"Hans van der Meer is a very good Dutch photographer. Dutch Fields is very impressive - it is a combination of sports photography and landscape photography. It shows a sort of small intimacy of amateur football - with humor. It is just a great book, very original!'
- Martin Parr, Magnum Photographer
"(One day), photographer Hans van der Meer... took his aluminium step ladder and set off on a three year journey to the heart of Dutchness to photograph amateur and village teams playing on some of the country's oldest football pitches ... The pictures he made are funny, moving, touchingly human and unmistakable Dutch. Middle aged players failing over in front of goal, mistiming tackles, getting injured and taking throw-ins under huge domed skies in immense flat landscapes dominated by the distant horizon!'
At the beginning of the 1995 football season, Hans van der Meer set out to take a series of football photographs that avoided the cliched traditions of modern sports photography. In an attempt to record the game in its original form - a field, two goals and 22 players - he sought matches at the bottom end of the amateur leagues, the opposite end of the scale to the Champions' League. And he avoided the enclosed environment of the stadium and tight telescopic details and hyperbole of action photography. Preferring neutral lighting, framing and camera angles, he chose instead to pull back from the central subject of the pitch, locating the playing field and its unfolding action within a specific landscape and context. In 1988 he had curated a book, Interland, containing archival images of the Dutch national team between 1911 and 1955. He was heavily influenced by the old tradition of photography in which a wide view of the action often resulted in elements of the locality being present in the image. With the addition of graphic lines, these images were then used in newspapers to illustrate the movement of the ball to the goal. Van der Meer has applied his democratic viewpoint across the playing fields of Europe over the past decade, having travelled to every country with a significant history of the game. He began by focusing on sites within the Netherlands and in 1998 he published "Dutch Fields", followed by a DVD, "Flemish Fields", in 2000. His European odyssey has since taken him from small towns in the remote regions of Europe - from Bihariain in Romania to Bjorko in Sweden, from Torp in Norway to Alcsoors in Hungary, from Bartkowo in Poland to Beire in Portugal - and to the fringes of the major conurbations of Greece, Finland, England, France, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland, Holland, Slovakia, Denmark, Ireland, Wales, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain and Italy. These acute and subtle observations of the poetry and absurdity of human behaviour connect the game of football to the basic futility of the human condition. The small tragicomedies are dwarfed by the serenity and permanence of the natural or man-made world that surrounds them but in their pathos can be found the original passion and humanity of the game.
Hans van der Meer (Leimuiden, 1955) between 1973-76 he studied at MTS voor Fotografie te Den Haag and between 1983-86 he studied photography at Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Between 1984 and 1986 he photographed streetscenes in Budapest. These pictures were published in the album Quirk of the Fate (Bert Bakker, 1987, 50 photographs, b&w). In 1987 the series won a price in the category Daily Life of World Press Photo. In 1989 Hans van der Meer worked for 3 week in the world-famous balletschool Agrippina Vaganova of St. Petersburg, on the assignment of the Holland Festival. Between 1991 and 1993 he photographed the workers from various factories in Holland. His pictures highlight that in a modern technological society the expression "labour" has lost a lot of its originally physical meaning. In 1993 over 80 b&w photographs of his were published in the album Werk. In 1994 he worked on a series panorama-photographs in b&w of Amsterdam traffic. The pictures were exhibited in 1995 during the Fotofestival Naarden. Later that year they were shown in the Amsterdam Local Archive. In July 2000 De Verbeelding published the series: Amsterdam Traffic, 32 b&w panoramas. On assignment of the Academisch Ziekenhuis Groningen, in 1996 he photographed the city of Groningen. The panoramas in colour formed part of the album Groningen van A tot Z (Paradox, 1997). In September 1995 he started taking photographs of low division amateur-soccer games. He went out looking for football in its original form, as it started more than a hundred years ago: a piece of land, 22 players, no spectators around the pitch, just a horse in the next meadow. The image is far away from the image we know from professional football. The first edition of the album Hollandse Velden (De Verbeelding, 1998, 58 photographs, colour) came out during the World Cup in France, 1998, and the photographs were exhibited during the World Cup, at the Institut Néerlandais in Paris. In December 1998 the Hollandse Velden exhibition was presented in the Nederlands Foto Insituut in Rotterdam. In September 1999 Hans van der Meer was invited by the Centro Portugues de Fotografia to take panorama photographs in Porto. His contemporary images of the city formed part of the exhibition Rondom Porto in the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, March-April 2000. In October 1999 the photographer did a project about bicycles in Beijing, China. His panoramas and his videofilms are presented in June 2000 in Amsterdam and in 2001 in Beijing.
Titel: Europese velden : landschap van het amateurvoetbal / Hans van der Meer [fotogr.] ; essay Simon Kuper ; [samenst. Hans van der Meer ... et al.]