Elisabeth van Aalderen
Award-winning photographer- VILA TALENT AWARD 1018
Behind The Woman
About your career and your passion for Photography:
I have always had a passion for Photography. After graduating from the Utrecht School of Arts, I applied for the photography department of the Fotovakschool in Amsterdam. After a year, I decided to develop myself further as an autodidact. For many years, I worked in the fashion industry as a stylist & art director, and finally decided to follow my passion in Photography.
As a successful photographer who has worked in the fashion industry, what was it like for you when you realized you had Vitiligo?
When I first found out that I had vitiligo, I was shocked and very sad. I didn’t know anybody who had Vitiligo at the time and as such I had no-one to talk to about it. Working in the fashion industry did not help me either. It is a place where you work with models, with a certain beauty standard, an environement with some wrong and twisted frame of reference. Ultimately, I realized that it was the way our society reacts to Vitiligo that we needed to change as soon as possible. I felt that I had no choice but to embrace it and contribute to make people feel and live better with Vitiligo.
|Last year you started the photo series Shades of Pale. What motivated you to do your project?
My Shades of Pale project is definitely inspired from my personal experience, having lived with the skin condition for eight years. During my day-to-day job as a photographer, many people have been asking me questions about my skin. This is what made me consider leveraging both experiences as a photographer and a Vitiligo patient. Photography has given me a platform to document and celebrate the vitiligo body.
Who would you like to target and engage with your photo series?
Everyone who is struggling with the condition and everyone who haven’t seen it before. I want it to have a big reach, so we can tell the world the vitiligo body is as beautiful and normal as every other skin, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Is this photo project some sort of self-therapy?
The goal of my project is to capture women vulnerability and women strength at the same time. Because I’m also living with vitiligo, it immediately creates bonding with these women. You see yourself in each other. For many of the women I have had the chance to portray, this experience was a process of healing and acceptance. It has been incredibly therapeutic for me as well.
What do you advise Vitiligo sufferers who do not have the courage to take part in a photo project like yours, how they can recognize their beauty?
No matter how you look, everyone struggles from time to time. This is okay. I just want to spread awareness about a different kind of beauty. Beauty can be everything you want it to be. Your Vitiligo makes you stand out. This should be a positive thing. It is okay to struggle with it , but when you overcome it and accept your uniqueness, it makes you such a powerful woman.
What was the most amazing experience working with your models?
I have photographed women from all over the world, with all kinds of body shapes and skin colors. 90% of them were in front of a camera for the first time and they really stepped out of their comfort zone. This was so empowering. Today, it feels very rewarding that the photoshoot contributed to build their self-confidence. It has been such a positive journey for me and for the ones I portrayed.
Why is your photo series limited to photos of women?
I believe we need to change certain beauty standards to be more inclusive. This project is also about telling my own story, from a female perspective: It is about the female vitiligo body and helping to accept it without us constantly wanting to change it, or being unhappy with the way it looks.
What do you hope to achieve with Shades of Pale?
About 1% of people around the globe have vitiligo; but still so many people have never heard of it. I want to spread awareness. The more we see it, in advertising, on television, in photography, the more we get used to it. I would hope it can no longer be seen as something ‘strange’ but consider as another kind of beauty!
What is beauty for you?
Beauty is about your unique self. When it comes to beauty, I believe there is no box. All types of beauty need to be inclusive. Beauty can be whatever you want it to be.
What does your vitiligo mean to you today?
Having vitiligo is a big part of my life and I believe that I have vitiligo for a reason.
When will your photo series be finished?
Approximately by the end of 2020. I will work then on the “SHADES OF PALE” book & exhibition.