I am this boy

I’ve had to pack some studio things in boxes and cover the rest in plastic, as we will do some works on the house. The timing is bad, as I was just getting back to find more studio time and more focus.

Before packing, I picked a binder from the shelf, marked “Ideas & sketches”. I was curious. What ideas did I have more than ten years ago?

One of the first papers in the binder was lying loose. It was a drawing, from a time in the past when I used to draw. I loved drawing faces.

It was a boy.

First, I thought…
… is this just once again the Northern globe looking at the Southern globe, fascinated about the exotic? I thought: What if one day I sit on the tram in Amsterdam and someone zooms in on me because I’m exotic (perhaps because I’m more pale than the others, or whatever), and I would find myself staring into the camera lense of a stranger.

And then…
I left the North-South dilemma and went into a conversation with the child. I looked at him and took in, with every cell in my body, the demanding voice, although not one word was spoken by this boy.

He said “… and what about me, when are you going to care about me again?“.

We stared at each other for a while. I took some photos of him. This was the second time that he was photographed, but this time without knowing it.

As I put him down to browse further, I saw that another drawing had once been stored under this one. It had rubbed off on the backside and I could see a soft, hesitant print of a woman. As if she said “see what happens if you don’t listen to the child“.

Crystal clear, got it.


The drawing of the boy is made after a portrait of Steve McCurry, from his book “Portraits” (you may remember the “Afghan girl”?).

To me, the boy’s portrait is not about age, gender, ethnical background or post-colonialism. This is about being a human being. And in my very personal (studio) context, it is about taking care of what’s important to me, it is about listening to my inner child, if you want.

Some reflections on portraits by Steve McCurry, from his blog:

“Portraits reveal a desire for human connection; a desire so strong that people who know they will never see me again open themselves to the camera, all in the hope that at the other end someone will be watching, someone who will laugh or suffer with them.”

“A good portrait is one that says something about the person. We usually see parts of ourselves in others, so the good portrait should also say something about the human condition.”

Crystal clear, got it.


7 thoughts on “I am this boy

  1. I love this.

    I have been making a lot of figurines, paper dolls, you name it, and then also I have been putting people in my collages and paintings. This change ocurred about 3-4 years ago, I think. Before that I just depicted objects, scenes, etc. No people. I’m not sure why I changed. Thought I feel very happy doing art this way!

    So every time I read something about portraits, depicting people, etc., it is very meaningful to me to see why others do this kind of art. Thanks for the post.

    • I think I made this drawing most of all to practice what I had been taught, but yes, it was still a choice to draw faces (or hands, but I remember hands as being more difficult). There are no people in what I do now, nor in the jewellery, nor in the photos I take, so I’m distanced from people, in that sense.
      What I do remember from drawing/sculpture class is this: it was no longer so strange for me that there are religions/beleifs that forbid making representations of humans (or God). As if you actually create someone, give life to a new person.
      I’m grateful for your comment, as always (gives me something to think about).

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