and stylish characters inside Amsterdam’s smoky bars and cafés for cash.

Well before the days of Instagram influencers, the collaborators were approached by the Polaroid Corporation, who offered to provide a free case of film for the artists to take snaps of the area’s weirdest and best nightlife clientele.

The resulting photos are displayed in an exhibition at Stigter Van Doesburg Gallery, featuring original Polaroids from 1979 to 1980. Amsterdam Polaroids runs through February 17. If a trip to the Netherlands isn’t in your future, catch a glimpse of the show in our gallery.

©Bettie Ringma and Marc H. Miller, published with permission