In the Flat Field

8 – 22 August 2017


The Netherlands and Belgium are jointly referred to as the Low Countries, the low lying delta of the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt rivers, that all flow into the North Sea. The two countries have a lot in common – language, arts and culture, food, the flat landscape – and in fact historically were one nation for several periods of time, before eventually the Belgians separated from The Netherlands in 1830.

There are, however, also significant differences between the two states. In the southern part of the Low Countries Catholicism is the main religion, but the northern part is predominantly Protestant, which – at least partly – explains the different national characters of both countries. Or is it the other way around? However, in the Calvinistic north, people generally are strict, surly and thrifty, whereas the southern inhabitants show more joie de vivre and tend to take life a bit less seriously.

This schism is also reflected in the landscape and the way that is arranged. Long straight roads, short mowed lawns and rows of identical terrace houses in the north. Orderly and neat. Well maintained. Densely populated as The Netherlands are, there are only few abandoned and derelict buildings. Land is precious, and will be re-used soon after the previous user ends its activities. Old and obsolete infrastructure is demolished and immediately replaced by new facilities. For economic reasons but also because the Dutch like their environment to be orderly.

In the south we find messy terrains, overgrown plots of land, haphazardly located houses that sometimes look like follies. The Belgians are more individualistic, and therefore want to build their house according to their own taste and wishes, not restricted by rules and regulations. They don’t mind if a piece of land remains unused and is overgrown by weeds. Or when an abandoned factory slowly falls into pieces. They don’t care that their living environment is a bit untidy, as long as they can drink a beer and eat their chips or shrimp croquettes. Live and let live, and mind your own business.

In the eyes of the Belgians (and no doubt many others), the landscape in The Netherlands is flat, clean and boring. To the Dutch (and probably other North Europeans as well), Belgium seems a messy country, with ugly buildings and dirty industries.

It is the beauty of this boringness and ugliness that I want to depict in the series In the Flat Field, which derives its name from the song and album by the English post-punk band Bauhaus. “I do get bored, I get bored, in the flat field” the lyrics go. I’m bored and fascinated at the same time by the landscapes of the Low Countries.



Reinier Treur (b. 1961) is a photographer and editor based in the north of The Netherlands. He holds a master degree in Dutch literature and had a career in pr & communications, before he switched to fine art landscape and documentary photography. As a photographer he is mainly self taught. He uses medium format (and sometimes 35mm) analog cameras and color negative film.

He is interested in the relation between mankind and the altered or changing landscape, with a particular curiosity for traces in the landscape that unveil human interventions from the past. He likes empty, dilapidated, gloomy and messy locations as much as excessively orderly and overly neat places.

His work shows the beauty of what most people regard as boring and ugly landscapes.




Share on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone