Jesse Rasmijn: Photography opened his eyes to the beautiful and fragile nature of Aruba

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From a young man brought up fishing as a hobby, today Jesse Rasmijn is an extraordinary environmentalist who wants to inspire more people to discover the beauty in nature. And now he’s going even further, he wants to combine his love of nature with activism to make sure that our island’s coasts remain clean.

Jesse Rasmijn is a graphic designer, who about two years ago was practically addicted to fishing. Not necessarily the act of fishing itself, but the atmosphere of sitting on a boat for long hours, without having to exchange words and simply appreciating the silence and the sound of the ocean’s waves hitting the boat.

“It was almost an addiction; I would stay hours on the sea. You could say I was a beach bum, because I would even leave my work aside sometimes to go on the ocean.” He decided to take up photography as a hobby in order to find more options and break his addiction to the sea a bit. His life changed and in the process, he changed the lives of many others.

Eric and San Nicolas

Jesse took up his camera as a new photographer and started taking pictures of his beloved town, San Nicolas. It was a photo of San Nicolas which he posted on Facebook which caught attention and the heart of many people. The photo was of the sunrays coming up behind the Santa Theresita church, and it was so that the phenomenon of Jesse, fabulous landscape photographer, was born. From photographs of St. Christoffelberg in Curaçao, of Ser’I Cabay in the Arikok National Park of Aruba, to starting with commercial photography, Rasmijn became an inspiration to many.

But perhaps he can be an inspiration to many because he learned to know himself thanks to a person who is still influencing his life’s philosophy. Jesse grew up with Eric Nassy, who was his mother’s partner. Nassy was someone dedicated to fighting drug addiction in Aruba, and he was also a person who believed in the potential of San Nicolas, where he grew up and where he died. The death of Eric Nassy in 2020 had an impact on the community of Aruba, but it was the education he gave to Jesse that is keeping his philosophy alive.

“Before Eric left us, he taught me that ‘knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom’.” And it was for this reason that with every photograph that Eric shares, he adds a philosophic text with it, a thought expressed in words in order to give more meaning to his photography. “I sit down together with my mother and we come up with these phrases. This is how we try to continue what Eric left behind. He taught me a lot.”

Expansion into mondi

For each photograph of San Nicolas that Jesse posts, there is a huge amount that he took but did not share. This is typical of every photographer that wants to document life. And at a given point, he realized he wants to photograph more of his surroundings. At that moment he went into the ‘mondi’ – Aruba’s wilderness – and so Jesse became someone who explores Aruba’s rugged nature, heavy, but extremely exciting.

A mondi that for many might not look like much, but which contains enormous riches if one decides to confront the hubada, the tuna and the bringamosa. “As a child I didn’t know the mondi. We didn’t grow up to appreciate the mondi. And I want to bring a change to that.”

Once Jesse discovered the mondi, he found himself in another world. A world where the plants, insects, rattlesnakes, but particularly the whole landscape began to speak to him, and he replied through his photographs. And so he began taking people along his discover of the Aruba he knew the most, during the pandemic in particular, but one which many more people have yet to learn to appreciate.

Recently Jesse, together with his friend Shanon Croes – who also guides groups into Aruba’s nature – decided to go to Costa Rica, the Mecca for people who want ‘pura vida’. Costa Rica is famous for their drive to protect their nature, and Jesse and Shanon’s experience illustrated that there is much to do in Aruba. Costa Rica is big and green, and Aruba is small and dry desert. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hidden corners and that there aren’t spectacular natural areas deserving of admiration, and more importantly, protection.

Not my trash, but Aruba is my island
Rasmijn organizes cleaning activities of different areas of Aruba, where he combines hiking while also cleaning the route. Even though most of the trash that the sea brings to the beach comes from South America through ocean currents, “it’s not our trash, but Aruba is our island”, which is his focus to preservation of our country. And as a person who is now getting paid for his photography, on the most beautiful corners of Aruba, he believes that others who make their money thanks to Aruba’s nature – like tour operators – need to learn to know, appreciate and protect the island better, and teach our visitors that they also play a role in protecting Aruba’s environment and ecology. This way, everyone can contribute so that our country continues being the beautiful island that everyone says they love.

The young man who meditated on a boat at sea really never changed. It’s only that his thoughts are now expressed in his photographs, his captions and his passion to inspire others to know, respect, love and protect the nature of Aruba. And like his father Eric taught him, “I hope to continue pushing Aruba and San Nicolas, like he did. And for me to be the man that Eric Nassy wanted me to be.”

Aruba Today also had a chat with Jesse’s friend, Shanon Croes. You can read that interview by visiting the link or simply scan the QR Code.