Book Proposal

Humans of New York meets Millennial Artisans.


A photo book profiling young people and their chosen creative vocations.

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Book Description

A look into the world of millennials (aged 18-35) who decided to pursue mastery of a craft instead of building a career in the business world. From a surfboard shaper to a tattooist and from a woodworker to an autodidactic fashion designer, this book will show readers what life is like for young artisans who followed through on their dreams.

Featuring beautiful photography and compelling personal stories, the goal of the book is to inspire more people to start doing the thing they actually like doing, instead of being satisfied with something that merely pays the bills. And for that it doesn’t really matter whether you want to be an artist or an accountant, as long as it’s your own, informed choice.

As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “a man must function in a pattern of his own choosing … Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.” As such, this book will help readers think about - and possibly decide for themselves - just that: What is it I want to spend my life working on?

Examples of already completed profiles:


I already have 6 profiles completed, and have about 6 others lined up for the future. I currently have people from Lisbon, the Netherlands and Poland. I am willing to travel all over Europe to find the right mix of people if that would broaden the appeal of the book (I already have a few in mind in Germany, the UK and Ireland for example).

Content Structure

The content structure will be a list of profiles*. A profile will consist of an essay about the subject (see examples) in which I’ll share their story, further enriched by quotes from famous artists as well as their own. Here’s an example:

If there’s a common thread among all the artisans I’ve interviewed, it’s their childlike enthusiasm when engaging in their craft. Very similar to Marta, Leonie had a look of joyous, focused intensity when working on her clothes, almost like a mother lovingly nursing a newborn. They both worked, as Henry Miller once wrote, “calmly, joyously, recklessly on the task at hand.”

No profile will be the same, and together they’ll form an overarching narrative about the ethos of millennial artisans.

What I can also do is to add a number of essays about important, recurring topics. I am learning a tremendous amount from the people I interview and if I could synthesize their collective viewpoints on topics such as the notion of money, creativity and apprenticeships, this would be really valuable for the readers, helping them shape their opinions and attitudes towards their own craft and/or career.

(All the above is up for debate/refinement.)

* I am not yet sure how many people I want to include in the book, we’ll need to decide on this.

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I’m constantly improving my photography so over time the imagery will get better, but here are some of my favorite images that I’ve already shot for the book.

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Background Info

I, Tommy van Rheeden (1986), am an autodidactic photographer based in Amsterdam. After graduating university (MSc Business Studies, c.l.) and temporarily moving back in with my parents to help my mom successfully go through her cancer treatment, I spend a few years working in online marketing as an adman and copywriter while traveling the world.

Then, about two years ago, I picked up my first camera and through studying and shooting I slowly but surely came to the realization that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

Am I the right person for this?

Yes, and I can give you two examples (Actually eight, if you count the already completed interviews):
First, I’ve written a 110-page MSc Thesis in under two months - grade: 8/10 - while working a full-time job.
Second, I have demonstrable experience in picking up (grandiose/overenthusiastic) projects and seeing them through to their end. This is probably best illuminated by my self-build campervan, which I bought second hand from a contractor and turned from nothing (bottom left photo) into something (bottom right photo). Or, as a passerby postman once remarked, “Oh look, a mobile sauna.” I started this project with almost zero DIY skills (my main tool was duct tape) and learned everything I needed to know on the job.


Please Consider It!


I hope you like this book proposal as much as I like making these profiles. The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been very positive and I strongly feel there’s an audience or it. I don’t have that audience. But you do.

Personally, I’d really, really like to spend a few months interviewing and shooting more people for this project. I think the resulting imagery, the stories and overall message of the book would not only have a very broad appeal - from young college students to experienced career professionals - but it would also stand the test of time. Ten years from now people will still be graduating from college - unsure what to do with their lives - or stuck in a rut in a dead end job - aching for a career change of unknown profession.

If you’re interested at all in this concept, or if you have a different idea which you’d like me to work on, please reach out to me. I’ll gladly come by your office to talk about it some more, whether that’s in Amsterdam or Berlin (I’m serious).

All the best,

Tommy van Rheeden
+31 (0)6 5191 4953