The Netherlands – Photo Tip

Contrast old and new in your photos

"The Potato Eaters" is given a modern interpretation in Nuenen, with a meal of French fries. The cross in the original painting now stands in the village's VinCentre and the home of the De Groot family depicted in it can also be seen nearby.

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

The Netherlands – Photo Tip

Contrast old and new in your photos

The original Potato Eaters was painted in Nuenen. What I really like about the painting is that, while it is quite naive in a way, it is painted with so much passion and power.

Jurjen Drenth
Jurjen Drenth Travel Photographer

You can see that those people not only grow potatoes and eat them but they are also from the soil. My plan was to find a present-day farming family in Nuenen – a village in the south of The Netherlands – still living that way. I went to all the little farms but no-one wanted to be pictured like that. I imagine that when children from Nuenen went to the nearest big town for school they were probably called "Potato Eaters". In The Netherlands, it was a symbol of being poor.

After two days, I found this family and knew at once it was the one I was looking for. It was as if they had been reincarnated. The mother offered to cook the french fries if I paid and, when I came back, all I had to do was take the photo. When you look at the local faces, you still see the same features as those Van Gogh captured in his day. That is really true of the mom and dad in the photo.

I later did a more modern version at the Cafetaria Van Gogh in Nuenen. Of course, it did not exist in his day and has no connection with him, except the name. And the potatoes.

The Van Gogh Café in Neunen serves potatoes, in this case French fries, to residents of the...

The Van Gogh Café in Neunen serves potatoes, in this case French fries, to residents of the village where he painted "The Potato Eaters" in 1885. He made several versions of the painting but the best known is now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Jurjen Drenth

Jurjen Drenth

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

Aperture
ƒ/4.5
Exposure
1/20
ISO
1600
Focal
16 mm

The Van Gogh Café in Neunen serves potatoes, in this case French fries, to residents of the village where he painted "The Potato Eaters" in 1885. He made several versions of the painting but the best known is now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.