I took this picture about 2 years ago. It was 2017, and being born in 1987 it would be my 30th birthday that year. Pretty significant, especially as it was a hard year for me, and round numbers sometimes make a person feel reflective.
In 2015 I had decided to do something big - it went wrong, I ended up with limited mobility, and lost a lot: also my love for walking outside for hours and doing street and documentary photography - that passion had even paid me from time to time.
I was still connected with an artist platform, and we were discussing a new project to do together - the umbrella theme would be 'the invisible city' and all of us could interpret that theme however we wanted and fitted our style.
I told them, almost shyly, that I would be 30 that year and I wanted to photograph 30 women who would turn 30 that year like me. Ask them about turning 30, what it meant for them, what it meant for them in relation to being a woman, what living in the city meant - and way way more.
To speak to 30 other women who I expected would have some interesting things to share themselves would satisfy some of the questions I had about myself turning 30 and not being at the place in life where I though I would be. It was always assumed, both by myself and by others, that I would become a fast-track career woman as I had always been pretty smart, had done all my studies with ease, and had gotten jobs offered even when I wasn't looking for them.
But now? I was sitting on the couch for two years already, seeing almost no progress in my rehabilitation, and feeling pretty lost. I also started to realize, which was part of the reason why I even went on a sabbatical two years before, that business environments were not for me - and I might (shocking) be more comfortable with the life of an artist - you know, the poor and suffering but happily making stuff with her hands kind.
I almost let myself be scared off by my own plans as I had no idea how to photograph 30 women and go on 30 appointments in the course of a few months: I was barely able to cook or get out of the house, so it seemed like something I just couldn't make happen.
But then my photographer colleague who I always looked at as my mentor told me 'just make them come to you'...
And so I did. After talking myself out of all the worries of not having amazing light in my home, etcetera, I posted a call on Facebook and asked for women of 1987 to come to my home for 'a chat and a photograph'.
And they came.
I literally have 60-70 hours of audio material of all these talks - and dozens of pictures as well. It was amazing. And heavy. And emotional. And uplifting. All at the same time.
I was shocked and touched by the stories these women shared. Often strong-looking, relaxed and comfortably smiling, they melted in front of my camera because I was one of them and offered them coffee/tea and told them 'not to mind my camera I was just testing'. Of course that testing was always just an excuse to start them to get used to me taking pictures of them, and sometimes a test shot became the shot that ended up in the huge exhibition me and my artist platform had at the end of that year.
They told me about their successes, their fails, their worries - surviving cancer, a dying mom, being chronically ill, going through a divorce, having a court case on hand - it's only part of the stories they told me. I even had one woman on my couch who unfolded a photo album with my first boyfriend ever (I was 6 years old :D) in it - telling me she was his fiancée and his mother had recognized me from Facebook.
It was full of ups and downs, sometimes I cried, sometimes they cried, sometimes it left me thinking for days and days.
One thing became clear though: although I had felt alone in my struggles for quite a while I wasn't the only one struggling - even though all these women were the same age and from often privileged backgrounds, no-one 'had an easy life'. And none of them looked the part - even the woman who was bald from chemo looked terribly healthy with glowing skin and a fierce expression in her eyes.
(There was one person who claimed 'she had nothing big happened to her'. Later she mentioned casually having had an operation on a stomach ulcer from stress a few months ago.)
So, that picture?
I took it literally in between all those 30 women on my couch - on the same couch with the same camera and the same light set-up. I feel it's reflecting some of the stories I'm holding in my heart, some of the worries I have, some of the pain they carried. But also the strength, me overcoming some big doubts about my value as a photographer, feeling beautiful enough that day to point the camera on myself which I don't do often - and much much more.