Feyenoord And The Art Of Football Photography
In Rotterdam, Feyenoord matches act as the perfect window into Dutch society, showcasing its unique culture like nothing else. Willem de Kam is on a mission to capture just that.

Live football offers up every emotion: despair; joy; agony; ecstasy. It’s an opportunity to give yourself over to a moment in time, to experience a heightened sense of feeling inside an arena filled to the brim with intensity.

In Rotterdam, Feyenoord’s De Kuip Stadium is that arena. It’s the perfect window into Dutch society: a place where supporters lose their inhibitions and become the maximum versions of themselves.

Willem de Kam is a fan photographer who has dedicated the last decade to capturing each and every emotion on display at Feyenoord games. “About 10 years ago I was in an art academy studying Graphic Design and we had to buy a camera,” he explains to COPA90

“After a while I started to realise that, given how I am as a person, the role of a photographer really suited me well. Forgive me this horrible wordplay, but it just clicked.”  

It wasn’t until 2010 that Willem discovered the wonders of Feyenoord. “During the World Cup I realised that you get the same excitement from football every week instead of every two years if you support your local club. From that moment, I started going more often and got a season ticket in 2013.”

“I have a group of photos where everything is unsharp, but at the same time, you feel the movement. It’s more important to feel than to have a technically perfect photo.” Willem de Kam, Feyenoord fan and photographer

For Willem, match days give him an insight into raw human behaviour. “I think you can understand, or see a ‘deeper’ part of local culture through football, whether it’s Holland or any other place in the world. If you visit a local match you’ll see more of a country than you would with any Lonely Planet highlight.”

Trying to capture the passion on display at games isn't without its difficulties, though. Something Willem learned the hard way. “There’s always a bit more skepticism and hostility towards journalists in the stands,” he explains. “The first time I experienced it firsthand was at a big amateur derby in the Netherlands.

“I was wearing a press bib and tried to take pictures in the section with pyros and all the singing, but immediately people started to harass me. After I took the bib off and got a drink, there were no problems any more. Since then my approach has changed.”

Now embedded at the heart of the Feyenoord’s support, Willem has quickly formed a strong relationship with his fellow fans. Earning their trust and respect has allowed him to document the fans’ most intimate and intense moments through his work.

“I try to use my Feyenoord work as a sort of sketchbook where I can try different things that might not always be consistent with the rest of my work,” he says. “there are more heavy black and white pictures in there, for example.”

“If you’re not a journalist, you’re one of them. You’re inside the chaos.” Willem de Kam, Feyenoord fan and photographer

Above all else, what makes football so magical for Willem is its sheer extremities. “It’s the intensity of it, coupled with the scale of it. I won’t say that you can’t experience the same at other clubs, but the amount of people that go absolutely mental over something another person does as his job – which is, in essence, what being a football supporter is – still amazes me.”  

One of the most memorable periods in Willem’s time as a supporter came during Feyenoord’s historic Eredivisie title win in 2017 – the club’s first for 18 years. “I don’t have kids yet, so I don’t know how that feels,” he smiles. “But it'll have to be really special to surpass that moment.”

After all, football is all about how it makes you feel.

Follow Willem on Instagram @willemdekam_