Living in The Italian Alps

Martijn Doolaard is a photographer, filmmaker and travel writer from the Netherlands. In October 2021 he began working on restoring two primitive stone shepherd’s cabins in the western Italian Alps. I first discovered his work in a composition video, excerpts taken from the past year of weekly videos, giving a retrospective on the first year of his renovations.

The video was unlike anything I had seen before. There is the obvious part that the scene is the Alps, an unusual thing in itself. But I clicked on the video expecting a “How-I-Did-It” break-down, and instead found myself watching something that was crafted like a cinematographic work of art, carefully edited, thoughtfully constructed, and paired with a very pleasing musical score.

I found myself both captivated and bemused. On a technical level the video showcased (among other things) what can be done with a drone. The pan and travel shots are absolutely breath-taking as they capture the stone cabins in their Alpine setting. I was deeply appreciative of the environment and how it was showcased. On the other hand, I was bemused by the clear (but quiet) playing to certain tropes. There is a deliberate and careful presentation of his life, and the unfolding events, in a certain light. He presents himself, and the project, as fantasy fulfillment–if your fantasy is living a quiet life up in the mountains. I enjoy it, but at the same time the crafting is so obvious it is almost a little distracting. Real life is more dirty, and I know it.

But what keeps bringing me back is the scenic shots of the Alps. Every time I see them, I am reminded that I am a mountain man. Watching the mountains makes me feel peaceful, free, thoughtful. That is where I would want to live.

From the perspective of evaluating the videos, they are not very practical. I am more accustomed to watching “How-I-Did-It” vidoes which are condensed to efficiently capture the bare process of doing something. By contrast, Martijn Doolaard releases a video a week, each capturing the essence of that week. The word to describe the videos would be languid and pastoral. Things happen, parts of the project are completed, but it happens over a large stretch of time. You don’t watch any individual video to have a packaged completion of a project, but a slice of life. So in any individual video (which can run well over half an hour) you see a little bit of work completed, but a lot of life and scenic shots. It is the complete antithesis of watching something on double speed so you can get the information out faster from the bunny-talking hosts. They are videos watched not so much to learn something (though you can learn a bit) but rather to put up your feet and unwind at the end of the day, and immerse yourself in imagining a life up on the Alps.

His channel:

One Year Retrospective:

Profile of Martijn in Outside magazine: