The story behind my profile picture | Listening to the stories of 30 women

in #lifelast year (edited)


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.

It's a significant picture to me - almost a summary of the lives of 30 other women who poured their experiences in my head and heart. I'm grateful for them sharing their stories with me - and giving me parts of myself back.


Powerful story, i was never happy with your picture, it doesn't reflect the beauty you are but ok, thanks for clarifying, i have a bit less problems with it now.

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I never realized people had 'strong feelings' about my profile picture until recently when someone told me to change it because I looked 'too strict' in it, lol. But now I know not everyone likes it. Glad I shared the story and you were able to read it and see the story behind it <3

PS: Enjoy Bangkok! So jealous :D Hope you're having fun!

t is said that on average a woman speaks 5000 words a day. the number of words used in that odicea.

Is it good to hear others and give a word of encouragement, in which city did you do this activity?

I did this in Rotterdam, The Netherlands :-)

You. Are. So. Beautiful. Inside and out. Thank you for being you!!! You're an inspiration and make the world a better place.

<3 Huge virtual hugs! Same can be said about you. Do you realize it's a whole year ago that we hugged on Krakow Airport where you had waited for me? Still enjoy the memory of our laughs and giggles in the back of a van bringing us to the city center :D

YES! How does the time fly so fast? I'm glad I waited for you, and that we were able to share time face to face and heart to heart like that. What a gift.

I really don't know how! It's incredible. And yes, it was a true gift, I'm both torn and happy to see all the SteemFest posts being posted the next few days (weeks) knowing how much they will enjoy their time meeting and connecting as well :-)

I hear you, sista. Wish I could magic myself there for a few days, but I'm also okay to sit this one out. Right now I need down time. I'll just be happy for those who are there and hope they have the time of their lives! :)

Yes - I hope the same! Down time is important - Take good care of yourself <3

Damn, lass! That's an incredible story behind a picture. What a powerful experience to cherish and keep.

Thanks for appreciating the story @meesterboom! It's a real treasure to me as are all the things I learned in so many ways through taking 'that' shot :-)

Many of us have our struggles and many of us are fighters overcoming them, "becoming". I'm sorry also for yours and theirs... I have my fair share of them but learning to cope and learn, and adapt, and live!

It only makes us more beautiful... And wise. Having met you I know how good you carry your stories dear @yidneth! <3

There has been some turmoil after last time we met but I've kept myself afloat and still mending :). During the weekends I escape and I breathe deeply and I hug a tree or two :). I'm not defined by it.. I'm an "overcomer" :)

I'm proud to hear you've kept yourself afloat - hope the mending goes alright too! Going to nature and loads of hugs sounds like a great plan to me ;-) I'm going to find the sea and dunes this weekend, which is my way to replenish - a short walk in the wind as it's getting very autumn-y over here :-)

What a great thing to have done. In 27 years a repeat, imagine the changes of the people, of the life progression of them, of where they went from 30 to 60 and how it all happened. Time passes by pretty quick so the wait really will not be that long. I think it will make for an interesting read in 30 years, 30 women's perspectives on 30 years of change, and one woman to document it all from start to end. You have the start, now we wait, (it won't take long I promise), for the follow-up.

Yes! I absolutely do plan to create a follow-up for this project, I don't know if it will be when I turn 40, or 50... But I will at some point. Probably when I feel life is changing a lot again, and I need to see how the other women are doing :D It's a great thing to document and it meant a lot to me to do this 2 years ago.

For me after turning 30, I think the next big life change was when I hit 50. 30 to 49 was a cake walk, then life becomes unsettled again for a little while, you have to really think about retirement, to wonder did you do the right things, did you save enough, how much longer will you be allowed or able to work. 50 was the next part of looking forward, not just living and having fun, it was the buckle down year for me.

Amazing story... You are really strong and smart woman, and I wish you to achieve all the goals and just to be happy!

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Thanks a lot for your very kind words and support @irisworld! <3

Oh gosh. This. What an incredible project to do - art and life, huh? 30 is a momentous time - just after our Saturn returns, if you believe in that stuff - but we've usually had some kind of big change in our lives which makes 30 a mad milestone and a point to reflect and consider 'whoa - what just happened?' and 'what next'. As I approach 50, 30 seems like yesterday - I was in Portugal for my 30th birthday drinking cocktails as this huge lightening storm crackled over the castle in Lisboa. I was travelling alone with my 4 year old after a failed relationship. Oh, the things this led to! How amazing that you got to do your project and gain soo much from it, despite what you were going through personally yourself. xx

Yes - art and life. When I once wrote my three 'roots' in life, the things I need above all else, these were the words I wrote down: emotions, life's stories, art. Well, this project basically has ALL of that and more in it :D

Yes, I recognize a lot in your story: many women had had big changes quite recently, often in the last two years, haha - and they were all reflecting on it. Your 30th birthday sounds so romantic - to travel alone is sooo empowering! One of the women started traveling within a month she spoke to me - it really made her gain some perspectives and it was a last push for her to stop doing what she was doing and just go for it. Pretty amazing.

I still love that I was able to do it <3

i hate when i am left with no words. so just saying hi :)

Hi dear @bil.prag - if you have no words I'll just ask a question: how are you and what part of life is keeping you busy? :-)

can't really complain :D it is kinda work and stuff i still don't call work but it starts to feel like that. I was just commenting with my friend, i need something to do for free :D until this year i never had a backlog of photos and videos that are not edited.
my little town is kinda falling apart (it is a bit depressing) but that is a story for another time :D

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Life has so many colors and variations that at some stage you think you have seen it all but then something new comes up and left you amazed, I think, your experience is one of those moments. I am sure (as you also mentioned it as a treasure), you must have learnt a lot from this experience.

Have a nice day.

Yes, indeed, I learned a lot from it - and I still am learning :-) Life will never be boring and even on the day we die we'll have learned something new, I'm sure of it :-)

I will never look at your thumbnail photo again without thinking of this beautiful story.

<3 Thanks @willowwisp! That's what I was hoping for.

What a wonderful story. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing it @soyrosa ^o^

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting @worldcapture! I'm happy you were here for it to read :-)

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