by Lina Manousogiannaki

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Nuclear Bunker in Valkenburg, the Netherlands

When the parents of Lise Straatsma (1990) bought one of the very first digital cameras, Lise, a shy kid at the time, started taking long walks and staging scenes with her friends to immortalize with the “forbidden” machine. «I got into trouble for taking it all the time. It never stopped me though. I was kind of a scared kid that never really fit in, and the camera gave me an excuse to observe».

The years passed and Lise got older, her interest on storytelling grew with her and she started being interested in theatre. After high school she studied theatre for three years. When Lise was eighteen her parents got divorced and once again the young woman turned to photography as she found the stillness and silence of the medium more attractive and more responsive to her needs at the time as opposed to the loudness of theatre. «Photography has this universal quality, this possibility of contemplation which I really enjoy. Plays in the theatre were gone as soon as the shows were concluded. Photographs have the quality of being almost liquid. They stay the same but are constantly changing by when, where and how they are seen over and over again».

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. NRG-5 Emergency Food Ration. NRG-5 contains 2300 kcal/9600 kJ per packet of 500 grams. It has an expiration date over ten years in the future. The VN and the Red Cross are know to use NRG-5, with one packet feeding a grown person up to two days.

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. At left: Microgard Overall 2000 TS Plus. Designed to make water vapor (perspiration) escape from the suit easily and to resist the saturation by liquid chemicals. Filters particles up to 0.01 micron in size to 100%. The low fluff content reduces risk of contamination in critical environments. Antistatic and wide integrated elastics at the wrists, ankles, hood and chin. This helps to reduce the risk of fluff and minimize contamination. At right: Water proof matches in air tight container. Designed to make water vapor (perspiration) escape from the suit easily and to resist the saturation by liquid chemicals. Filters particles up to 0.01 micron in size to 100%. The low fluff content reduces risk of contamination in critical environments. Antistatic and wide integrated elastics at the wrists, ankles, hood and chin. This helps to reduce the risk of fluff and minimize contamination.

Her series 'The Alpha Strategy' is a product of a long process of reflection, observation, feeling and thinking. «When the terrorist attacks happened in November last year during Paris Photo I was waiting them out in a bar with the blinds closed. Naturally this was a frightening experience, but what dawned on me most was this feeling of vulnerability. This was the start of a thought process about fear and self-sustainability. It dawned on me that I was so complacent and used to have everything provided for me; I wouldn’t know how to take care of myself if this would ever change. With this in mind I started researching disaster scenarios and their fall out. I stumbled upon quite large quantities of online forums with so called ‘preppers’. There seems to be quite some prejudice against them, with tons of people calling them nutcases and doomsayers for preparing for disaster scenarios. I have seen a lot of photographers lately working on the theme of fear, but none on how to actually deal with fear. I rather think in solutions than problems, and actually this is exactly what 'preppers' do. Prepping is mostly about knowing how to provide for yourself when for example water stops running from your faucet, or supermarkets are unable to provide your food.»

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Food and tool storage in closet.

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Expert on survival after disaster scenarios, and writer of the Dutch book ‘How do I survive a crisis?’

The Alpha strategy is a research about the end of the world as we know it. It poses the question: Can you be prepared for the unpredictable? Shouldn’t we question our sense of safety in a highly technological world where we seem to have lost most of our ability to provide in our own survival? The will to live is seen as one of the most important and active processes of conscious and unconscious reasoning. So, doesn’t it seem strange we don’t think about this more?”

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Water filtration system in bottle. Made of cloth, sand, activated charcoal and gravel.

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. DIY Colloidal Silver (form of antibiotics) kit

Lise is still working on ‘The Alpha Strategy’. She is expanding the project, and doing some research in a more broad sense. For her presentation at Breda Photo she mostly focused on the individual and their preparation. Moreover, what she is researching for the moment are the major preparations made about situations of disaster made by governments. «I am also expanding the project to other areas; I have a trip planned to Switzerland soon for example. Switzerland is unique in having enough nuclear fallout shelters to accommodate its entire population. This is even more interesting because Switzerland is the oldest neutral country in the world. They have not fought a foreign war since 1815. I am also collecting more and more relics and I am looking for footage. One of the people I photographed gave me these fantastic postage stamps which illustrate the hyperinflation of the German Great Depression perfectly. In two years time the costs of sending a letter went from 0, 60 Mark to 100 billion Mark. This went so quickly that they just printed the new prices over the old ones, which resulted in these bizarre stamps with both the old and the new price on it.There is still tons of research to do. With this expansion of the project in mind I will aim for a publication». 

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Sun flare occurring (Electro Magnetic Pulse) Description: On July 23, 2012, a massive, and potentially damaging, solar flare barely missed Earth. According to NASA, there may be as much as a 12% chance of a similar event occurring between 2012 and 2022. Image source: NASA 

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Meteor hits Russia on February 15th, 2013 (Screenshots of mobile recordings) Description: The light from the meteor was brighter than the Sun, up to 100 km away. It was observed over a wide area of the region and in neighbouring republics. Some eyewitnesses also felt intense heat from the fireball. Image source: Screenshots of mobile recordings from YouTube  

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. Atomic bomb on Hiroshima (Codename: “Little boy”) Description: As of 2016, there are still more than enough nuclear weapons globally to render the planet uninhabitable. The current estimation lies around 17000. Modernization of nuclear weapons continues to occur. Image source: Image property of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Photographed by the US Army. 

© Lise Straatsma from the series 'The Alpha Strategy'. North Sea Flood (1953) hits the Netherlands Description: The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland. In the Netherlands the Delta law was written after, describing their goals to strengthen the dikes. Today large parts of the dikes still do not meet these requirements. Image source: Rijkswaterstaat / Afdeling Multimedia Rijkswaterstaat

Lise hopes to be working on more long-term documentary projects in the future. «My ideal practice would be to explore my own projects and simultaneously explore the work of others. I love writing about and reflecting on photography, and I am also very interested in curating exhibitions. Right now I am also working at Ydoc Foundation, an online platform that aims to develop different services that assist in making documentary stories available to an international audience. These kinds of initiatives are very close to my heart, and I see myself continuing in this field as well. My passion for documentary photography reaches much further than my own authorship, and I am hoping to explore this more and more the coming years».



Lise Straatsma 
The Netherlands