It was in May of 2009 when I saw Maria for the first time, in “ The Silk Route” restaurant in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
Everything felt fresh, the restaurant just opened a few days before and it was my first time here, in Zanzibar. My friend and soul mate James invited me for a photo-safari, together with a fellow photographer from his hometown, Tete Mozambique.
For days, we ecstatically explored the labyrinth of Stone Town through our motor drive camera’s, capturing all and everything that moved and was willing to pose.
Schoolchildren whose curiosity always won from their fear of unshaven men with big tele lenses.
The men on the market, posing with their mixture of acceptance and patience while waiting to make a sale. Women in veils that protected them from the lusting eyes of men and in our case, our camera’s.
At night, after a refreshing bath, we usually discussed the day gone by in the best restaurants of Stone Town. “ The Silk Route” quickly became our favourite restaurant.
While my colleges greatly appreciated the exotic cocktails and dishes that were gracefully served by Maria, I mainly came for Maria and her beautiful eyes.
From the start I saw her as my model, and it was then and there that the name for our project “the beautiful eyes” was conceived.
I asked her if she wanted to pose for me but unfortunately we did not have the chance to come together in a photograph at that time.
Now, even after staying in Zanzibar for over five weeks, it was very hard to keep the promise I made to Maria in May. After a visit to “The Silk Route”, it was clear Maria did not work there anymore.
Luckily, Stone Town is like a village where everyone knows each other, and I found out that a friend of Maria worked in a hotel where I regularly had my breakfast.
An arrangement was made to meet each other in the Jaramuri Garden.
Luck was on my side when I was on my way to finally meet Maria.
I passed a photo shoot for the election of Miss Africa where gorgeous models with heavy make up and high heels, were waiting for the directions of their photographer.
The scenery of the worldly models in the small, ageless street in busy Stone Town, a sign of the things in store for me?
When Maria came, together with her lady friend, she was very careful.
She made clear she would not take off anything but that was not what I came for, I only wanted to photograph her eyes.
This had to become the cover photo of my first photo book.
This photograph is one of those first pictures made of Maria, Maria as herself.
Now, with the cover photo in my possession, the rest of my photography book will definitely follow.