André Ruiter Historic Landscapes

Water as a Weapon

Impressions of the New Dutch Water Line

About the project

In 2009 I started my education at the Fotovakschool in Apeldoorn (school of photography). Photography had become a passion and I was looking for a new direction. I hoped to find new inspiration during my training. The study modules documentary photography and photo projects put me on the right track. Instead of taking individual photos without a theme, I started thinking about a series of photos that would tell a story.

As a graduation assignment I wanted to make a project about the New Dutch Water Line (Dutch: Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie). This idea was inspired by a book about the line that I owned since my youth and my love for (military) history.

The New Dutch Water Line was a defense line that was built in the 19th century. It used water as its primary weapon. In case of a threat, a strip of land was flooded to stop the enemy. The water level was too deep for wading, but too shallow to cross by boat. A complex system of canals and locks was constructed to bring the water to the correct level. Weak locations of the line were defended by forts and batteries.

Working on this project gave me great satisfaction. The ups and downs you experience while working on a long-term photo project worked well for me. Setbacks when you don't find the expected atmosphere or light conditions after a long trip were alternated with euphoric moments after capturing an old bunker in the fog.

The highlight of the project was photographing Fort Honswijk in 2010. At that time, this beautiful fort was still closed to the public and with the permission of the local government I was allowed to photograph here for a few hours. An almost surreal experience that made me decide to fully focus on photographing historical landscapes.

I successfully completed my training with a printed portfolio of the project. My interest in defense lines was so great that not much later I decided to start my Grebbe Line 1940 project. However, the Dutch Water Line remained a source of inspiration and I finally completed this project in 2016.