Anna Witsen, +/- 1885 (private property Voorburg)

Anna Witsen, +/- 1885 (private property Voorburg)

To put it simply, the death of Anna Witsen in 1889 is the primary inspiration of my art.

Let me share with you a story…

It was March 5, 1889, and singer Anna Witsen, sister of the Dutch painter Willem Witsen, put an end to her life by drowning in the pond on the estate of Ewijckshoeve in Lage Vuursche, The Netherlands. This is the estate where I grew up. It is the place where my memories were born and where my first footprints were placed. Who was this young lady who drowned herself in the lake where we used to row carefree in an old boat made of zinc?

In the 1880s Ewijckshoeve was the country residence of the patron family Witsen and thanks to the generosity of painter Willem Witsen, became a gathering place for writers, musicians and painters. It was considered a breeding ground for young, talented artists. Works of art originated here, can now be found in leading museums like the Rijksmuseum or the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The formative days of experimenting with the medium of photography was explored in this place.

Initially -as a child- I took it for granted having been raised in such an environment. It was always an inexhaustible source of inspiration for my fantasies and fascinations. Later I realized what a privilege it was to grow up in such a location. My intrigue flourished with each passing story which took place in my backyard, a hundred years earlier. Eventually it became the foundation from which my photography was shaped.

Anna was depressed, she suffered from unrequited love and as a woman she believed she had failed by staying single. As a singer, she received little recognition. She felt as though her mere presence disturbed her own brother, she was burdened with fierce fears and life senselessly tormented her. Extracting herself from this reality must have been a relief. I feel connected to this woman who lived at the same spot on earth, a century distance away. Only how different is my life?

My photography consists of landscapes and portraits, often in black and white, referring to the distance between Anna and me, tempering my feelings of nostalgia. I prefer to combine methods of the past with modern practice. In the beginning my drive was strictly personal, I wanted to relate to my heritage in a poetic way, to remember the past and handover this to my daughter as a document of a family. However, it represents so much more to me now. Maybe it’s the lesson Anna taught me. Every one of us deserves to be seen, even if we don’t meet the standard expectations. Even if we are different from the rest. Or maybe even if we are just women. Whether we are peculiar or just very ordinary, we are all significant and valuable. I hope my portraits can contribute to this and that they may have a positive effect on the self esteem and dignity of some of the people I portray. Thanks to Anna.