‘Het moet anders’ (time to change) is a sentence photographer Hans van der Meer has heard more than once during his visits to farmers throughout the Netherlands. With his latest book and exhibition Van der Meer shows us the remarkable world of dairy farming. Time to Change offers a fascinating insight into the lives of cows and the changing countryside, while at the same time questioning the industry’s current state and future.
Over the past few decades, the gap between the consumer and the world of the cow has been growing and growing. Hans van der Meer lives in the centre of Amsterdam, but when his farmer friend Jaap Hemke goes on holiday, Hans looks after the farm. He has been doing this for nearly twenty years, stimulating a deep interest and a particular insight into dairy farming. Through photography, film and writing Van der Meer examines the world around him. In Time to Change he is looking at and thinking about cows and consequently dairy farming, animal welfare, hi-tech food production and its impact on the environment. Van der Meer’s pictures are the trigger for a series of observations highlighting the complexity of modern farming. In addition, he asked farmers and innovators the question how to continue and in which direction. In many of the photos the cow looks puzzled. Or is it that she’s questioning us? How will we be shaping the future in food production? And what will the role of the animals be in it?
A few years ago, the Netherlands Fotomuseum invited Hans van der Meer to create a photo series inspired by Cas Oorthuys’ book Rundvee (1948) in their collection. This triggered the project Time to Change. In 2016, a preview of the project was shown at the Fries Museum, accompanied by a series of columns in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. The exhibition and newspaper series both included texts and photographs by Van der Meer, addressing issues like permaculture, health issues and milk production.
The exhibition was on show from 30 June – 28 October 2018 at Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar. The book is available in specialised book shops and in the YdocStore webshop (language: Dutch and English, price: €34.50)
In addition to photographs and texts, Van der Meer made a series of short films. The video below shows the process of hoof and claw cutting with a special machine, a necessary task to keep the cow’s hoofs healthy. It was done by hand for a long time, technological progress increased productivity.
From 30 June – 28 October 2018 Hans van der Meer’s work was on show at the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar in the exhibition ‘De koe, het grazen voorbij’, designed by Kummer & Herrman.
A preview of the project, the exhibition ‘De Koe’ (‘The Cow’), was on show at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden in the spring of 2016. In the framework of the project De Mix, the Nederlands Fotomuseum and Rafaël Philippen invited Hans van der Meer to make a photoseries inspired by the 1948 book on cattle by photographer Cas Oorthuys. The project was supported by the Mondriaan Fund.
Van der Meers photographic research includes not only cows and meadows, but also discussions about milk quota, phosphate ceiling and intensive cattle farming. A process that started in the late forties, early fifties, when Oorthuys made his photographs.
Time to Change
Designed by Kummer & Herrman, the book includes 54 photographs by Hans van der Meer, accompanied by 27 columns linking the present to the past and future of dairy farming. The book also includes 10 videos by Van der Meer, which readers can access on their phone by scanning the QR codes.
Language: Dutch and English, price: € 34,50Buy
In 2016, in conjunction with his exhibition at the Fries Museum, Hans van der Meer wrote a fortnightly series in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. Through text and images, Van der Meer tells the story of the changing world of the cow.
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