Johnny de Mol initiates Movement on the Ground
Here's a guy who's really committed. His tattoo shows a piece of wisdom of fundamental importance. If everyone would say this to his neighbour, there would be no wars.
The name Johnny de Mol is well known in The Netherlands for various reasons. This kind and gentle man finishes a call on his cell phone. After arriving at our studios on the former air force base Valkenburg he exits his car with his English Bull dog Hop following in his footsteps. Johnny is all attention and cheer-hearted, just like he is in his television programmes. This guy is real and authentic.
Johnny agreed to pose for me for my collection of portraits on Contour, my agency. The session lasted no longer than 45 minutes. It was a light and happy experience. While photographing my eye caught a tattoo on his right arm. I asked him about it. Johnny told me his story that started on the Greek island of Lesvos.
After seeing the heartbreaking photograph of Aylan stranded at the Turkish beach, Johnny and his friend Adil decided to change their holiday to the party island Ibiza into a trip to Lesvos. Upon arrival he was instantly struck by what he witnessed at the height of the refugee crisis. This trip planted the seed for what became Movement On The Ground. The foundation responds to humanitarian crises, affecting people forced from their homes by climate change, poverty and war.
Back to the tattoo. Johnny helped a young man exit a boat onto a Lesvos beach. Shadi fled Syria and was able to take along his tattoo gear. Tattoos had already been forbidden at that time in his home country. Shadi is real hardrock. Johnny wanted to have his tattoo set by Shadi, but due to poor hygiene at the camp he postponed this decision.
Shadi’s travels through Europe ultimately brought him to The Netherlands and he reunited with Johnny,who connected him with Dutch tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher. It is in Schiffmacher’s workshop where Shadi loosely applied the tattoo now decorating Johnny’s right arm. It says in Arabic: ‘Hello, be welcome’. Johnny says that this text is very important and meaningful for refugees arriving and setting foot on European shores.
My colleague Marjon and I have fond memories of Johnny’s visit. Such a kind and inspiring guy.