I met Bob in 2014, somewhere on the street in my hometown. And since then I regularly visit him in his dilapidated house.
Bob spends most of his time repairing the walls and roof of his house, instead of pursuing his passion for painting and reading. Photographing him over a longer period of time, made me see who he really is: a sympathetic, art-loving and intelligent person, always willing to share his deep scientific knowledge of the natural, physical world with me. Underneath his fight for better living conditions, lies his wish to be accepted and respected like other citizens, instead of being ignored as a social outcast. And he is angry because no one believes his story about the cause of the problems with his house.
In the spring of 2022, the municipality imposed a penalty to force Bob to reinforce the foundations of his house and to repair the leaking roof. An old acquaintance was willing to help, on the condition that Bob temporarily leaves his house. In April 2022 he ended up on a farm campsite, a 45-minute walk from his home.
When Bob sees by the end of August how things are going, he is not satisfied with the result. The roof has been badly repaired and is still leaking. So he goes back to work himself. His neighbor sees him on their communal roof and calls the police. Two cops come to tell Bob that his neighbor is afraid of damage to his own roof and summon him to stop.
Again he's left alone in his fight against the cold and damp. At the end of November, the municipality has not yet made a decision. Then, quit unexpected, a professional roofer working around the corner on another house, is willing to help Bob during the weekends.
Before winter sets in, the roof is repaired. But the house is far from windproof. The cold and damp keep pouring in through broken windows and doors. To reduce the humidity and to warm himself, Bob buys several electric mini-heaters, which he can easily move.
More and more rooms in his dilapidated house are becoming unusable, his living space is getting smaller and smaller. When I'm there, there's always something about the house that gets him excited. And yet he does not give up. He continues to close the gaps and cracks, move things, repair. And all the while there is thinking that wears him out. Bob philosophizes about the functioning of the eyes, what light is, about complex scientific questions. And then tries to translate his thoughts into paint on canvas. He works on a painting for years, is never satisfied. By the end of the afternoon the battery is empty. Then he retires behind his smoking table, in a small corner of what must once have been a kitchen.