Photographer Jan Koster’s beautifully stylized highways


Photographer Jan Koster: ‘The A44 is my favorite motorway. It is old, dates from the 1930s and has a high concrete edge that gives the viaduct a sculptural value.’Picture Suzanne Biederberg Gallery

Jan Koster’s new picture series BV Netherlands began with the view from his apartment of Dr. JM den Uyl bridge in Zaandam. After living in the Jordaan for years, he had moved to this industrial fringe of the Zaan region, where he was struck by the monumental beauty of bulk transshipment, distribution centers and associated transport. “Especially on viaducts you can clearly see the trucks. Then the wheels disappear behind the guardrail, and if you place the cabin behind a tree at the same time, they are like huge billboards in the landscape.”

Landscapes are what Koster became familiar with in the 1990s. They were impressive collages of analogue photos with cows, ditches and a single tree against a low horizon and a bunch of clouds with a Van Ruisdaelian allure. This was followed by coastal strips of hens and piers, where new pieces of the Netherlands littered. He calls the almost abstract images of freight traffic on viaducts, which he now shows at the Suzanne Biederberg Gallery, ‘production landscapes’. “Very Dutch. Everything here is subordinate to the economy.”

Fleet of logistics Netherlands

Koster is a real ‘series builder’ who sinks his teeth into a subject for a long time. For example, he immersed himself in the logistics fleet in the Netherlands. “Transport companies have the least visually interesting cars: usually just a logo, name and web address. The bigger the company, the more boring the trucks. But companies that make products or supermarkets use them to advertise. For example, Spar drives around with images of large soup plates and the Hema cars with their whistling kettle or smoked sausage are also very attractive. Grolsch shows the swing-top bottle, clearly photographed by the light behind it.”

Also, one highway is not the other. “After researching on Google Maps and reconnaissance trips, I knew that the motorways between Westland and Schiphol are the most interesting. The best fruit does not go to our own supermarkets, but is driven directly to the airport. The A44 is my favorite motorway though. It is old, dates from the thirties and has a high concrete edge that gives the viaduct a sculptural value.”

In order to register the roads on the viaducts properly, Koster has to take some distance. “But if you are too far away from it again, disturbing lampposts and traffic signs come into view. I am often contacted by farmers or retired truck drivers. But I won’t talk too long with them, because before you know it, I’ll be missing an interesting car. So I took ten good pictures, but I especially remember what I missed.”

Palms with limp banana

For example, he wanted to ‘capture’ the Greenery truck with two palm trees on the side with a hammock with a limp banana hanging in between. “But at some point it’s just done,” says the photographer, who is already thinking about subsequent projects.

“After the trucks, I will continue with the industrial property. But the traditional landscape also has my attention again. In the late 1950s, the Dutch landscape was renovated due to land consolidation, and the farmer slowly became an agricultural contractor.”

“Now that this development is reaching its limits, the landscape will be redesigned – also to absorb the consequences of climate change. For example, streams that were once straightened to drain farmland as quickly as possible are once again meandering. And the greenhouse horticulture revenue model, which is based on cheap labor and gas, has had its time. Things will definitely change in the West.

Jan Koster: BV Holland. Until January 21 at Suzanne Biederberg Gallery, Eerste Egelantiersdwarsstraat 1

Photographer Jan Koster: 'I am often contacted by farmers or retired truck drivers.'  Picture Jan Koster

Photographer Jan Koster: ‘I am often contacted by farmers or retired truck drivers.’Picture Jan Koster

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