Yorit Kluitman cycled 84,000km in six years and took 10,008 photographs through all 388 local Dutch councils, showing the landscape from the point of view of a cyclist. Kluitman is in fact a graphic designer who runs a design studio in Eindhoven, and he has recently published a remarkable book: bicycle landscapes: why the Netherlands looks like this.
“I’ve forgotten my route. Shit. Should I turn back? No, there’s no point; I’m already on the road. And I think I still remember it. Like that damned Garmin always does. It’s my own fault, I shouldn’t have unplugged it that quickly. I think I know the way. No panic.” This paragraph from Kluitman’s introduction to his book is immediately recognisable for many cyclists. He is clearly a hard-core pedaler on a mission.
No people, no buildings
However, the photography book bicycle landscapes is not full of pictures of cyclists, cycling life and all that stuff that we have already seen quite a lot of—Kluitman takes pictures of landscapes with no people and no buildings, all in the horizontal format.
Kluitman had a serious set of rules for this serious project, which are, in his words: “Geometry and composition. A land like Dick Bruna or Mondrian would draw it.” And for the book he selected around 1,000 of the total 10,008 images that he shot.
Bicycle landscape lines
This encyclopaedia of Spartan landscapes, of geometric lines, is familiar to anyone who has ridden a bicycle in the Netherlands. But this book is a serious work too: it was made in collaboration with the spatial planning think-tank Deltametropolis Association. It has chapters written by a former Rijksmuseum director Wim Pijbes, renowned landscape architect Adriaan Geuze and architectural theorist, cycling urbanisation expert and author of the book Velotopia, Dr. Steven Fleming.
Somehow, leafing through this attractively-bound book, you get a connection with those landscapes that we who cycle in the Netherlands see so often—geometric lines, with features which Kluitman groups into staccato chapter headings, like “Asphalt”, “Stream”, “Verge”, “Bend”, “Duck”, “Oak”, “Island”, “Bicycle”, “Cycle path” and “Cycle route”.
Strange, but beautiful
It’s a strange, but beautiful book. It’s a kind of photographic hypnosis, thanks to the strict rules that Kluitman has applied to his pictures. And as the book’s description says, it does teach you to look at the Dutch landscape in a different way, which is from the saddle of your bike. The more you leaf through the pages, the more you want to stop what you are doing and get out there on your bike!
Bicycle Landscapes is published by nai010 publishers and costs €49.95.