In the late summer of 2015 I met Kees in Kamerik, a small village in the Green Heart of Holland. Between the serene meadows an impressive, old Cadillac came rumbling towards me. A man in a cowboy hat, bright blue eyes and a big gray mustache that curled around his smile, stepped out. That was Kees. I had never seen a cowboy in Holland before and was fascinated by this tough, yet gentle man suddenly standing in front of me.
In the years that followed, I visited Kees more often. Not only to photograph him, but also because he became a special friend to me. Kees brought me back to the simplicity of life and taught me all about the nature and wildlife around him.
It was only after five years that I found out why Kees had ended up here. His reclusive lifestyle was not so much out of idealism, but more out of necessity. When at some point Kees had lost nearly everything dear to him in his life, he realized that the most basic and essential thing we have here on earth couldn’t be taken away from him; nature. Inspired by the old cowboy culture, he built up a new life in his little wooden cabin. Simple, free and with respect for all living creatures on earth. In the tranquility of nature Kees was able to breathe again.
He taught me that being a cowboy is not only about wearing a cool hat and leather boots, it’s about the lifestyle that it represents. Simple, pure and back to nature. We need cowboys like Kees to remind us of what life really is about. Kees has become my natural self-help book in our modern society and he might just become yours too.
The Cowboy Kees photobook.
Click on the book for more information.
Graduation show at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, August 2020.