The Europeans (2019 - 2029)

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 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.


“I’ve lived under four different regimes. You always pay someone for water and wood. And that’s about it.”

—Birutė, pensioner, 2019


Egidijus, The Former Capital, 2019

Chapter One: The Former Capital

Residents of The Former Capital are proud. Proud of the history that led to independence. Proud of the large-scale infrastructural renovations. Proud of the urban nature in city’s great parks and proud of their basketball team that won the national league. The demarcation between patriotism and nationalism is sparse. Many inhabitants praise their city for being the nation’s purest city. Foreigners are hard to find unless you visit one of the dormitories for foreign students. Due to a shrinking population, recruitment of international students is essential for funding of local universities. Depopulation is a problem. Young people leave the country to earn elsewhere in Europe. Behind the facade of urban prosperity lurks a poverty risk level that is among the highest in the European Union. Every day, hundreds of inhabitants knock on the door of the local soup kitchen, often elderly who can’t live of their pension.


View on industrial buildings in the city centre, The Former Capital, 2019


Paper mill that went bankrupt, The Former Capital, 2019

“I like to walk, I like to play the violin and I like to watch basketball. There is no better city for me”.

—Jonas, retired carpenter, 2019


Vidas, The Former Capital, 2019


Eimantas, The Former Capital, 2019

“In Soviet times, we wanted to be better than our Soviet neighbours. Now we want to be European. This is our facade”.

—Kotryna, journalist, 2019


Monika, The Former Capital, 2019

“I don’t know if you would have been okay if you had come here about five years ago. The criminality was really huge.”

—Valentas, car mechanic, 2019


Eugenija and her husband, The Former Capital, 2019


Julius, The Former Capital, 2019

“Also young people should be able to defend their fatherland at some point in the future”.

—Julius, commander NRU, 2019


Juozas, The Former Capital, 2019

“No matter how distressing it is behind the front door, outside you always pretend everything is going well”.

—Agnė, student, 2019


Kamilė, The Former Capital, 2019


Trolleybus depot, The Former Capital, 2019

“When it’s really bad, we tend to save our traditions. When it gets better we forget.”

—Arunas, director folklore museum, 2019


“The most popular product that leaves the meat-processing factory for the local market is the Frankfurter sausage.”

—Gediminas, director meat factory, 2019


Monika, The Former Capital, 2019

“Potentially we can live well in this country. But we no longer have a fighting mentality.”

—Stanislava, head food bank, 2019


“I am not a fan of the European Union with rules about how many wolves we can shoot or how many refugees we have to take in. That is not for the European Union to decide.”

—Kęstutis, forest ranger, 2019


Residential district, The Former Capital, 2019


Staircase apartment building, The Former Capital, 2019

“We’re no longer just citizens of a country, but also European citizens. We can travel freely and experience different countries, cities, museums. All sort of good things.”

—Rūta, retired architect, 2019


Black Country Living Museum, The Black Country, 2019

Chapter Two: The Black Country (in progress)

As you walk through the sloping main street of the town, the castle slowly disappears. A stretched landscape in front of you: residential districts, flats, industrial buildings, and chimneys. In the distance, forests emerge that extend beyond the horizon. This is the Black Country. Its history is majestic and proud. This is where the steam engine was used for the first time, and where the foundations for the industrial era were established. Socialism, social democracy and climate change - this hill town was at the cradle of it. What remains? The local newspaper talks about the smaller crime, and attempts to keep the poor city tidy. The Black Country has definitively become the periphery of world history. Like rotten teeth, empty shops and theatres stare at you.

Support the project by adopting this region.


Nicola and Paul, The Black Country, 2019

Region publications

We divide the project into thematic chapters. To develop these thematic chapters, we each time visit a European region that tells its own story, yet is also valid for other parts of Europe. The further our project progresses, the more chapters and regions will merge. Each visited region concludes with a local exhibition where the corresponding regional publication is also launched. No coffee table book. Rather the opposite. Low-cost but carefully produced. We aim first and foremost to bring the work back to a local audience. In this way we slowly hope to build up a broad audience that stretches beyond art and photography.


The Former Capital

The Former Capital is the first regional publication of The Europeans about a region where - in the wake of newfound independence - nationalism and militarism are on the rise. The search for a strong, own identity is strengthened by a stagnating economy and the consequences of depopulation. The surge of globalism, open borders and a new morality often clashes with those clinging to the values of the conservative class. Purchase signed copy here.

Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2020. Lithuanian / English, softcover, 17 x 25,5 cm (6.7 x 8.4 in.), 112 pages, 56 color and 5 duotone photographs, 9.50 euros.

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Special Editions

Each region publication is accompanied by a numbered hardcover edition including signed print in an edition of 120 copies. This Special Edition is sent out for free to people who support our work by adopting the corresponding region in advance. Through these adoptions we also keep the sales price of the trade edition low, in line with our ambition to reach a broad audience. To thank them, their name is mentioned in the colophon of this Special Edition. Remaining copies of the Special Edition of the first region publication The Former Capital are for sale here for 120 euros.



In every European heartland region where we work, we conclude with an exhibition and the launch of a publication. That serves our ambition to bring the work back to a local audience. Through this working method we will steadily build on our ultimate goal over the next ten years: A time document of Europe. As the number of regions grows, so do the possibilities of exhibiting our work. Work from different regions can be presented in more thematic oriented chapters. Are you an institution that organises exhibitions? Then we would like to collaborate with you and think along to find an implementation that suits your organisation.

PS: On the right you can see some images from our first regional exhibition The Former Capital, which could not take place due to the Corona outbreak. This exhibition can be viewed online on your computer screen here. Or you can download the Artsteps app to view it on your phone and in VR!


Online exhibition The Former Capital, April 2020

Print sales and rental

You can support our project tremendously by renting or purchasing a print. Framed gallery prints from The Europeans are for sale in three different sizes: 42×51 cm (edition 6), 84×102 cm (edition 4) and 126×153 cm (edition 2). The starting price of a 42 x 51 cm framed work in an edition of 6 + 1 AP is €975 including VAT. More information about editions and prices is available on request. Renting the same work via my rental on this website will cost you €9.50 per month. Additional benefit, if you decide to purchase the work after the rental period is over, the paid rent will be deducted from the sales price.


Monika, The Former Capital, 2019

“During Unseen Amsterdam, Hornstra and Van Bruggen will present their new project. They have just started and will probably take years to complete, but the result will undoubtedly be able to compete with the classic The Americans from 1958, in which Robert Frank painted a portrait of post-war America.”

—Het Parool, September 2019


Slanted, November 2019

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Local Media Partners

In line with our ambition to reach a broad and local audience, we are committed to working with local media partners in all regions. In The Former Capital, the daily newspaper Kauno Diena (circulation 27,500 copies) published in the run up towards our local exhibition every Saturday for a period of 13 weeks a full-page portrait with accompanying text. In addition, some articles were posted online, triggering interesting comments (e.g. here). This feedback is a valuable source of information which we gratefully use in the region publication.


De Volkskrant, April 2020

“They created a virtual version of The Former Capital in one week. The exhibition as it should have been’, but because of the coronavirus it cannot be visited in real life. The result is astonishing.”

—De Volkskrant, April 2020


De Volkskrant, April 2020