Another one joins our club! Welcome to Dutch photographer Annelies Damen (1968), who just turned fifty and shares her life and style in Portraits no. 27.
Photographer wasn’t her first choice of profession. Being raised in a Dutch entrepreneurial family, Annelies studied at Nyenrode Business University and has been both living and working abroad for many years. She has fond memories of her time in Hong-Kong, New York, South-Africa and Spain. To name a few.
After a year of travelling through Africa – from Morocco to Cape town – when she was in her late twenties, Annelies decided to change careers. While traveling, photography became her main focus. That much was clear. From international business woman to art photography, without a clue how to pursue this, was quite a challenge. She started at the Academy of Photography in Amsterdam, and her love for photography took her from there. The rest is history, as they say.
Photography and travelling around the world, meeting people (especially women) in other cultures, definitely feels like the best of both worlds to her. Annelies resembles a modern nomad and would have loved to live and travel a 100 years ago when the world was still undiscovered.
Besides photography she also works for their family business, Damen Shipyards, which gives her a lot of energy. She is a third-generation shipbuilder and very proud of her father how he built the company.
Thirty years ago she met her great love Jorrit at Nyenrode. Although they did not know that at the time. It was only 8 years ago when they met again at a university reunion, that they fell in love. Romantic, right? Along with Jorrit came his two beautiful daughters, Noelle and Sterre, in her life. Annelies never thought about having children herself, she regards it as a great gift to have these two girls so close to her now.
As from May 17, Annelies has a solo exhibition in Amsterdam. Lost in Time shows her latest work that consists of large black and white photos, shot in the old Artis-Groote museum just before a major restoration started. In this beautiful old room, Annelies finds renewed freedom without pressure of time or environment. She takes us along the line where people meet architecture.
How do you feel about being over fifty?
The months before my birthday I really did not like the idea of turning fifty. It sounded as I would become a middle-aged woman and that is absolutely not how I feel! I feel energetic, adventurous, am full of ideas and do a lot of sports. Now that I am freshly fifty it is very clear, I do not mind at all.
Which age is your favourite time? Would you like to go back?
I live in the here and now and try not to look back that much. But I loved being around 25, travelling the world with my backpack. I also cherish my thirties, the changes I made then. The unknown future ahead as photographer. I never thought I would be a creative. Now I am convinced we all have creativity within us. It feels so good I have discovered this, I wish this for everyone.
What I also love about being older (and wiser?) is that know much better what I want in life and – even more important – what I do not want.
What would your ideal day look like? No restrictions in time, money, people or whatever.
I hate the cold and the Dutch winters, so on my ideal day I wake up in a sunny and warm place on my favorite continent, Africa. I am in Banana House on the island of Lamu in Kenya, owned by my dear friend Monika Fauth. We start the day with a long walk on the beautiful empty 12 km beach in Shela.
Fresh fruits (I love eating fruits) awaits us when we return for breakfast. The rest of the morning I am spending in Kamalaya in Thailand with yoga and a blissful massage.
Totally relaxed I join Jorrit for lunch in Formentera. We will go by boat to Beso Beach. I try to spent a lot of time in Ibiza especially in the low-season and the sea is nowhere so beautiful turquoise as in Formentera.
Back to Africa in the afternoon, just in time for the five o’clock game drive in Nomad Camp in the Serengeti (Tanzania). While I am at it, I will start making landscape photo’s for a new project. I love being in the African bush, I could spend months here.
But I am also a city girl, so for dinner we are at Eleven Madison Park in New York, my absolute favorite place to dine in NY. And after dinner drinks on a rooftop in Chelsea and look back on a marvelous day!
From which experience did you learn, what made you stronger?
Sadly the loss of two dear friends, one when I was 23 (she had a motorcycle accident) and the other when I was 30 (she had cancer). It taught me to live now and not postpone the things you want to do and achieve in your life. Looking back this might also have influenced my decision to make a change and become a photographer.
When I was 35 my mother fell ill and passed away and my 11 year relationship (we lived all over the world together) ended. This all happened within 7 weeks. It was a very hard time and almost caused a depression, it was very difficult to find balance in my life again. I still miss my mother, I was really close to her and we used to call every day for a chitchat.
What is your golden beauty trick or favourite product?
Every morning I start with a glass of lime juice with lukewarm water and a cup of fresh ginger tea. The bodylotion of La Roche Posay is great for my dry skin, I am also a fan of their sun products. When I am travelling or the sun is shining I never leave without SPF 50 on my face.
Which book and/or film and/or music shaped/changed you and why should we read it?
The movie ‘Out of Africa‘ with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. And I love the music of this film as well! In this movie I can feel and almost smell the Africa I love so much. Wouldn’t have said no to be in that plane with Robert Redford…
I like to re-read the books of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the stories and the sentences he uses are classical. My Spanish is pretty good but I find it still too difficult to really understand it all, so I read them in English or Dutch.
Who should we follow on Instagram?
- @nationalgeographic beautiful pics of destinations I still want to visit
- @nelson.official he is a good friend and I love what he does with the camera
- @forodhanihouselamu one of the beautiful seaside Swahili houses in Lamu
- @doutzen a real beauty and a very kind person. Our trip to Tanzania 9 years ago for Dance 4 Life was very special.
- @fetching_tigers Annegien Schilling is a young creative woman using photography in a fun and funky way
What’s your favourite destination/hotel/museum/restaurant in the world? example:
- Destination : Lamu in Kenya, sunsets like no other
- Hotel : Four Seasons in New York
- Museum : All museums in Naoshima in Japan, literally. All of them.
- Restaurant : Arzak in San Sebastian
What’s your signature dish? The one that makes your friends demand a seat at your dinner table.
Fresh fish filled with lemon and herbs on the bbq, preferable outside in Ibiza. Together with grilled vegetables with rosemary from the garden. I love healthy fresh food.
I remember my childhood favourite dish very well. My mother’s bbq’s on summer evenings of sateh ayam wíth peanut butter sauce and cucumber salad.
Trivia time, make a choice and share your favourite brand:
- Nailpolish or Lipstick?
Nailpolish. OPI in every colour, sometimes every toe another colour!
- Heals or Flats?
Heals when dressing up. I love my Jimmy Choo’s or black Prada’s
- Nailpolish or Lipstick?
- Dress or Trousers
Dress. My figure is best in a dress. I love Natan, these dresses fit perfectly. And my friend Peter Rommers, an Amsterdam based designer makes fantastic pieces.
- Coffee or Tea?
Tea! I always travel with my Pukka teabags.
- Swimsuit or Bikini?
Bikini. A strapless one, no stripes while tanning. I just bought a lovely new blue & white Watercult bikini.
Follow Annelies Damen on Instagram.
Fore more inspiring interviews, read our Portraits series.
Want to share your life and style in these series or recommend an inspiring friend over fifty? We love to hear from you. Please send us an email.
In 2017 Annelies receives the Business Woman Of The Year award together with her sister Roos Damen. In November 2017, during TEDxAmsterdamWomen, she helds a TedTalk about her career switch and her passion for photography.
May 17th 2018 – 17:30 // Opening Exhibition Lost in Time by Annelies Damen
click here to register and join Annelies for the opening!