Dearest Jip, I need to tell you something that makes my chest heavy, but I believe it is the best I can do

Daan Kamerman

Keywords: Friendship, Transition

Jip got stung by a flying insect on a skiing trip in 2017. Presumably it was this insect that carried a virus that caused a serious brain infection that nearly took Jip’s life. 

In the aftermath Jip continuously severely struggled to gain weight, because food would not stay down. Leaving Jip, family, friends, doctors and specialists clueless. This and a huge amount of bad luck would almost take their life twice more in the years that followed. 

It was the groundbreaking diagnosis of autism, that in combination of the non-congenital brain damage, proved to be an important key in understanding and gradually remedying Jip’s physical and mental health problems.

I started to love photography and Jip at the same moment in my life, so from the first day I met Jip five years ago, they have been in front of my camera. 

In those first years I took my camera everywhere. So when Jip fell ill within the first year of our friendship, naturally their illness became visible in the portraits I made. In the following five years, being photographed became a solace for Jip, providing a way to reflect and process, while it also provided a distraction from a life that was so based on problem solving and doctors appointments. 

But in the last months I realised that my heart wasn’t present enough anymore in photographing Jip. And that I was continuing because I didn’t want to let Jip down.

Thinking of, and working on this project in the last months has been a beautiful but painful process that shined light on my own insecurities and my need for approval and need to please, as a photographer and as a friend. In this relationship and in others.

Making this book and writing two letters to Jip – one written from my perspective as a photographer and one as a friend – were necessary for me in quitting this project in the right way. It proved to be as a rite of passage for me.