Photographing Dutch Vignettes in Iowa


Photo by Rene Clement

Rene Clement is a Dutch documentary photographer living in New York City. In 2004, on an assignment in Iowa, he happened upon Orange City, a town founded by Dutch immigrants in 1870, and was overwhelmed by its pastoral beauty and landscapes dotted with windmills and tulips. He thought it was “more Dutch than Holland.” He took photos of the locals dressed up in traditional costume for their annual Tulip Festival, and then proceeded to  travel there again and again, imploring the townspeople to pose in somewhat fanciful situations, which they did. The result is a series of photos of what, he says, the town would “look like if its inhabitants, like the Amish, had clung fiercely to the past.”

Clement has started a Kickstarter campaign to help him raise $9,900 to publish his book chronicling the project, called “Promising Land.” As of this morning, he has $3,732.

We asked him to give us his favorite photo from the project, and this is what he said: “It is hard to choose one picture, but Dutch St. Nick, known as Sinterklaas, in the snow is one of my favorites. In Holland, St. Nick is the children’s friend who comes on horseback every 5th of December and brings presents and sweets. For the picture I wanted him more like a lonesome rider like in westerns or the song from the Doors, “Riders on the Storm.” I borrowed the cloth from the Dutch Consulate in New York. We shot this picture outside Orange City, close to a farm, it was below zero and the wind was hard. I photograph with on old Pentax 67 and it would freeze to my hands. We were with a lot of people, people from the farm, and the rider came out with his family. Everybody was excited and patient. I shot several scenes, but at the end of the day, when the sun set and the cold was the most brutal, I shot St. Nick alone against the setting sun. I love the light and the shadows, how the wind goes through his hair and the solitude of the ice field.”

Source: Des Moines Register

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