Our Village and the Sea

Ons dorp en de zee (Our Village and The Sea) is the second in a new series of exhibitions by De Mix Nederland. It is the result of an initiative by Stichting Beeldmix in partnership with NS, ProRail and the Zeeuws Museum. In each new show by De Mix, historical photo collections are used as a source of inspiration by contemporary Dutch photographers. The exciting, stimulating and sometimes touching combinations produce an unexpected voyage of discovery in the Netherlands of today and yesterday.

INITIATES

When I was young I sometimes heard people say: ‘Look, there goes so and so! They’re surely in the know! The person in question would be someone initiated in the great secret of God. Annegien van Doorn’s water photos remind me of this. She seems to be in the know as well: she knows that there is a secret and that there are initiates.

When water is brought to our notice, it’s often because there is a problem: either not enough or too much of it. Walcheren knows a thing or two about arid fields, but its ultimate sensitive spot is the devastating flood that took place during the Second World War. When people say this or that is from before ‘The Water’, they mean the inundation.

Photographer Neeltje Flipse-Roelse was from Westkapelle. She was born long before ‘The Water’ came and died long after the area had been drained of it and all of the houses rebuilt. For her fifteenth birthday, her parents gave her a camera, which she used to record all of these impressive events for posterity. She must have lived with the horror of them always.

But Flipse-Roelse didn’t only photograph disasters and milestones. Many of her photos reflect the fact that her beach is also a place of relaxation. She lived with the sea and photographed it even when the only reason to do so was the weather, something in the air, or an irrepressible desire to explore the horizon or to look at the mussels on the stones of the dike. It was this gaze in particular that inspired artist Annegien Van Doorn, also originally from Zeeland, to pick up her camera at the exact same places as Flipse-Roelse.

People who live with the sea know both its strength and its beauty. The crashing of the waves, the water splashing up against the breakwaters, the wild white crests, the white foam traces they leave behind, the trash and the treasures left on the flood line, wet stones, dry stones, the screeching gulls above. They know both the relief and the slight disappointment that occurs when the water has stayed behind the dike during storms and spring tides.

And also: sand that sticks to your skin, eyes red from the salty water, neck hairs trembling in the sea breeze, small shells and carapaces under the soles of your feet, the sun slowly slipping away at the far end of the silvery water and the hope of seeing a hint of the round shape of the planet.

Both Flipse-Roelse and Van Doorn managed to capturing some of this, some of the secrets of the water and of the people who are surely in the know.

Franca Treur