“Autumn mornings on the beautiful canals of Amsterdam with Afra. Feeling the cold autumn breeze through her hair, where the streets are still quiet in the early morning. She’s catching the first sunrays of the day softly on her face while she strolls around the city. Inspired by the sober colors and architecture of the streets of Amsterdam in the early hours of the day, making you feel like you’ve gone back in time.” A series starring Afra van Ooijen photographed by Suzy Zeylmaker.
Afra, what inspired you to be in front of the camera?
I was scouted a few times when I was young, but I didn’t really see it as a possibility. Playing basketball was all I wanted to do back then, and I was too shy to consider myself able to model. Yet I always loved flicking trough the Italian and French Vogues. The fantasies, vibes and feelings these editorials and campaigns captured always inspired me. So one day when I was scouted on holiday I was finally brave enough to give it a go.
I see on Instagram that you love to travel. Where do you feel most at home?
I always desired to move to Paris or London, but in recent years I have come to appreciate my hometown more and more. Amsterdam is a city with international allure, it’s never boring, yet it is also small and cozy. If you are walking or biking through the city chances are high that you’ll run into someone you know. It gives me a sense of belonging.
“I really like how the boundaries of the modeling industries have been slowly yet steadily shifting.”
On Instagram we all show only the happy side. What helps you in the hard moments?
My mother always says „don’t worry, this feeling shall pass“. It usually annoyed me alot, especially since I am much more prone to having melancholic feelings than her. However there was a point in my life where one shitty thing after the other happened. As a consequence I started to do the inner work to cope, reflect and become stronger. I slowly started to notice that I am reaching the point where I can have trust in this idea. Shitty things and feelings will always keep happening, but trusting in your own resilience is a really good feeling.
What do you do besides modeling for a living?
Modelling is my only source of income at the moment.
“Amsterdam is a city with international allure, it’s never boring, yet it is also small and cozy. If you are walking or biking through the city chances are high that you’ll run into someone you know. It gives me a sense of belonging.”
Who is the most important person in your life?
That would be my mother. Besides the fact that she is a huge boss lady, I value our relation tremendously. Growing up she thought me how to be strong, to have discipline and ambition. As an adult we have developed a more softer and equitable relation where we can talk about anything with eachother.
What has life taught you recently?
That you‘re never too old to make new friends, start new hobbies, learn new things.
As always, the future is uncertain. Nevertheless, the question: Where do you see yourself in the future?
I really like how the boundaries of the modeling industries have been slowly yet steadily shifting. This does not only mean having more diversity in shapes, sizes and skin tones but also in age. We will probably all become very old, so it makes sense to see more than only the young and young-looking represented in fashion. I would love to be a part of that if that is possible. At the same time I am also very curious about working on the other side of the camera. Not as a photographer, but maybe in creative direction, styling or in production. One way or another, I would like to keep working in the fashion industry.
Photographer: Suzy Zeylmaker – www.suzyzeylmaker.com – @suzyzeylmaker
Model: Afra van Ooijen – @afrakatelijne