SOME STORIES ABOUT THE PORTRAYED PEOPLE


I was eating a pizza in a pizzeria in my own street in Amsterdam when Cornelise came in. From that moment I knew I had no choice than to ask her to portrait her some day. With lead in my shoes I walked to her table. She answered: 'Oh, I have to think about this'. Three days later she called me and agreed. ‘But,’ she said, ‘I only want to be photographed on the beach with sun and no wind.’

One week later we drove to the beach in my car but exactly when we arrived it started to whiffle and rain. So we drove back to Amsterdam without even getting out of the car.

Two weeks later, spring started and we made a new attempt. The sun was shining and there was no wind. I took the portrait. Later on we drank tea for more than four hours in a beach bar. She had a combination of pure wisdom and at the same time she also was a young and naive girl. I learned a lot from her. We stayed in contact until the day she died.

 
 

Omar was a gym teacher in a luxury hotel in the Gambia. When he saw me walking around with my camera, he said hi and we started to have a conversation. He asked me if I wanted to marry him because he was searching for a way to enter Europe. I told him I was engaged so I was not an option anymore.

We decided to take a photo of him for dating sites. Maybe other European girls would be interested. I sent him the photo and we stayed in contact by email. Unfortunately the photo couldn’t convince any of my girlfriends.

 

 

The portrait of Marcel is part of my series about the carnival of Aalst. Although it was 9 o’clock in the morning, for him it was still party time. There was this funny contrast between me and him: me completely sober in morning glory, he couldn't stop giggling because of the alcohol.

That carnival day, our paths crossed more than ten times in the small city. The tenth time I started to understand him because I’d drank enough beers.

 

 

 

For UNICEF I was doing a reportage in Colombia (Medellin) when I met Adiela. She was a very active member of an organization that helped land mine victims and for a couple of days we worked together.

I guess she was so active because of her own history: a land mine, hidden in her own stove, hit her right in the face when she turned on the gas. Plastic surgery helped her to recover.

 

Inspired by great and well known street photographers I was roaming the streets of Paris, looking for the right moments and the good light. Then I saw this beautiful French lady sitting outside a bar in the evening sun.

I asked her if I could take her portrait. With a male voice she agreed. I ordered a coffee and sat down beside her. Every now and then, I took photographs. She slowly stroked her hair like a movie star.

 
 

Fatou was one of the girls on the beach in Kotu, the Gambia who was selling her body to tourists. We couldn’t talk to each other because she only spoke French.

I bought her and myself a Coca-Cola and we sat down on the terrace. The only thing we could do was giggle to each other. So we did. I understood that she was originally from Senegal. She posed like a model when I took the portrait. Then we said goodbye.

 
 

I met this bodybuilder and his friends in a gym in the centre of Baghdad. His name is Mohammed. They were training every day, with temperatures of 40 Celcius Degree. 

It was difficult to take photos in this place, because the men didn’t know what to do with a woman in the house. To them a polite way to respect me was to completely ignore me; not very handy for a portrait photographer. In my second visit they found out that talking to me was okay too. Conversations started, and I took this portrait.

 
 

I met Emelda and her firstborn baby Perfect in a rural local health post in the middle of Zambia. She was waiting for a vaccination, meanwhile breastfeeding her son.

We couldn’t speak a word with each other because of the different languages, but she was so confident and proud of her son. I took this portrait, thanked her and stroked the head of her son.

She smiled at me and we said goodbye.

 
 

I had the idea of doing a reportage about Staphorst, a strictly religious village in the Netherlands. So I hung up a note with my phone number in the local costume museum.

To my surprise, three months later Ali called me and she agreed to be photographed in traditional clothes.

There are many stories around the origin of these clothes. Next to her head she wears heavy and massive pieces of silver and gold, ranking the family. The more curls, the more prosperous the family is.

In her daily life Ali is a welder in a factory.

 
 

In Malawi I was doing a reportage about prostitution when I met Margaret. She was one of the girls who live in small rooms behind the bars whose pub-goers are her customers.

She took us with her and showed us where she was living. We had a 'click'. For me she was very funny and powerful.

 
 

In 2009 computer hacker Khduer first witnessed a huge bomb attack in Baghdad, followed by another disaster when his hand and arm got entangled in an aggregate. The stress of these events caused him to start eating too much.

When we met him he was sleeping in the garden house of his parents because he couldn’t reach his bedroom on the first floor anymore. It was two days before his gastric bypass surgery in the hospital of Baghdad. In our conversation he told us: ‘As long as there is hope, there is life’. For me he was a very inspirational young man. Later on the American site Narrativ.ly published our article about him.