Featuring in our Portraits series no. 14 is Marjolein Annegarn. Born and raised in Amsterdam (1962) and almost turning 54 this year. Which is very special since there was a time that she was sure she would not live to see this day.
Her life took a weird turn some thirty years ago when she received the verdict that she was HIV infected. Medication came just in time to save her life but not without serious side effects. One of them is that her looks changed permanently due to the disappearance of body fat in face, arms, legs and bud. Which is, by the way, totally irrelevant to her husband for 21 years, Hans. The love of her life, who stood next to her through all the turmoil and changes, is still madly in love with his ‘girl with the big, green eyes’.
Looking through the lens makes her happy. As a passionate photographer she meets all kinds of special people. With all kinds of special stories to tell.
Just this week her latest exposition opened in Amsterdam Melkweg Gallery, Young & Gay. What is it like to come out nowadays? Marjolein captured young people – between the age of 14 and 19 – on camera while asking them about their process of coming out.
Motto in life is what a dear friend told her on her fiftiest birthday: don’t regret growing old, it’s a privilege denied to many.
How do you feel about being over fifty?
I like it. Love being more in charge of my own life after it took me some years to find peace with it again. Life cheated on me but also gave me so much to be grateful for.
I am still growing and learning in my work and meeting new people with every new assignment inspires me. On my recent global travels for the international Atlas2018.org project – a multimedia project giving a face and voice to people with HIV and Aids – I was deeply touched by the people whom I photographed. Their stories really changed my view on life.
Like everybody else I’m still struggling with how to create more peace and quiet, to achieve a little more balance between relaxation and work. Have to work on that… or maybe that approach is the problem? Will I ever learn?
Which age is your favourite time? Would you like to go back?
I loved being in my twenties because of all the new experiences and the endless possibilities. But not only that, even the insecurities about what I should do with my life and if I was pretty enough had some adventure to them. Seeing the pictures from that time I would want to shout to my 20-year-old self: enjoy your beauty, you are gorgeous!
I do not want to go back, I really think that this period in my life (now that I am 53) is the best. A little bit sadder but a lot wiser now and it still feels as if I have a lot of possibilities ahead of me.
What would your ideal day look like? No restrictions.
My ideal starts later than usual since I’m sleeping – my favourite activity – an hour or two longer. Then I put on my running shoes and run for half an hour along the dunes and the sea of the Dutch island of Terschelling where our boat Anita II is anchored.
It goes without saying that it is a nice and warm day. Since we have the island to ourselves – as in private, I finish my round with swimming naked in the sea. Afterwards I lie to dry in the sun with my eyes closed listening to the waves and feeling the sand.
Having breakfast with my love is up next. Nothing beats Eggs Benedict in Grand Central Station New York. The rest of the morning is reserved for reading an inspiring book in my hammock on Dampaati Island in the Amazon forest of Suriname. The views on the Suriname river are stunning from this point.
Since we’re in the country, the afternoon is reserved for a massage by and catching up over a herbal tea with my dear friend (and the best massage therapist I know) Apana van Leeuwaarde in Paramaribo. Relaxed and with renewed energy Hans and I are getting ready for an outside dinner on the observation deck of the Esiweni lodge near Durban South Africa while watching the elephants drink in the river below. Enter GT’s.
From which experience did you learn, what made you stronger?
Experiencing the finitude of life at such a young age, you might think would change you. People always think you learn to know important from trivial through such an experience, but for me that was not the case. I had the feeling that because I did survive I had to make something special of my life.
And looking back, I think I might have exaggerated sometimes. Wanting to do too much, not living in the moment enough, finding it hard to find the balance between all those interesting and fulfilling activities and taking time for introspection, peace and quiet. But hey: that is what living is all about, isn’t it?
What definitely made me stronger is my relationship. Being married to a man who still makes me feel beautiful everyday despite the changes in my body and face, makes me feel like I can conquer everything.
What is your golden beauty trick or favourite product?
I am not much of a make up girl but I love good skin care products. I recently discovered the products of Origins. Love their motto: return to nature, power of plants and commitment to environment. The antioxidant cleanser with white tea and the Make a Difference Plus anti-aging cream are two of my favourites. And I’m very loyal to Lancome’s Grandiose mascara with its perfectly shaped brush.
My real beauty trick though, is my perfume. As soon as I spray on Creed Vetiver I feel clean, strong and full of energy. I have this thing with men’s scents as long as I can remember.
After 20 years of yoga I discovered weight training last year. I feel more fit now.
Which book/film/music shaped/changed you and why should we read it?
I am a huge fan of Jeanette Winterson. All her books are great but my favourite is Why be happy if you can be normal. About a girl who finds out she is much happier if she is with a girl than with a boy. The title of the book is her mothers reaction when she’s coming out of the closet. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life.
When I was in my early 20’s, I was desperately seeking knowledge in books, films and art. I remember that seeing Italian movies like Federico Fellini’s Otto e Mezzo gave me the feeling that there was só much to discover and to learn that I could not sleep from excitement.
About music, I’m an omnivore. Don’t know where to start. Or finish. I’ll share one: since I love tradition and therefore classical seasonal music, Bach’s St. Matthews Passion in Spring and the Weihnachtoratorium at X-mas are given facts in my agenda.
Who should we follow on Instagram?
- @thewunderkammer_amsterdam, Florian Seyd and Ueli Signer share the most fabulous floral design. I love flowers.
- @CarstenKlein, stunning creative graphic designer. Who happens to be the designer of the Young & Gay book.
- @HansdeKort who makes ferrotypes, a 19th-century photographic technique.
- @Rijksmuseum their inspiring pics urge me to go to the museum and see them in real life
- @Roy_Kahmann a photography gallery in Amsterdam for inspiration and envy.
What’s your favourite destination/hotel/museum/restaurant in the world?
- Destination : Portugal. The old quinta in the south – Algarve – owned by my best friends
- Hotel : Esiweni Safari Lodge near Durban South Africa
- Museum : Brooklyn Museum in New York, Rijks Museum Amsterdam, Jewish museum Berlin and Belvedere Heerenveen
- Restaurant : De Hoop op d’ Swarte Walvisch Zaandam, great food ànd we can go there by our little boat. Oh, and Pauly Saal in Berlin.
What’s your signature dish? The one that makes your friends demand a seat at your dinner table (and which childhood dish best represents the time and place of your youth?)
If I want to make my husband happy, Risotto with lemon and truffle is on the menu. Friends demand my pecan pie for dessert, time and time again.
I don’t really recall any childhood dishes. My mother died when I was 11 so my dad, my two sisters and myself tried to keep the household running. Creative cooking was not on my childhood list. I made up for lost time later. Big time.
Trivia time, make a choice and share your favourite brand:
- Nail polish or Lipstick?
Non of the above. I’m a gloss-only-woman and always Dior Lip Maximizer
- Heals or Flats?
Can’t choose. Missing out on long legs, boots with heels make me feel taller and more feminine in winter. In summer plateaus are my favourite. When working always sneakers.
- Dress or Trousers?
- Coffee or Tea?
One daily cappuccino. The rest is green tea, green tea, green tea.
- Swimsuit or Bikini?
Swimsuit. For years now, because my body changed so much due to the HIV medication I’ve been taking for 30 years now. I feel more comfy in a bathing suit. No specific brand as long as it accentuates my good parts I’m happy.