J-Bay Photographer’s Open Letter: From Depression to Making Dreams Come True

Talented Belgian photographer MAARTEN VAN DE VELDE – who lives in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa – has struck a chord with many friends and strangers, after writing an open letter on Facebook that speaks honestly of his darkest moments, and his journey back…

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Dear facebook friends, I’m not used to sharing long texts on social media, and especially not about myself, and even less about what goes on in my personal, more private life.

But for this one time I want to make an exception…

The people that know me quite well, know I have been battling with myself for a very long time, ending up in some of the darkest places in life… also refered to as depression. It hit me the first time very hard at seventeen, and hit me even harder three years ago at the age of twenty-nine.

As mentioned, I’m not used to opening up about it on social media, but on the other hand I would feel grateful to reach out and contribute a very tiny bit on getting a very big taboo out of the world… and maybe this message could just for a split second soften the intensity of those extreme racing thoughts generating all those feelings of embarasment, guilt, failure, weakness, loneliness, anxiety, panic attacks… that so many people out there are fighting with every day again and again.

One and a half years ago, for five months, I did not dare to leave my house further than the driveway…

Often the first question people ask when I open up about my depression is “why did you get it?” Well I think it makes as much sense as asking, why did you get the flu?

I’m glad to say I’ve got the fire burning again, thanks to my wonderful parents, the extreme support of my brother making time in his busy life to skype at least twice a week with me over the last three years, my sister-in-law and their three wonderful little daughters (slowly turning into big girls now), and since very recently the wonderful lady, I can now call my girlfriend.

Thanks to my wonderful friends at home, you know who you are…

Thanks to so many wonderful and kind people I’ve met on the road to recovery, that became like family.

And especially… being surrounded by so much beauty, kindness, creativity, authenticity and the inspiring environment, the waves and so much more here in Jbay, the best possible medicine for my soul.

I start to get the feeling I’m getting strong on my feet again and I’ve found back the passion for life.

However I will never be able to guarantee 100% it will not happen again. But let’s stay postive!

… Back to the refound passion for life…

I’ve always had a little ‘little desire to inspire’ to share some of the simple beauty that’s there to see every day in nature, in people, in creativity and especially, living all of my life at the seaside, in my connection with the seas and the oceans.

That’s why I’m so grateful my dad allowed me to take his camera with me to Jbay three years ago, and I started playing around with it and discovered an ‘underexplored’ passion for photography and a vehicle to share a little impression of that beauty… which makes my heart make a little jump of joy when I’m able to (dis)cover it.

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Now, since I showed one of my biggest photography idols, and a human being that just radiates warmth and kindness – Ted Grambeau – a shot of that otter with the fish (above) and he said there might be some potential in it… I have found the courage to carefully dare to dream a big step further… which is to try make a (partial) living out of photography…

And, just dreaming a huge step further… to maybe put some steps towards professional surf photography – capturing some of the world’s best, and some of the world’s happiest surfers, painting the most beautiful lines on some of the world’s most incredible canvasses which show up and disappear in the blink of an eye, also callled waves.

And maybe just creating a little memory of that one wave that gave that smile that potentially lasted for a couple of days…

Now about how you, yes you (!) can help me realise my dreams.

By doing just two simple things you can make the difference.

Exposure is a key term in photography. Not only in capturing the right amount of light, but also in getting your pictures and your name out there…

So please, if you like my work, if it touches you in whatever possible way, share this message with your friends… maybe it reaches that one person, that one art dealer, magazine editor, agent… That can get me launched and make my future look even brighter… (See Facebook and Instagram links below.)


I will be forever thankful for your kindness!

I know publishing this text involves a huge risk… Please let me then just end with a quote by Lewis Carroll:

“In the end… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

Thank you so much!

One Love Maarten.

PS: To show only a bit of my gratitude, I made a little collection of some of my shots of the last couple of years. Thanks again:


Follow Maarten Van de Velde on:
www.facebook.com/maarten.velde/ (and Read Maarten’s full letter on his page.)