Deep Dive

Dutch front yards – what you see is what you get!

Willem de Kam and Joost Leek are documenting the Dutch way of life by photographing often excessively decorated front yards.

Willem, please tell me a bit about yourself and your photography

My name is Willem de Kam. I used to just say ‘I shoot people’. But that doesn’t really cover it anymore. I’m fascinated by human behavior and photography is my way of ‘researching’ that and trying to get a grip on it. My commercial work is for various clients in media and cultural sector. Kabouters & Adelaars (Gnomes and Eagles) is one of the self initiated projects I do.

How did the idea with photographing Dutch front yards come about?

I showcased my portfolio once at a creative agency in Amsterdam. An art director who worked there had running around with the idea for a while, and saw some similarities in the kind of work i make. He asked me to work together on the project. And so we’ve teamed up, and have been hunting gardens for a few year now. We really like to see how people communicate via their front yard. It’s a lot of fun, and sometimes a little sad even, to see how people decorate those few square meters.

Many people say that Street Photography necessarily has to involve people. Whats your opinion on that?

The best thing about street photography is that it doesn’t have any limitations. No clients demanding things. So if you don’t want people in your pictures that’s fine too. For me it’s always a surprise. You never know what you’re going to see or photograph. It’ll always turn out different than you imagined,

What is your approach to find those special front yards? Do you search for them or do you capture them more along the way?

We get tips from people but we also look for them ourselfs. Wherever I go I’m constantly on the lookout for front yards. My girlfriend did a lot of google searches on ‘Front yard’ in combination with various strange things like dinosaurs, disney, statues. We then doublecheck on Google Street View how it looks, and make a roap map to make a big tour and visit as many gardens at once. Sometimes you just have to be lucky, and sometimes you just know you’ve hit the jackpot.

Compared to other European countries, the Dutch really like to present their taste and way of living to the public. Do you have an explanation for that?

Dutch public space and architecture is really limited by governmental regulations. The front yard is maybe the only place for you to put your mark on your space. Also, I think Dutch people are a bit direct. We speak our minds and don’t keep up appearence. A ‘what you see is what you get’ mentality.

Photos © Willem de Kam

Are there any further plans concerning the Kabouters & Adelaars project?

Make a book!

How would your own frontyard look like?

I don’t have a front yard, but for christmas I did buy a gnome lamp. I had to represent the project in some way.

Where can we find out more about the project and your work?

Kabouters & Adelaars

Thanks Willem for your time and contribution to Urban Street Diving!