Eye of the world

 Eye of the worldDUTCH IMMIGRANTS LIVING IN THE US CELEBRATE THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE How much does your culture matter to you? More or less so when you live in a country other than that of your birth? Rene Cleirent, a photographer from the Netherlands, moved to New York in 1997 after falling in love with the city during a photography workshop he attended. Seven years later he passed through Orange County, Iowa to shoot a project and came across a town that made him do a double take. Peppered with windmills, houses inspired by Dutch architecture and fields and gardens of tulips, the small communities there had modelled their lifestyles and homes on their heritage. The residents had originally come from the Netherlands in 1870 to try and make a living out of farming and agriculture - pigs and corn - and 50 years on, feared they were losing ttieir culture. Clement says that seeing the 6 000 - strong, largely white and conservative community, of which there are similar ores in Pella, Iowa and Holland in Miciigan, made him think more about his identity as an immigrant and ponder the ties that bind - how cultural influences shape individual identity. As an expression of these questions, Clement started making a series of in - studio portraits that pay tribute to Dutch master painters like his personal favourite, Johannes Vermeer.  I like his style of portraiture, especially the soft and warm lighting,  he says of Vermeer s style. Clement then felt inspired to shoot staged landscapes that would create an alternate reality. To achieve this, he placed his subjects (still in costume, which they wear only during the festival) in the midst of modern American life. He used elements like food, cellphones, sunglasses and references to Hollywood movies and music - Titanic, The Lone Ranger - to introduce a fictitious tension. For seven years, Clement has returned regularly to Orange County to shoot and has made good friends there.  I have always stayed with the same amazing, welcoming family in Orange City, Doug and Lisa Burg,  he says,  By now it feels as if they have adopted me, and I am just one more member of their large family. Clement, who misses his own family and friends, some speciality foods, as wet as the slower pace of the Netherlands, says,  I still feel more Dutch. I don t think I will ever become an American, perhaps [instead] a citizen of the world.


Do you remember your first? Your first kiss, that is? Most of us are more likely to have vivid memories about our first lip - lock than accurate recollections of losing our virginity, says US writer Sheril Kirshenbaum in ner book, The Science of Kissing, published last year. Bringing the subject more powerfully to life than words are the photographs that Londoner Andy Barter has shot of a series of 10 hot - lipped couples. His project Kiss is a collection of photographs that are shot from above. He says he has been working from that perspective for about 12 years and that Kiss is a further exploration of the angle s possibilities. Nine of the couples were in a real relationship (with one of the parties having been hired through an acting or modelling agency) and only one couple was not. Barter started by placing each couple in a kissirg position and he would then move them little by little into the exact embrace that he wanted - to create a single organic shape from the two people in the shot. He explains,  I wanted a locking together of two human forms: from two forms they make one. I was hoping for a swirl, something organic. It signifies the strength of being a couple and the "togetherness   that is a couple, a metaphorical   oneness  . Barter, who admits to being a terrible romantic, didn t want the portraits to be romantic or erotic:  I wanted something a little detached, more voyeuristic.  He was motivated by the idea of relationsiips starting with the act of kissing.  I m struck by how life ultimately is born from the act of kissing,  he adds. Yet kissing is a relatively recent global practice. Over a century ago, there were still cultures for which the phenomenon was unfamiliar. These days, there are few no - kissing zones, even though no-one knows exactly why we kiss - except that it makes us feel good. Barter s favourite part about kissing? He reveals, It s the prelude, intimacy, closeness, smell, touch... where do you want me to stop?

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