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 was born in Leimuiden in the Netherlands in 1955. He has published numerous books of his own photographs and of archival images. His work is included in major international collections and he has had solo exhibitions in venues such as the National Museum for Photography, Film and Television in the UK, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Centro Portugues de Fotografia, Porto, National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto. He is a contributing editor of Useful Photography.