Onno Blase’s “maniacal project” of photographing bent-over bollards, signs and poles

Designer Onno Blase always has one eye out looking for toppled-over poles at the side of the road. Now he’s collected 1,400 of them.

11 August 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

In Dutch there is a specific phrase – “Scheve Palen” – for those bollards or poles you often see bent at the knee by the side of the road. Most wonder what might have happened or shake their head at the council not sorting it out yet. Unless you’re Onno Blase, that is. The designer, based in The Netherlands, has taken up the habit of photographing them at an angle, so the damaged pole becomes upright once again.

Back in 2011, Onno was coming into Rotterdam Central station, where he was living following graduating from the Willem de Kooning Academy. At the time, the station was under lengthy construction, “and I guess in this construction, accidents happen and posts get bent,” Onno tells It’s Nice That. Ever since, “I notice bent posts all the time.”

Over time his collection of these photographs has naturally grown and grown, extending the fascination and obsession with others too, who now send him their renditions for Scheve Palen’s Instagram. “It’s like an ear worm,” he says. “It’s now stuck in your head forever.” And although ticking along nicely with a mammoth 1,400 photographs in his collection from all corners of the world, once lockdown was introduced, Onno was presented with a unique window of time to push the project further and into its very own book.

In fact, collating hundreds of photographs during a period of global lockdown was a self-described nice experience for the designer. “It was fun to browse through my photos from all over the world over the past few years,” Onno says. “It brings back memories. I remember where I took every photo. Even though you don’t see the scenery around it, I often remember where I was and who I was with, when I ran into the post.”

GalleryOnno Blase: Scheve Palen

This always-lurking quality of the posts, on top of Onno’s description of how you often stumble across them, is translated into his layout design for the book too. With looping binding so it constantly feels on an endless loop, “The book had to feel endless because I have been working on this series for a very long time, and it consists of lots of people’s photos,” the designer says. Setting himself the brief of creating a book where it would actually feel “like there’s 1,400 photos in it, without actually having 1,400 photos in it”, the flip-like quality of its design also hints to how this is an ongoing collection – after all, “the amount of bent posts in the world is endless.”

Even though he admits it may not look like it, Onno says “a lot of work went into design the book.” Most time-consuming was his thought process in how to present the photographs, at first placing them in order of slant, “the less rotated at the beginning, the really bent ones in the back”. Then he tried pairing them by direction individually, so the left-leaning poles sat on the left-hand pages, the right on the right. “Then it was time to cut it – going from 1,400 to 288 pages is not easy” – but in the end composition overruled what would make it into the book.

The book is now complete and currently being distributed worldwide by IdeaBooks. “I hope readers (there’s not much to read) of the book find it fun,” Onno tells us. “It’s super simple idea and a maniacal project. I hope it brings a smile to your face. I hope it makes you look around more when you’re walking or cycling through your city, and observe what you see.”

GalleryOnno Blase: Scheve Palen

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.


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