stultiens_280Mid-January 2009. As we entered the New Year, everything changed.

My boyfriend and I had booked a holiday months in advance and decided to use the holiday as an excuse to get married. The wedding took place on a cold but cheerful day. Our parents were there, siblings with their loved ones, and friends to act as witnesses. My boyfriend’s family took the wedding photographs. Everyone had a good time.

Four days later we were on our way to Thailand. The journey went without a hitch. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bunch of locals and the next day we continued on our journey. The following morning we were woken up by our travelling companion. He had received a text from The Netherlands. I was to get in touch urgently on ‘a familiy matter’. When I got through my mother told me that my sister and her boyfriend had been in an accident on New Year’s Eve. They were test driving a car they were thinking of buying, and it had turned over into a ditch. The doctors had advised that I should return home immediately. We took our bikes back to the rental company two days before they were due.

Searching online for ‘December 31’, ‘car’, ‘ditch’, and ‘Utrecht’ produced images of the wrecked car Simone and Frodo had been driving. The accident hadn’t happened, as I had initially assumed, at quarter past eleven in the evening but in the morning. Looking back I can’t remember when I received that information, or when it began to sink in.

At the hospital, some people just wanted to sit with Simone. Not me. I began to take photographs – becuase I couldn’t remember ever having been able to observe what an intensive care unit looks like, and because it felt safer to have a buffer between me and the situation. And it was something to do.

A lot could be captured on film. There was even more that couldn’t.

As I write, I have as yet to see the photographs I took; of the hospital; the funerals; the apartment. I know they won’t say a lot about Simone and Frodo. The question is if they will help as a way of saying goodbye.

Andrea Stultiens

Poetry written and narrated by Vrouwkje Tuinman (listen to two other poems below the slideshow).

Two further poems written and narrated by Vrouwkje Tuinman for Intensive Care:


The book Intensive Care will be presented as part of the DutchDoc!Space satellite show at this year’s New York Photo Festival. Copies of Intensive Care are available here.