Photo project

Behind Her Uniform: The Double Life of Servicewomen in the Netherlands

Photographer from the Netherlands Vivian Keulards showed Dutch women who serve in the Navy at work and at home.
Vivian Keulards

Born and raised in the Netherlands. Graduated from Photo Academy in Amsterdam. Had solo and group exhibitions in Belgium, Greece, Georgia, United States, and Japan. Published her works in LensCulture, Dodho Magazine, Art Photo Index, Trouw, New Dawn, and many other media outlets.

— People in military uniforms stand out and have an imposing effect on others. You tend to forget the human being behind the uniform.

That was my experience when my young neighbor Kat grew to be an independent woman and joined the Navy. She’s an officer nowadays and if I see her in her uniform I can’t believe that she’s the same person as that hopping girl from next door. She’s still the bright and vibrant girl as I know her from back then. It’s just the uniform that changes my view of her at that moment.

The concept intrigued me and in 2015 I decided to make portraits of Dutch navy women in two different situations. First in uniform in and around their barracks and later I visited them in their home environment to see who they are outside their military life. Each time I was surprised when they opened their front doors for me. The transformation was amazing, their personalities came to life.

I was surprised when they opened their front doors for me.

In our conversations I was curious why they joined the navy and if they’re aware of the consequences of this decision. I kept thinking of my neighbor girl and friend defending our sea shores or fighting against terrorism when the unpredictable future would ask for that.

In the next few years I hope to visit other countries and expand this series with other women within the army. I’m very curious to know how other military women, outside the Netherlands, see their jobs, lives and future.

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