Photography Project “Nico let op” Shows an Outsider’s Perspective of Dutch Signs

11 July 2013

A new photography project, Nico let op, is a study in communication, curiosity and confusion. Photographer Kalle Kuikkaniemi decided to look at the Netherlands from an outsider’s perspective, and carried out his initial research at the Expatriate Archive Centre last year.

Kalle is originally from Finland and has been living in the Netherlands for several years. He has been studying at AKV|St. Joost, and found the EAC while he was searching for inspiration for his graduate project.


Nico let op is the result. Kalle explains,

“As an expatriate, I look at the Netherlands from a different perspective than people who are born in the country. The Dutch customs and ways of communicating are often confusing to me – the first time I saw a photograph commemorating someone’s 50th birthday, I thought a person named Abraham had gone missing. My curiosity towards the Dutch culture and confusion created by unfamiliar customs are the driving force behind my photography.

I am fascinated by how people communicate with images and texts in public spaces. I photograph the messages people create, such as advertisements, texts written on walls or images pasted on lamp posts. With my photographs, I show the absurdity I see in the communication (and miscommunication) in mundane living environments.”

Originally interested in exploring the feeling of disconnectedness as an expat, Kalle began his research by looking through the collections of expat life stories at the EAC. He says, “My visit to the Expatriate Archive Centre gave me more insight into my own process and myself and the dilemmas I am facing as an expat. In the end, I came to the conclusion, that me being an expatriate is not be the main subject of my photography, but rather the driving force behind my work – it makes me look at the Dutch society the way I do.”

For more information on Kalle’s work, visit his website at

The Expatriate Archive Centre collects the life stories of expatriates and repatriates and their families. The collection could be of interest to researchers, including historians and social scientists as well as individuals looking into the expatriate life of their own families. If you are interested in carrying out research at our archive, please contact us.