On 17 October 1987, after a particularly terrible night, 14-year-old Eddo Hartmann fled his parental home together with his mother and brother while his father was out for a moment. The domestic violence had reached a level at which it felt dangerous to stay. They left, taking nothing but a couple of suitcases, and never returned – until 21 years later, when the neighbours called to say there was something odd going on in their old house: the shutters were open and a new owner was walking around. Eddo Hartmann, now a professional photographer, acted on instinct: he grabbed his 35mm camera and went there straight away.
What he found was complete chaos. His father, an antiques dealer, had had a mania for collecting things, and this was compounded by the fact that the receivers who had evicted him from the house had seized everything of value. Gradually, the fear and tension that Eddo Hartmann had been feeling gave way to amazement. Only the deepest layer of the house remained, exactly as Eddo, his mother and his brother had left it behind in 1987. A ring of white paint chips around the leg of a couch that had not been moved a millimetre in all those years. A block of wood by the hearth, in which he’d carved figures with a knife. Kids’ drawings on the walls and lying around everywhere. It was a bewildering experience, and for the first time he was experiencing everything in full colour. His father had always kept the outside world at bay, keeping the shutters closed so that light could not enter.
Hartmann decided to use photography as a way of tracking down the clues to his own past. Realising he wanted sharper images that he could keep and process, he returned the next day with another camera and a tripod to explore the rooms, one at a time, reconstructing his past. His photographs lay untouched for another four years, until he had finished dealing with his own history. His personal experience convinced him of the importance of a photograph’s underlying story, and the need for photographic form to follow content. His resulting project, Hier woont mijn
huis (Here lives my home), is a purely photographic exploration of a very personal history.