An icy blast of winter wind ripples the grey-brown water of the river Meuse as I walk across the Erasmus Bridge looking through involuntarily watering eyes at Rotterdam's skyline. Clouds hang heavy in the sunless sky and I've decided that today isn't a day for photography, it's a day to get inside and stay warm; I'm heading to the Nederlands Fotomuseum.
Known in English as the Netherlands Photography Museum, this is a 'must visit' attraction if you're a photography enthusiast and visiting Rotterdam.
Normally, had the weather been better, I'd be tempted to spend time exploring the area around the museum to photograph and view the contemporary architecture, such as the KPN building on the nearby Wilhelminaplein. As it is, I'm glad to head indoors, out of the cold.
The Las Palmas building, which houses the Netherlands Photography Museum, is a fine example of the functionalist architecture of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement, the 'new style building' of the early 1950s. It was designed by Van der Broek and Bakema, offering light and space aplenty for the people working within when it served as the Holland America Line's workshop.
The Las Palmas building underwent significant restoration in 2006, in a project led by Benthem Crouwel Architects, transforming it into a museum. The Netherlands Photography Museum was officially opened on 18 April 2007, by Queen Beatrix.
It stands in the Kop van Zuid district, an area of Rotterdam once closely associated with European emigration to the New World. Thousands of Dutch people, joined by citizens of other nations, set sail from the nearby Wilhelmina Pier in the hope of making better lives for themselves on the other side of the Atlantic.
Heading through the red doors of the museum and feeling chilled to my core I wonder how many of the emigrants moved abroad seeking warmer climes. Rubbing my hands to revive them, I browse the well-stocked bookshop on the museum's ground floor, noting that many of the publications are in English and feeling slightly envious of apparent ease with which the Dutch master foreign languages.
The museum is home to a collection of work by 130 Dutch photographers, including the likes of Piet Zwart, Aart Klein and Frits J. Rotgans. Both contemporary and historical works are held in the museum's collection. You can view 120,000 of the photographs online and can download and print 100,000 of the images at home.
In total, the museum holds more than four million negatives as well as autochromes, anaglyphs, daguerreotypes, prints and transparencies. These are stored in the museum's secure, climate-controlled vaults. Many previously belonged to the Netherlands Photo Archives, which merged with the Netherlands Photography Museum in 2003.
Exploring, I find the largest of the museum's four exhibition spaces is on the ground floor.
The Nabeelden (Afterimages) installation is likely to be of special interest if you've ever experienced the frustration of one of those 'one that got away' moments, when, for whatever reason, it is not possible to capture what could have been a stunning image. Rein Jelle Terpstra has collected the stories of 27 photographers who recount the details of what could have been, had they been able to capture the image, and why they were not able to take the photograph.
Up on the first floor, I play with an interactive digital exhibition showing photos that can be sorted according to place, year, person and event. After walking around the museum, sitting down in one of the comfortable leather chairs, in which short films can be viewed, offers welcome respite to my tired legs.
If you have time to browse and are looking to deepen your understanding of aspects of photography, then it'll be worth spending time in the film lounge and museum library.
The Netherlands Photography Museum has an ongoing programme of exhibitions. From Holland With Love, featuring photos, films and video installations will be displayed until 20 May 2013.
You can reach the museum using Rotterdam's public transport system. Trams 20, 23 and 25 plus Metro line D run to nearby Wilhelminaplein and from there it's just a couple of minutes on foot.
For more information about the museum see the www.nederlandsfotomuseum.nl website.
For tourism related information about the Netherlands see the country's tourist information website.