A former student of philosophy, van Houtryves interest in photography began during a period of study in Nepal. After graduating, he began work for the Associated Press, initially covering Latin America and later reporting on Guantanamo Bay. Van Houtryves work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including TIME, Newsweek, National Geographic, and Le Monde. Solo exhibitions of his work have been shown in Paris, New York, Spain, and Italy.
In 2003, van Houtryve returned to Nepal to conduct independent documentation of Maoist rebellions there, the first of several long-term projects focusing on communism and communist governments in the 21st century. His forthcoming book, Behind the Curtains, explores North Korea, Cuba, China, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, and Moldovathe worlds last vestiges of communist rule. Van Houtryves photographs for the project explore the stark gulf between the high ideals of communism and the harsh, totalitarian reality in these countries.