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.

For 5 years I crisscrossed Belgium to find just the right kind of shed, always photographing them in the same perfect lighting conditions. And ‘perfect’ means: dense fog.

A photograph of a weather-beaten shed is an allegory for our lives: we all muddle on, we try our best, 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.

"An unseen ode to these anonymous, often
unintentional sculptures on a pedestal of wet grass
in a field of incense."

— Stephan Vanfleteren

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
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