The European Fields project (subtitled: The Landscape of Lower League Football) is a collection of photographs and film material that pays much more attention to the space in which the matches take place than the majority of contemporary sports photographers do.
Since the mid-1990s, frequently awarded Dutch photographer and film maker Hans van der Meer photographs lower league amateur football matches in The Netherlands. He was looking for football in its original form, as it had started more than hundred years ago (and is still played by many people): twenty-two men and a ball, hardly any spectators, perhaps a horse in the next meadow. The photographs of football matches on pitches at feet of mountains, factories or churches, in suburbs or at seasides provide not only a remarkable background for the beautiful game but give an image far, far away from the Champions League and show how much football is part of the European landscape and culture.
The work is as much about landscape as it is about culture at large. Amateur football turns out to be the perfect metaphor for life in general. With a mild irony, Van der Meer shows us the mismatch between human ambition and the effective result, between an individual’s ‘inside’ perception and a more objective, distanced view of our behaviour. The dry, almost conceptual photographs are combined with his more narrative video works on football players familiar behavior on the field (gesturing, pretending to be injured, coaching, celebrating) – a concept to which the public very easily relates.
Partly acting on commissions by parties such as photofestival Rencontres d’Arles, the Museo Fotografia Contemporanea in Milan and the Dutch football magazine JOHAN, and for the rest self-assigned, Hans van der Meer has been covering most of Europe between 1997 and 2005. The results were published in European Fields for which Simon Kuper (writer of Why England Lose) and wrote an accompanying text and the European Fields exhibition premiered in 2006 at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Art Museum (Rotterdam, The Netherlands).