Imagine that you found the love of your life and started to organize the perfectly planned - flower overloaded and with a multi-story cake - most important day of your life. Then, as soon as you send out the wedding invitations to your family overseas, the doorbell rings and your beloved family is grinning at your on your doorstep...six months early. “We are here. You can get married now.” Fast forward all wedding planning. This is a true story from the diary of Tomás at Models Rock Agency. Let’s not blame it on the sun, but timing can be a weird thing.
Growing up in Colombia, Tomás always felt like the pink sheep of the family. Instead of action figures, his young heart skipped a beat for that pink, perfect Barbie doll. But uncovering your heart in an environment that's raising every generation without updating itself, can cause conflicts. Tomás crossed traditional boundaries and found his freedom in a new city. Never afraid to expose his vulnerability. Expressing himself through his art, the Colombian boy wants to change the negative persecutions people may have of Colombia, at the same time as he finds personal release.
It takes courage to shed the layers of clothes that protect the true image of you, and hide your self doubts. To be truly bare, takes true strength. But if you take the risk, dipping one toe into the surface of foreign waters, waves will start circling and shatter the calm flat. That’s where you'll find Tomás.
Photographer and fellow Colombian, Carmen Triana, portrays his young soul, embracing the soft water that caresses his skin, wraps his body and carries him away. In a beautiful portrait series, she captures the bare truth in intimate moments and soft colour tones, and let's Tomás simply be himself. In the hours of dusk, he roams free and drifts with the stream. Forgetting pasts worries, remembering the beauty of it: days that smell like golden sunrays and diving into the waterfall in the green jungle. Freedom is having no worries in the current moment and being with the one you love.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a really small town in in Manizales, Colombia. It was really difficult to be the 'different' person in a traditional country. I don’t know how to explain it, because in Colombia people really enjoy talking about everything. When you grow up in a country like that, everyone will treat you differently if you don't fit the norm. It's like you have a crash with them. That was not always easy, but it makes you stronger.
Do you have any favorite childhood memories?
Yeah, it was amazing. I loved growing up in a country where everything is green. You have tropical jungle and the water, with waterfalls and other beautiful stuff.
Why did you leave Colombia to go to the Netherlands?
I wanted to have different way of life, and I wanted to expand my mind - to see different points of view and of life. I was also curious to meet new people.
What would you say is the biggest difference between Colombia and the Netherlands?
The people, and it's really cold in the Netherlands. I don’t like it in Winter, you can’t go outside the house. People who were born here are living their normal life, they go outside and they follow routines, but I just can’t. I do a lot of things to fight the cold, like putting on too many layers of coats.
How old were you when you came to Europe?
I came because of my husband when I was 21 years old. He already moved over here and I was in Colombia. I was there and he was here. We tried to live like that, but after he had spent six months in Amsterdam we decided that I would move to the Netherlands as well. I was really happy in my tropical country, and Europe is like another world to me. But I really like living in the Netherlands - I feel free. People just live their life and let you be. In Colombia, everyone wants to tell you how to live your life. In this is a very different way, because they are one step behind us. Not in a bad way, because the culture over there is really amazing. Colombia is so beautiful - we have really good coffee, delicious food and people just see the bad stuff.
I guess you are not a big fan of the Netflix series Narcos?
I like the series, but I don’t like the way it presents us. At the moment a lot of people visit Colombia just to find drugs, and that's funny, because it's even easier to find drugs over here.
If you had continued living in Colombia, what would that look like?
People over there want you to grow up in the same way your grandparents did, but their rules are just shitty. You can't free yourself. The Netherlands is a much more free environment, the people are open in every sense of life. If it rains, people go into the street and they just continue their life.
What was your biggest adventure until now?
I think it was one time in Andorra when I was with a few friends and my husband. A group of about ten of us went skiing in the mountains, but I’m really afraid of heights. When we were in the chairlift, we went really high up to the mountains - like really, really, really high. And I was like; 'Holy shit.' My feet were shaking. I couldn't see any security, so I was just like; 'No, I’m not going to do that.' But you can't just turn around and take the lift back down. I was with the girls in the group and I went to the slow tracks, but if you want to go to the slow tracks you have to go higher up the mountain. I was shaking and screaming the whole time; 'Oh my god, I’m going to die'.
How did you feel when you mastered the track, still alive?
I was really happy. I just turned around, looked at the mountain and I really enjoyed it. It was an amazing experience, because I forgot my fears.
Have you been to Paris?
Yes, I went to Paris with my husband and it was really scary. When I saw the Eiffel tower, I thought; 'I’m going to shit in my pants.' It was so high. When people were putting their phones out the railings I was like; 'Oh my god'. They were just laughing and taking their pictures and I was busy beingn scared.
And have you ever felt lost?
A lot of times. We are humans and everything is a constant evolution of your mind, but if you forget your roots, you start to feel lost. For me as an artist, it can happen a lot. When I start a painting I might get to a point where I lose my mind and myself in it. I lose everything.
You’re an artist?
I’m trying, but I like to do a lot of stuff. I love to paint, and I love to make sculptures, I just love to make everything, and I enjoy letting my art being inspired by nature. At the moment, I am working on a few paintings about things I remember from my childhood, like flowers and animals from Colombia. I connect my current life with my past. People always need inspiration and it's my aim to show a different point of view of Colombia. I don’t like how my country is shown right now, because people go over there and buy drugs and they don’t even care about what Colombians feel about it. Colombians don't like drugs, but people don’t respect that. That’s something I want to change. It's not just drugs. We have more over there.
