In the Netherlands some 35,000 people live in caravans or mobile homes, spread over more than 1,100 sites. Local authorities have been responsible for their pitches since 1999, but it is not a responsibility they relish. Indeed, many local authorities would much rather these pitches did not exist. Ever since she cycled past it as a little girl, documentary photographer Suzanne Valkenburg wondered what life was like in a mobile home park. What she found was a warm family culture that has been oppressed for many years now.

As Free As A Bird is an ostensibly casual portrait of an invisible, closed community. A world in itself, containing free spirits not constrained by employment agreements or civic duties, with their own unwritten rules, their own professions, their own taste and culture. The series shows not so much the poverty and precarity of the self-styled travellers’ existence, but rather their resilience as they try to make the most of life.

Valkenburg offers a subtle presentation of humanity and pride yet raises questions too. What is community spirit? What does freedom actually mean? And is true independence even possible, or just an illusion?

Artist Bios

  • Suzanne Valkenburg

    Suzanne Valkenburg (Netherlands, 1981) graduated in photography (MFA) at St. Joost School of Arts in Breda (NL) and is a documentary photographer.

    From her background as a visual artist, she makes unremarkable worlds visible with her long-term projects and photo series. No flat, overly stylized images, but striking, pure images. Both autonomously and on commission, she shares her images with people who are looking for real and pure images. Her photo series As free as a bird is also captured in a self-published book and exposed at several exhibitions.


  • Photoville


    Founded in 2011 in Brooklyn, NY, Photoville was built on the principles of addressing cultural equity and inclusion, which we are always striving for, by ensuring that the artists we exhibit are diverse in gender, class, and race.

    In pursuit of its mission, Photoville produces an annual, city-wide open air photography festival in New York City, a wide range of free educational community initiatives, and a nationwide program of public art exhibitions.

    By activating public spaces, amplifying visual storytellers, and creating unique and highly innovative exhibition and programming environments, we join the cause of nurturing a new lens of representation.

    Through creative partnerships with festivals, city agencies, and other nonprofit organizations, Photoville offers visual storytellers, educators, and students financial support, mentorship, and promotional & production resources, on a range of exhibition opportunities.

    For more information about Photoville visit,

As Free As A Bird

 archive : 2023

Featuring: Suzanne Valkenburg

Presented by: Photoville with additional support from the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York
  • Photoville

Supported by:

  • Dutch Culture USA


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