Anja van Buuren


In the seventies, Anja van Buuren photographed her most intimate moments and those of her friend Merel. They had an open relationship with different partners. She recorded her life in photographs and diary notes.

Those diary fragments were published in 1977 in the feminist photo magazine Haarscherp.

Intimate Diary

May 11, 1974 – Alone in bed with Merel. My fingers strumming gently on her belly and slowly go down. I stroke her and turn her pubic hair around my fingers. She is soaking wet. She puts the pillow over her mouth and closes her eyes and waits. I move slowly in and out of her and bite her nipples gently. She surrenders completely. I wait, I lick her and postpone her orgasm. Then, faster movements, heavier, deeper. She strives her body and she comes. Then we smoke.

June 20, 1974 – Merel’s parents live in Leiden on the Oude Gracht. Her father repairs pianos, her mother experiments with film. Who wants to enter their home has to step over the threshold and all the other stuff scattered around. The house and the shopping window, which used to be a tobacco shop, serves mainly as a repository for all collections Merel’s father ever started. Great to walk around there, to see so much, to read. Both mother and father are so cordial. We make a boat trip through the canals of Leiden, the mother of Merel, now gray, cackles at a stretch on her ideas for a new film, ‘a real feminist movie’. And us drinking white wine all the time.

October 12, 1974 – But it is YES,

I WANT, I LOVE, I FEEL, I AM, I laugh, I stand, I walk, I cry, I SEE

I fuck, I nag, I enjoy, I grieve, I, I, I, I, I’M THERE!

And sometimes they get tired of me.

For I am much

Yoohoo, it sounds from my side


December 18, 1974 – Our decision for an open relationship is an experiment. To experience how sex and love can exist in different forms. In different relationships.

May 6, 1975 – I am with Merel in the women’s cafe. She flirts with a girl that I’ve never seen. I do not like it and am jealous. I would do the same, but I can not stand still. I say nothing. We agreed, our freedom is important. Jealousy is getting less with experience. I can stand it better now, I thought.

May 11, 1975 – I’ve taken Tanja back to our place. I should not have done that. My thoughts were not there. She looks around and notices that the pictures on the wall are hung with a thumbtack. They hang there as if they are fugitive sketches. ‘Why don’t you put your work in frames and hang them as valuable works of art? Why should you present them as worthless objects? “I look at the sketches, then back at her. I think she’s ridiculous. I have a lot to say. I also know that in some way, she’s right, that she touches me where I don’t like it. I decide the answer is not important. I invite her with me on the couch. The answer is not important, her question, however, is. She still worries about her own question. “I can read between the lines,” she says. “I could break down your walls, but I’m still too busy with my own walls.” I invite her on the couch and kiss her. I feel a kind of pleasure or satisfaction, because I fantasized for days to lie on the belly. I don’t feel anything special for her. No interest. No competition. No resistance. I only feel her anxiety in me.

December 6, 1975 – I’ve been asked for an exhibition in the ‘vrouwenhuis’. Merel’s behind it, I think. I ask her, she denies. But she says I should do it. She has no problem to show our intimacies in public. First I don’t want to, but after a while I like the idea. I imagine which pictures I want to show. I decide to add excerpts from my diary. Also to see how Merel responds. She thinks it’s a good idea.

December 8, 1975 – I love to masturbate. It clears my head and calms me down.

February 14, 1976 – I grab my camera and attributes from her room. We are naked and put on brightly colored lipstick, a hat and sunglasses. I install the camera. She sits in the middle. We look sensual, to each other, wide-eyed, happy, smiling, seriously. She’s in the middle, we next to her. She is beautiful. She directs us. We laugh about it, I show off. Discomfort leaks from the situation. She only gets more beautiful by it.

March 10, 1976 – We sit on the ground. Wine and cigarettes. We talk and drink and smoke and touch each other. I kiss them, they kiss each other, we pull our clothes off. First slowly, then violently, then horny. I’m soaking wet. We caress each other, we are rolling over each other, I lick and am licked. The room turns into a sweaty, panting space. I see Merel, she lets Eva come with her fingers while she sucks on her breasts. I’m close to an orgasm, my stomach tingles and my body tightens. Mira draws back and comes again, she knows exactly what to do to keep me on the edge. Eventually she lets me go and I scream, and have a long orgasm.

April 6, 1976 – Problems with the pictures. There are some risky ones between them. So far I have always gotten them back. The man behind the counter watches me too long. I imagine that he jerks off over my photographs. A wave of disgust. He says that the film is lost. The bastard, I know he’s lying. I feel like retrieving my pictures at his home, to go to his wife and tell her everything. I do nothing, I am angry and I’ve lost my photos. I must find a new photographer.

April 20, 1976 – She is young, I guess not yet twenty. Quite a bit younger than Merel. We are in a coffee shop, I photograph her, she smiles, we talk and drink coffee. It clicks. Hitting it real, we laugh, and talk incessantly. I’m in love. She takes me to her place. In her room, we kiss intensly. She is nervous and tells me it’s the first time she takes a woman home. I kiss her on her neck, on her eyes. I caress her as gently, and undress her. I descend slowly, licking, sucking, to her breasts, her belly to her cunt, that smells sweet. The smell makes me even hornier. I pull her down on her bed, I stick my tongue deep into her and hear her heavy breathing. She squirms, but I push her on the bed, she presses my head down, I bite her, she moans, I lick, suck, stick my fingers in her, fuck her until she comes screaming.

June 23, 1976 – There is always the tension between participating and photographing. At home, we installed excessively strong lights. An idea of ​​Merel, not very romantic, but practical. I have done experiments with a clock and an automatic system. When I thought that something might happen, I set the automatic release at 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and so on. Other times I used a long cable release and told Merel or anyone else that they could make the picture if they wanted to. Sometimes, when we had visitors, I abstained from sex just for the photos. It’s weird how easy one can separate those roles. When I take pictures, I do not want to join. And vice versa.

August 20, 1976 – It’s hot, I lie in bed. Merel is gone. I miss her terribly. She went for a holyday to the women’s camp in Femø. I am restless, lethargic and constantly thinking about her. What are you doing, with whom, do you think of me? Two more days.

September 25, 1976 – Today we went to an exhibition of portraits of Judy Dater at the Stedelijk Museum. A day out in Amsterdam. They are beautiful, the women in the photos. So equilibrated with themselves, with the camera. We get to talk to a guy, aged about 40, who knows all about art. He looks like a leftist politician or philosopher. Long monologues about the meaning of the portraits. We are invited for a drink at the cafe around the corner from the museum. It is very sad. He says his wife left him, that he is alone, he’s lonely. He drinks a lot. We say nothing. When it becomes really obvious that we want to leave, he asks us if we want to come home with him. “Just for one time”, he begs. Angry we leave the cafe. What a dork.

October 23, 1976 – A quarrel with Merel about nothing. She says it’s a mess, that I leave my stuff laying around in the house. My camera, my shoes, my papers, everything is too much. I get irritated and tell her that she should not complain about trivial things. That was not good. She is furious and throws stuff in my direction. I hide behind the couch. Then, talk, talk, talk. She apologizes, I embrace her and kiss her. We make it up. Later we laugh about it.

January 4, 1977 – All is well. I could cry just out of happiness, Merel, my life, the world, it is good and I can only hope for more, for longer.