Back to your shoot, what was it like to be photographed by Carmen?
I love Carmen, she is one of my best friends from Colombia. A few years ago I was living in Barcelona, where I met her and a few other Colombians. I don’t know what we Colombians do, but we seem to find each other everywhere. When we met in Barcelona we started to have a really good relationship. She came to my house with her boyfriend, and we had a really nice time - went to the lakes, just enjoying everything.
The photos are really connected to nature.
It covers ninety percent of my life - I just need it. I could not live in a house with no plants or no animals. I just love it. Nature is the most beautiful creation in the world.
I stalked your social media and saw a lot of landscapes.
Did you see the movie 'Ace Ventura' with Jim Carrey? He loves animals, and he talks to animals. He is a crazy guy, speaking to animals.
Do you have any animals?
I have many animals: two cats, a bunny, two parrots and a really big cage with tiny exotic birds that have red beaks.
Was it your first shoot with Carmen?
My first shoot with Carmen was in Barcelona when I was living there. It was in this amazing garden and my bunny was in the shoot as well. It was really nice, but my bunny got stressed out.
You said previously that the pictures from this shoot were really free. You had nothing to hide except your own skin. What is your relationship with vulnerability?
Human beings are fragile and very vulnerable, even our skin is very vulnerable. You can get a scratch on the surface and in the mind, too. Our minds are crazy.
Would you say you have a thick skin, or do you have a tendency to get hurt?
No, I’m a crazy kid. I like to run, I like to jump, I like to do everything. Sometimes you have to simply enjoy it and don’t think things like; ‘if I jump that height I’m going to break my hand’.
What would you say is freedom to you?
Standing in the middle of a forest, haha.
It is quite brave to take off all your clothes, have you always felt comfortable in your own body?
Yeah, of course it takes a lot. When I was in Colombia, I got badly bullied at school. Back then I felt really uncomfortable with my hair, my body and everything about me. People would say; 'Your hair is green, you're ugly, too tall, you're skinny or fat'. So I was thinking bad things about myself. But I think all that is superficial, you know. I really like to see more in other people than their physical part. I think that’s a gift. People say that if you are beautiful it opens up more doors, but it’s the same shit for everyone. I feel like if you are good looking, then people only look at that. If you have a really beautiful mind and really beautiful feelings, then your body is like a second part.
What is beauty for you?
Nature. Animals. Happiness. A big smile - that’s really beautiful.
What makes a person beautiful for you?
Feelings. They build the connection you have with a person.
Would you say it is easy to be gay in Colombia?
It's not easy to be different in Colombia, that's what needs to be explored. I have been growing up in that small town and a lot of fears. My experience is that people don't want to talk about being gay. It's like; you are gay - you are bad. You feel like you're living on the wrong planet. Growing up gay, I always felt like the pink sheep of the family. I never felt like the black sheep - I was the pink sheep. I didn't feel normal at all. When I moved here I found out that it's really normal. If you go through Amsterdams streets, you will find a lot of gay couples, holding hands on the streets. It's just love, and it doesn’t matter what gender you love. You can love transgender people, you can love a lesbian, you can love everyone - it’s a question of feelings. I feel like the heart is the most beautiful thing in a person.
I love that you say you were the pink sheep and it's good that you can laugh about it now. It seems like nothing that you have carried over the years with you.
It makes me laugh, because it was a bad time, but it made me become the person that I am now.
What would you say to the 13-year-old you?
Don’t cry bitch! Everything’s going to be fine.
Would you say you are a spiritual person?
Yeah, I’m really spiritual. It's a door and you just have to knock on it. I feel really spiritual when I paint. It's something physical, like serenity and calmness. I think I put a lot of emotions into my paintings.
Do you get inspiration from your emotions?
Of course. I think it’s very important to express emotions in your paintings. You put the bad things and feelings you have into the paintings. It helps you to free yourself. My last painting was inspired by my childhood, so it's all about serenity and peacefulness.
Do you have any other passions?
I really love to make clothes, jewellery and accessories. I love to cook and do weird plant stuff, like home décor. I think it’s fun to do everything by yourself. You can just get a piece of wood and put a plant on it and it's art.
You said you already got married. When was that?
I got married at 21, three years ago. It was really amazing. We got married in a beach club in Amsterdam, but it was winter and really cold. I think we were the first gay couple from Colombia that got married there. We had a lot of fun, dancing salsa to Shakira.
I guess your first dance was to Shakira?
Haha, I don’t think Shakira has songs for that! No, our song was John Legend's, ‘All Of Me’. Yeah, it’s really cliché. It was really stressful to plan a wedding in ten days. We had to rush through the planning, because my husband’s family from Colombia came six month early like; 'Hello, we're here - you can get married now.'
You mentioned it was hard to talk about being gay in Colombia. Was your family okay with you getting married?
It was really hard for my family when I came out. My mother was expecting me to grow up, marry a girl and have kids. But that wasn't for me. It was hard for my father, and we got into a lot of trouble. At a later point it got easier to talk to him and express myself, with both of them. It was much easier to talk to her, because I think she knows me really well - she found out when I was young. Those moments, when they gave me action figures for Christmas and I was thinking; 'I want a fucking Barbie or a little bunny.' In Colombia, it's so hard, because people think your family has to be perfect, so we don’t talk about bad stuff or about drugs. We talk about what’s happening at the moment, but it’s bad that we don’t talk about it - we just push it out of sight and forget it.
Do you feel good with living in Amsterdam right now?
It’s really good. But the thing is, things in Colombia are changing. It's not the same compared to when I was a child. I feel things are become more acceptable.