The sun is shining fiercely as the train enters Zaandam, a small town just above Amsterdam. In a quiet, picturesque area not far from the train station, Latoya van der Meeren, the photographer responsible for the Maed for Mini “True Story” campaign as well as this seasons “Carnival Royale”, awaits me with a freshly brewed coffee.
She and her best friend turned lover Meier, whom she has been together with for 8 years, and their daughter Miki (2,5) moved here a year ago. After living in an animated area in the middle of the old city centre of Amsterdam for years, it is quite the turn around. “It just got impossible, the idea of raising Miki in that apartment on the Nieuwmarkt, so we decided to move here, for her.”
Just like most houses in this area the foundation had to be renewed. “Once that was finished I wrote “For Miki” in the wet cement. This is her house.” I may act tough, but I am very sensitive, especially when it comes to change, but I’m also adventurous. I’m a barrel full of contradictions.”, she chuckles. A quality that becomes tangible in her style of photography, which is both raw as wildly romantic. “When I moved to Amsterdam from a small village in Brabant, I did not really know what I wanted from life or what it wanted from me. One day I bought an old camera on the flea market and started making photo’s of my friends. It all fell into place.”
Her camera-bag is on top of the table, filled with used and unused rolls of film and three camera’s, all analog. She never made the leap to digital photography, what adorns her. “I have a small point-and-shoot camera I sometimes bring if I go out with Miki, but usually I don’t bring much. I always hope there is lipbalm and a hairclip in one of my coat-pockets, but when we go out here in Zaandam I sometimes don’t even bring diapers or anything. If an accident occurs we can be home in 5 minutes.”, she answers when I ask her what’s in her bag.
“When I’m further from home with Miki I bring a canvas tote with some diapers, a few snacks to keep her happy and her stuffed rabbit “Nijne”, which she needs by her side at all times. And of course my phone, money and keys, hopefully.” Next to the tote, in the hallway, hangs a large black leather bag Latoya uses for herself. “I always bring my diary and something to read. I can do without a lot, I don’t need much. Oh but headphones, I do need music, always.”, she says.
Compared to living in an apartment in the middle of the busy streets of Amsterdam, this house seems like a dream, with lots of wood, windows, space and quiet. Yet Latoya doesn’t hesitate to nod yes if I ask her if she misses living in the city, although she is still there a lot, working part-time as a photo editor for Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, or spending much needed time with herself, Meier or friends.
“Just like when you become a mother, you can’t prepare for such big changes in your life. You don’t know beforehand how it will feel. I love living in this house, but in my ideal world it would be surrounded by meadow, and a 5 minute bike-ride from Amsterdam. Moving here was hard for me, it still is.
But its not just moving to Zaandam, its saying farewell to my old life, old friendships, everything from the past that has changed so rigorously.”, she explains, continued by: “I’m sure it would have changed anyway, with or without children. It’s about accepting that this is who I am now. This is for Miki.”