Presented by United Photo Industries
Supported by The Netherlands Consulate General in New York
Printed by LuxLAB
Featuring Ellen Kok
“Try, Try, Never Die, HOOAH!”
Many students of Fall Mountain Regional High School in Langdon, New Hampshire, begin class with that yell every day, sometimes delivering it in military uniform. They are cadets in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, JROTC, a US Army-sponsored program.
By teaching them military values Americans admire – service, honor, skill and leadership – JROTC tries to improve the students’ self-esteem and give them a better grip on life. The class offers camaraderie and the structure, direction, and security that are often missing at home. But many students are also from families with a military tradition, and some intend to join the Armed Forces.
Curious about the place of the military in American culture, for over two years Dutch photographer and writer Ellen Kok followed the cadets, their parents – several of whom are retired or active duty soldiers – and their two teachers – veterans who saw action in Lebanon, Iraq and Somalia.
What do marching in formation, doing push-ups, shining uniform buttons, firing air rifles and addressing each other with “Sergeant” or “Captain” do for young people? Does it help them to cope with the challenges life throws at them, at home and in school?
Ellen Kok is a Dutch photographer and writer who combines photo essays with written stories. She firmly believes storytelling is an important art that can open eyes and connect people. Her photography is based on trust and intimacy.
Ellen is currently based in Drewsville, New Hampshire, where she recently completed her books “Cadets” (2013) and “The Other Farm” (2015). “Cadets” – photos from which are shown at Photoville – is the result of over two years shadowing the JROTC unit of Fall Mountain Regional High School in Langdon, New Hampshire. For “The Other Farm,” Ellen followed life at two family farms, one in the Netherlands and one in Vermont, for eleven years. She produced and published both books herself, under her imprint “Netherlight.”
Ellen studied at the School for Journalism in Utrecht, the Netherlands, before working as a photography critic for several Dutch newspapers and photography magazines and as a freelance photographer. For ten years she specialized in agricultural photography.
Now she works mainly on in-depth documentary projects revolving around the lives of young people. They are among the most vulnerable members of our society, she believes, and how we treat them says a great deal about our culture.