In 2007, I had the opportunity to study the third year of my Interaction Design study abroad and I was admitted into an exchange program in Sydney, Australia. Growing up in The Netherlands, I was taken aghast by how everything was different from what I knew: it didn’t rain 360 days of the year, the water was actually blue, surfing was a thing, there are national parks that are bigger than my entire country and I made friends with people from all over the world. One year surely seemed too short.
My traineeship visa ran out two years later in 2012. Plans to get a permanent residency (PR) or a proper work visa fell through and I wasn’t quite yet ready to go home. So I booked a one way ticket to Vietnam instead. I ended up traveling on a shoestring through South East Asia and photography became my sense of purpose. I noticed that the more remotely I traveled, the more welcome I felt and the more I wished I could help the local people and environment. I just didn’t know how.
After a couple of months, a fairly significant question came up: what am I going to do next? The only answer I could come up with was to return to Australia on a three-month tourist visa and try everything in could to find a job who’d be willing to sponsor me. If I failed, I’d give up and go home. I was lucky. The only lead I had from many many applications ended up doing just that and eventually also sponsored my PR.
I’ve been focussed on a career in design ever since and came to see photography as a hobby. However, I never managed to shake that feeling of wanting to do more for the places I had visited on my travels. On a dark moon I realised that I could help these places with a single unifying project: Fair Photo. This has been my north star since its inception and this, amongst several other projects, easily manages to fill up my spare time.