07 March 2022

Transformations of a Sustainable Industrial Future in Belgium

07 March 2022 - Written by PhMuseum

This series by Isabelle Pateer portrays the land around the growing industrial harbour of Antwerp, documenting a rapid change in the landscape to express concern around the impact on its inhabitants and their surroundings. 

UNSETTLED (2008 - 2021) is a long-term project about change and environment, that addresses a current topic of global relevance. This series documents the evolution of the Antwerp harbour expansion zone in Belgium, which finds itself in a competing global position for container traffic. The area is undergoing major transitions through vast Industrial expansions and the related nature compensation plans. These have been imposed by the European Union to balance the industrial growth with ecological areas and protect the hinterland against rising sea levels.

Starting from this local Belgian example, UNSETTLED refers to a global tendency of industrial, economic, and environmental shifts that challenge the balance of these elements for a sustainable future.

The series shows layered landscapes of the transforming area, either for industrial or compensating nature targets, interior images of abandoned houses in the endangered village of Doel, and portraits of young inhabitants in the area, who will need to migrate because of the harbour expansion and nature compensation plans.

The project touches upon notions such as progress, change, ecology, climate change, sustainability, rising sea levels, global trade, the value of land, migration, and the connection between identity and surroundings.

Words and Pictures by Isabelle Pateer


Isabelle Pateer (1980, NL) is an award-winning documentary and portrait photographer working on personal series, as well as commissioned projects for international clients among which Financial Times, Monocle and The New York Times. Recent shows include Kunsthaus Wien (AU, 2022), PHOTOVILLE New York (US, 2021) and Photo IS:RAEL (IL, 2020). Follow her on Instagram and PhMuseum


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PhMuseum curators.

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