Kid en vrienden, Rob Hornstra, 2017
Kid en vrienden, Rob Hornstra, 2017

Kid was 42 when he died. His life had been turbulent: he was banned from seeing his young son, suffered a drugs and alcohol addiction, and often just roamed the streets.  During the period that they were each other’s neighbours in the Utrecht district of Ondiep, photographer Rob Hornstra (1975) and Kid developed a close bond. Hornstra’s project to document Kid’s life is now on display at Centraal Museum. With his photographs, Hornstra not only wants to offer a glimpse of the life of a young lad in a working class neighbourhood, but he also investigates the stigmas attached to such neighbourhoods. By showing different sides to Kid, his photographs makes one wonder: how well do you really know the person that lives next door?


Kid regularly swept the communal building entrances, put out the garbage cans, and kept an eye on Hornstra’s apartment when the photographer travelled abroad. Since Kid had trouble reading, Hornstra helped him deal with his official correspondence. And every day Kid dropped by to borrow Hornstra’s phone, because he was out of credit. Whenever Kid spent days away from home, it usually meant that he was in detention for some or other misdemeanour.

Rob Hornstra: “I didn’t have as much contact with Kid in the last years of his life. He didn’t look well and all sorts of shady figures would regularly take over his house. He increasingly hung out on the streets with junkies and tramps, begging for small change. One summer day, his dead body was found floating between two boats on the canal.”


Hornstra started this multi-year photography project in 2005, after moving into a dwelling in Ondiep. He got along well with his neighbours, they regularly paid each other visits, and gradually he built up a bond with them. As time passed, Hornstra became aware that his neighbours were fairly typical for the neighbourhood. This made him aware of his personal prejudices, and it prompted him to start this project as a means to get people thinking about social stigmatisation.

According to Centraal Museum’s artistic director Bart Rutten: "Centraal Museum collects and presents visual art by Utrecht artists, as well as objects that have a special significance for the history of Utrecht. Man Next Door is a remarkable project that bridges the two worlds. It is a bold presentation by one of Utrecht’s leading artists of his generation, and it is a portrait of a city resident that is relevant to our city’s history."


The exhibition Man Next Door is accompanied by an English-language publication, for sale in the museum shop.
Man Next Door, price: € 38.50 (no ISBN)


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