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As a travel and documentary photographer over the last 25+ years, I’ve criss-crossed the world extensively, falling in love with the diverse scenes and cultures I’ve encountered along the way. Naturally, photo exhibitions are a wonderful way for me to share these captivating moments with others, while raising awareness about distant lands, diversity and culture in general. Below, you can read more about the four most recent exhibitions of mine: Transkei in Transition, Women@Work, Afrika Voetbalt! and Positive Papua People.

Abakwetha circumcision in South Africa. Photo by Amsterdam photographer Tom van der Leij
Woman running on a farm in South Africa, Wild Coast, Transkei by Amsterdam photographer Tom van der Leij

TRANSKEI in transition

I first came across this beautiful rural and disadvantaged area of Transkei while studying photojournalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the rough Wildcoast, meeting and photographing the incredible people living there, as well as writing about the area and Xhosa culture for diverse magazines, newspapers and websites.

At the end of 2021, I traveled to my second motherland, and an important part of this journey was carrying out a journalistic photography project about the Wildcoast and the Transkei in general. My goal was to track down the ‘models’ I’ve captured over the past 20 years and interview them about what’s been happening over the last two decades. My plan to share earlier prints with them and to photograph them again was very challenging but at the end a success. This unique documentary photo exhibition will open in early 2022 in the Zuid-Afrika huis in Amsterdam.

Dit project is mede mogelijk gemaakt door het Steunfonds Freelance Journalisten en door mede-financier Cultuur Explosie.

  • Adam & Co, Adam Tower, 18th floor 1 May – 1 August 2023
  • Zuid-Afrikahuis, Amsterdam, 1 February – 1 July 2022



2017 – present
In my latest exhibition, Women@Work, I share photos of working women from all over the world in all of their strength and beauty. I am amazed at the power that women radiate, especially in hard settings and challenging circumstances. The intriguing photos radiate positivity and humor. But also resignation and pride. They are never portrayed as pathetic or pitiful. This series is intended as an ode to women. It is often the women who work very hard to support their family, and they are too often ignored or under-appreciated for what they do. The exhibition was opened by Simone Weimans (presenter NOS journaal) on 8 March 2017, International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social,  economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Women@Work sponsors a Women empowerment project in Mozambique.


  • De Hallen Amsterdam
  • OBA Almere
  • Den Bosch Babel (Huis73)
  • De Balie Amsterdam
  • Forum Groningen
  • Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis Assen 
  • dBieb – Leeuwarden – 2021
  • Stadkamer, Zwolle – 2021



Amsterdam-based photographer Tom van der Leij standing in front of an exhibition at De Balie
photo exhibition hall at De Hallen in Amsterdam with photos from Tom van der Leij
Three men including Tom van der Leij at his opening of Afrika Voetbalt exhibition in Amsterdam


2010 – 2012

My Afrika Voetbalt! exhibition launched just over a week before the World Cup in South Africa began in 2010 – a special moment for the whole of Africa. It was the first time that a World Championship was being held on this continent. During my travels across Africa over many years, I have tried to capture the youth playing football as honestly and dynamically as possible. The result was a photo exhibition that shows how football connects people.  The opening took place on 9 June 2010 at the OBA Amsterdam Library, led by former international footballer, Wim Kieft.


  • OBA Amsterdam 
  • CEC, Amsterdam Zuidoost
  • African Studies Center, Leiden 
  • Forum Groningen





In Papua, the western part of New Guinea, an AIDS epidemic was unfolding at the time of this exhibition, ‘Positive Papua People’.  Especially among the traditional tribes like the Dani, where polygamy and free sex is normal, the virus spread quickly. A second ‘Africa’ was developing here.

The photography assignment and exhibition was done in partnership with Dutch NGO, Dokters van de Wereld, following a visit accompanying Dutch prevention specialist, Caroline Duygun van Moorsel, who had worked with the communities since the beginning of 2005. The organization’s project focused on HIV/AIDS prevention among the poor Dani population.


  • Hotel Arena Amsterdam
  • Leiden Museum Volkenkunde 
  • Paradiso, Amsterdam


Photo exhibition hall and photos by Tom van der Leij
Papua women standing in bush by Tom van der Leij