The Europeans

The Europeans is a portrait of modern Europe. Traveling from region to region and from theme to theme in this multi-year project, photographer Rob Hornstra and writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen will create a 21st century time piece on the European Heartland. Hornstra and van Bruggen see Europe on the eve of drastic change. Populism and authoritarianism are on the rise, ghosts from the past seem to return.

The photographer Henri Cartier Bresson published his book Les Européens in 1955. He looked beyond nationalism or local customs in the individual countries. He sought evidence for a greater identity, a European parable shared by the people and the landscape. More than sixty years later, Hornstra and van Bruggen share this ambition. It’s time to come up with a new version of The Europeans.

This website introduces the project until the launch of a storytelling website in 2020.

Europe is in a state of flux. The financial and migration crisis seem to have been averted, but the political aftermath seems to be just beginning. Where some political forces are seeking refuge in a united Europe, others are turning away from it vociferously. The European Union is the favorite scapegoat of national politicians, even though more and more issues are regulated at European level. The media and politicians are distrusted, and this distrust seems politically powerful, although according to polls and statistics the majority of the population in Europe is often both happy and prosperous at the same time. 

According to analyses, the political battlefield is no longer in the socio-economic field but in the cultural and identity domain. City against countryside. Newcomers against the natives. Tradition versus new norms and values. The globalized world economy and culture versus the more orderly world of village, city, countryside. The call for strong men and leaders resounds. Both in the political and cultural field.

Against this background, Hornstra and van Bruggen travel through the periphery of Europe. Loosely based on their earlier collaboration during The Sochi Project, they settle for some time on a spot, far away from the daily news cycle. Documenting the backgrounds that are the direct cause of tensions in Europe is not the main goal of this project. The Europeans is the start of an open search for contemporary Europe and the contemporary European. 

In the coming years the makers will visit countless seemingly insigni­ficant places and surrounding regions. Places that rarely make the news. In every region they will collaborate with local partners in the media and cultural world and conclude with a local exhibition including the launch of a separate publication. All these regions and publications combined  will in the long run be the inspiration for our final book and exhibition cycle — a time piece of Europe in the 21st century.

  • Who is behind The Europeans?

    The Europeans is a collaborative project between writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen, photographer Rob Hornstra and design agency Kummer & Herrman. Previously they worked together on The Sochi Project between 2009 and 2014.

  • What is The Europeans?

    In the coming years, we expect to document at least twenty European heartland regions, which we consider to be separate chapters within The Europeans. Each documented region will be concluded with a local exhibition and launch of an accessible chapter publication aimed at engaging a dialogue with a broad local audience. To achieve this, we aspire to work with a local cultural and media partners. In the upcoming period we will be working together with Multistory in The Black Country and Kaunas Photography Gallery in Kaunas. The ultimate goal is to bring all the chapters together in a time piece that paints a picture of contemporary Europe.

  • How do you choose the regions that lead to chapters?

    We want to avoid obvious places like capitals, tourist resorts or places that are regularly in the spotlights of the news. We were inspired by the American term ‘Heartland’, which symbolically refers to the hardworking yet invisible majority in numerous medium-sized towns and surrounding regions. In addition, it is important for us to be able to work together with a local cultural and media partner. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.

  • I run a cultural or media organisation in the heartland of Europe. Can we collaborate?

    Yes! Please send us an email.

  • How is The Europeans financed?

    In the current first stage of the project, The Europeans is partly benefiting from a reserve from The Sochi Project, which we have acquired by selling publications and winning the Dutch Doc Award in 2014. The money was safely stored in the bank account of the Traktor Foundation, a foundation that was set up by us specifically to separate money for a project from its makers and to make it easier to receive donations. Until February 1, 2020, The Europeans has received additionally a project grant from the Mondriaan Fund. In the near future we hope to maintain our independence by convincing YOU to contribute to The Europeans. This can take many forms, from donations to the purchase of a print.

  • Is my gift tax-deductible?

    Donations to our cultural foundation are tax-deductible in the Netherlands (culturele anbi-regels). This section is in Dutch because it applies to the Dutch tax system: The Europeans valt onder de Stichting Traktor, welke aangemerkt is als een culturele ANBI. Voor donateurs van culturele ANBI’s geldt een extra giftenaftrek. Particulieren mogen in de aangifte inkomstenbelasting 1,25 keer het bedrag van de gift aftrekken. Ondernemingen die onder de vennootschapsbelasting vallen, mogen 1,5 keer het bedrag van de gift aftrekken in de aangifte vennootschapsbelasting.

  • Can I buy a single chapter publication?

    For each region, it is our plan to work with a local partner to produce an accessible chapter publication in a large edition, which we can disseminate locally for a small fee or even for free (depending on support). A small part of the print run will be hardcover bound and available for sale through our website, at photo fairs and specialized bookshops.

If you share our opinion that it’s time to come up with a new timepiece on The Europeans, you can support this project in multiple ways.

  • Adopt A Region

    By adopting a region for €120 you will receive the special region-pack, consisting of a signed, limited edition of the regional publication including the same size print and a local high light on your doormat. Your name will also be mentioned in the publication.

  • Buy A Print

    Gallery prints from The Europeans are for sale in three different sizes: 40×50 cm (edition 6), 80×100 cm (edition 4) and 120×150 cm (edition 2). If it concerns a portrait, 33.3% goes to the person portrayed, 33.3% to the project (The Europeans) and 33.3% to the photographer (Rob Hornstra), after deduction of costs. In all other cases, 33.3% goes to a local cultural organisation, 33.3% to the project and 33.3% to the photographer. Please contact studio@robhornstra.comif you are interested in purchasing a print

  • Buy Our Books

    By buying any publication of The Europeans and The Sochi Project too, you directly support our work. For each region it is our plan to work with a local partner to produce an accessible regional publication in a large edition, which we can disseminate locally for a small fee or even for free depending on support. A small part of the print run will be hardcover bound and available for sale through our website, at photo fairs and specialized bookshops. www.robhornstra.com/shop

  • Invite Our Project

    You can also invite the project: bring us to your place in the heartland of Europe, propose a new chapter of the project, invite the project for talks, lectures, workshops or exhibitions. Please contact studio@robhornstra.com and/or arnold@prospektor.nl for information and details.