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Linelle Deunk X Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation

Photographer Linelle Deunk about visiting our clean drinking water project ‘Water for Mukono’ in Uganda.

This world is (not) mine’ - Mukono project, Uganda, 2014

Through a collaboration with GUP Magazine we have found an inspiring approach to share our social story with the world. Talented photographers will be facilitated to shoot documentary images and autonomous work, whilst visiting one of the clean drinking water projects supported by the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation. Portrait and documentary photographer, Linelle Deunk, visited our clean drinking water project in Uganda.

"His appearance, his glance, his voice and tone struck me."

Linelle Deunk
About Linelle Deunk

After an academic career Linelle Deunk changed track and continued at the Photo Academy in Amsterdam. In December 2010 Linelle graduated with her final project Nestgeur’, in which she followed a number of children of pre-pubertal age and went on to win 1st prize with a series about Pien in the Portraits Series, Zilveren Camera. 

She continues to create award winning work, receiving numerous nominations during the past few years and winning many highly regarded commendations such as  Zilveren Camera 2012-13, Dutch National Portrait Prize 2012.

Interview with Linelle Deunk
The series is called ‘This world is (not) mine’ can you please explain the title?

“The title is inspired by the life of a 16 year old boy I met in the fields, Paul. His appearance, his glance and his tone of voice struck me immediately. The next day I had to go back, to get to know him and ask him about his story. He went through a horrible, fearful childhood; losing his parents at the young age of 12. He lived all by himself for several years until reaching the point of thinking ‘I don’t belong to this world.’

Luckily, a year ago a mother of seven started taking care of him, offering him work, a bed and most important a family home. She was able to provide clean water at her home, because she runs one of the beneficiary households in the projects. It’s a small but tough paradise, producing enough food for themselves and to sell. Gradually the boy returns to this, their, our and my world; replacing the bad memories for good.

After meeting Paul I decided to stay with another beneficiary family in the project. I am fascinated by the idea that when you take away all material context, and solely look at the individual, with his or her loved ones, our two worlds may not be so different. Clean water contributes to diminish the gap between both worlds and helps us realize that this world is for all of us.”

As a photographer you are always searching for the perfect moment to capture the scene. How was it for you to shoot these series on unknown territory?

“Beforehand I was a bit insecure about the timing and results off course, because I had made the commitment to deliver both documentary and autonomous work. 

It was hard work in terms of hours; we visited numerous areas of the project, did a lot of waiting because of the Ugandan rain showers, and thus had very limited periods of dry shooting during daylight. However, the waiting brought me unplanned and beautiful moments I otherwise would never have come across.”

At what point are you satisfied with your work?

"Oh, that's a tough question. I think when my work has an extra layer. When the photo is not just ‘pretty’ or esthetically good. Once it contains a dimension that makes you question: ‘Who’s that? What’s his or her story?’ I don’t want to literally tell much about the person and why I picked him or her. Preferably the image will include an element that refers to your own experiences and feelings, your childhood, your own thoughts… But for me there is an extra aspect found over time; I’m satisfied, when after a long period of time I can still look at it and wonder about the subject."

"Linelle Deunk is one of the best portrait photographers in the Netherlands. The strength of her work - in addition to a very recognizable aesthetic, simple but intense black and white - is reflected in the way she repeatedly manages to be admitted into the intimate world of the individual."

Erik Vroons, Chief Editor GUP Magazine


Visiting the project
How was your experience of visting Uganda?

“I’ve been to Africa several times, Uganda however was new to me. Despite all the rain, the experience was quite similar. I love the pace there and feel totally at ease. To me traveling and working in countries like Uganda are when I’m really at my best. The lack of luxury and even electricity, the people you encounter, the physical sensations of the elements and being away from home makes me balance my life back at home. The best choices in life I’ve made after trips like these. There is such a thin line between life and death, the place where one is born and the question whether this world is yours or not.”

"There is such a thin line between life and death."

Linelle Deunk
What was it like to visit the clean drinking water project?

“It was remarkable to see that relatively simple little things make such a significant difference; through education, microcredits and raising awareness of responsibilities. What surprised me was the fact that water is in fact so much more than just drinking water. 

People in the villages see access to water as a blessing; it’s such a valuable source of which we are not always aware in Western societies. It’s necessary for drinking and washing, for keeping livestock and it also creates many opportunities for work and income; growing crops or making bricks out of clay and possibly selling it. 

Most important is that when the basics are fulfilled (e.g. hygiene, food, house) one can focus on other important things in life: school, work, development or taking care of others, like Paul.

For me as a photographer it was also refreshing to use water as a starting point, you get to see basic elements differently. You are surrounded by it: light, air, puddles, kitchen; you see it everywhere.”
What do you take back from your experience?

“That water really is the basis of everything. It has never been this evident for me until I experienced this now. When the basis is good, people can develop to higher levels. It all starts with water.”

"That water really is the basis of everything. It has never been this evident for me until I experienced this now."

Linelle Deunk