Photographer Marwan Magroun has lived in Rotterdam all his life. He grew up in the city centre and is now a resident of the western quarter. Marwan says: ‘I derive my identity from this city. This is where I have grown up with multiple cultures, and where I have learned from other people and about myself in a spectrum ranging from music to photography. I saw how my city changed at a young age, especially in the centre. Houses were torn down, and so was my primary school, which had to make way for the Markthal. That was the moment when I thought: wow, things are changing really rapidly now and I have to record this’.
As a true-born city boy, Magroun started photographing Rotterdam from the rooftops on brownfield sites or near demolished houses. Says Magroun: ‘I’ve visited places where most Rotterdam residents will never go. I discovered the city and its people through the lens of my camera. I started photographing friends who, just like me, are Rotterdam city-dwellers. Some Rotterdam residents stay under the radar or are not portrayed in a positive vein; I wanted to change that’. In 2017, Magroun was rewarded with the Kracht van Rotterdam, and in 2021 with the Zilveren Camera award for his photography series The Life of Fathers, in which he portrayed single fathers with a migrant background.
‘Rotterdam is my nourishing ground. I have created the possibilities to develop myself. I too have sent out hundreds of application which met with failure because of my name and the colour of my skin. This is appalling, and I have achieved my current position by steering my own course, but there is still much to be done in Rotterdam in that respect. The residents of Rotterdam are direct, level-headed and sincere people. They may be a bit reserved at first, but as soon as you have won their trust, they are very chill and laid-back people. This is the place where you can build up a good network. I see the ongoing changes in the city, but to me Rotterdam is still a good place to be’.