© Servaas Van Belle

« Back to Winners

Servaas Van Belle

Knokke-Heist, Belgium

Artist Statement

For this unique book, photographer Servaas Van Belle scouted every corner of Belgium to find just the right kind of shed, always photographing them in the same perfect lighting conditions. And for Van Belle ‘perfect’ means in a haze of fog. Livestock shelters in meadows and fields are so common in the Belgian landscape and culture that nobody ever pays them any attention. Nonetheless, the countryside offers quite a range of architectural gems. These sheds and barns are the product of man and nature, quietly radiating a poignant if decaying beauty. They come in many shapes and sizes, are constructed from motley materials (often recycled) and exhibit a varied colour palette. Clearly showing the ravages of time, they tell wordless stories.

"A photograph of a weather-beaten shed is an allegory for our lives: we all muddle on, we try our best, we keep our wits about us, we field some blows along the way, we carry the scars, and we all die on the horizontal in the end. Humans harbour a deep longing for shelter, warmth and security. That’s what makes these wondrous little structures so human. They shine with lack, miscalculations, flaws and shabbiness."


It took me a while to notice it.
More than a shelter for animals I did not see.
Further than the word stable I did not look.
Overcoming banality takes time.

Fascinating colors and the most diverse structures, built from a mishmash of materials such as corrugated iron, wood scraps, garage doors, tree trunks, bricks or concrete slabs with cracks, tears, dents and bumps. Unpretentious but functional. Sometimes held up like a patchwork using moss, ivy, iron wires and rusty nails. Slowly they seem to be crumpled or stand as if rheumatism-stricken bent in the plain, panting after years of service. A whiff of wind as a shot of grace may suffice to molest these fragile compositions. Cubes, prisms, beams, pyramids and cylinders that manage to keep each other in balance just as wonderfully wait patiently.
A game of lines and planes. An accumulation of primitive forms.
Autonomous sculptures that became my prey.
I hunted for the skin of shed caterpillars and unstable skeletons, passed twisted bodies and slender structures whose layers look like tree rings. Along the side of the road I found an iconic car wreck, centenarians and execution posts. Half-digested buildings and wilted trailers alternated. Deep in the fields appeared gallows and secret ceremonial sites of some sect or poles wriggling out of the ground like a nest of worms.
Here and there only a suggestive imprint as a silent witness. A witness to what was once someone's hiding place.
For those who want to see it, it is movingly beautiful.

Out of the fog my prey slowly looms. Nothing else.
A tête-à-tête in an arena of barbed wire.

Servaas Van Belle

Published by Hannibal Books
Size 24 x 32 cm / 192 pages

© Servaas Van Belle

Servaas Van Belle's Portfolio

© Servaas Van Belle

Artist Biography

The Belgian photographer Servaas Van Belle (°1978) grew up in Knokke-Heist and studied 3D multimedia at the KASK in Ghent. At that time photography only played a supporting role, but what was already noticeable was the absence of people in his work. During his student years he went as an Erasmus student to Athens to follow a course in sculpture. Afterwards he completed a academic teacher training course.

Soon he left for Senegal in West Africa. What was meant to be a trip of a few months turned into a stay of several years. Among other things, he developed a primary school there.

After seven years in Dakar, he returned to Belgium in 2009, where he began to photograph more intensively and specialized in interior photography. Gradually his work took on a recognizable character. Van Belle has a great interest in architecture and constructions that at first sight seem banal such as utility buildings, billboards, hunting and observation towers. Transience and the influence of time are key concepts here.

His photo series have already been published in Belgium and The Netherlands.

De Standaard, De Tijd, de Volkskrant NRC,...

For several years now, Servaas has been assistant to multiple Worldpress winner Stephan Vanfleteren.



© Servaas Van Belle

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network