Dordt College News

Dutch culture on display in photography exhibit at Dordt College

April 28, 2011

After visiting Sioux County ten times over the past five years to capture photographs for his book on Dutch culture, New York City-based photojournalist René Clement returns in May for an exhibit and book signing of his recently-published Promising Land. The Dordt College Department of Art and Design will host an exhibit of 38 of Clement’s photographs from May through July, with a reception and book signing on May 18. In addition, Clement will be on hand in during the Tulip Festival, May 19 to 21, for book signings at Holland House Interiors on main street Orange City.

Locally, Sioux County has long been known for its Dutch heritage. But when Clement “stumbled upon” Orange City he was fascinated with the discovery of a place where community members openly celebrate and display that heritage. As a Dutch immigrant himself, he found the town and its history intriguing.

“I had unexpectedly found myself in a small town peppered with windmills, houses with Dutch stair-step gable fronts, and an abundance of tulips,” said Clement of his first trip through the town. “And since it was a Sunday, there was not a living soul to be seen on the streets of this small community guided by an unshakable Dutch Reformed tradition. My curiosity was peaked.”

His curiosity pushed him to evaluate the importance of roots, cultural influences and how they shape individual identity, and what happens when people share a common cultural legacy. As he studied the community, he found the inspiration for his book, Promising Land, a series of portraits and landscapes featuring people in traditional Dutch attire against a modern day America backdrop.

“Because I wanted to honor my subjects’ desire to connect with their Dutch ancestry, I emphasized traits many of them held in common – blond hair and blue eyes, similar facial structure, and a timeless confidence reflected in their collective gaze,” said Clement.

The Dordt College department of art and design was awarded $3,700 from the Consulate General of the Netherlands for partial funding of an exhibition and publication of Promising Land.

The exhibit featuring Clement’s work will be on display at Dordt College from May to July 2011. A reception and book signing will be held on Wednesday, May 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. The exhibit and reception is free and open to the public. The Campus Center Art Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Clement will hold book signings each day of the Orange City Tulip Festival, May 19-21, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Holland House Interiors on Central Avenue in Orange City. The book is also sold through the web site

René Clement is an award-winning photographer. He has been based in New York City since 1998. He works for newspapers and magazines, and is a member of the Hollandse Hoogte agency in Amsterdam. He spends much of his time working on long-term projects. His work has been selected for Time Magazine Picture of the Year (2003) and the Dutch Zilveren Camera competition.

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