Kromboomssloot 22a, Amsterdam 1967
The doorbell rang.
We had just finished dinner, and my mother, my sister and I looked at each other in surprise. Who could it be? A strange moment for an unexpected visitor.
I stood up, and went through the narrow hallway towards the outside door and looked through the little square window in the middle of it. Nobody.
The bell rang again. “Huh?” It was only then that I noticed our neighbour Koekoek. He was even smaller than I thought. He had pressed himself against the outside of the front door in order not to get wet by the drizzling rain. I opened the door and let him in. He was shivering.
It was 1967. We lived on Kromboomssloot, one of the smallest canals of Amsterdam. It was cold outside and even in the hallway it was kind of chilly.
“It’s Koekoek.” I said, loud enough to let my mother and sister know who the unexpected guest was.
“Come in, neighbour, good to see you.” my mother said, “Would you like some coffee?”
“Oh eh, yes, please, thank you.” Koekoek said in his typical Rotterdam accent, remarkable for someone who had lived in Amsterdam for so many years. He always acted a little nervous and insecure in the presence of my mother, who was much younger than him.
“Eh, I have a question.” He began talking right away, even before my sister asked if he would like some sugar or milk in his coffee. “You know this photographer, filmmaker Johan van der Keuken, well eh, he asked me, I mean my son, he asked my son, if it would be possible to use your house as a location for a movie he’s working on. A documentary, I don’t know, something like that. Next week. If we, I mean, eh…if I, could arrange that.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Johan van der Keuken! My hero!
I was seventeen years old, and one of the things I loved most was taking pictures. I had a 35 mm rangefinder camera, and a little darkroom in the basement where I developed my films and made black and white prints. It meant everything to me. After having seen Antonioni’s Blow Up and William Klein’s Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? I was sure I wanted to become a photographer.
Already at a very young age I got inspired by Steichen’s Family of Man, later on by the pictures of Avedon and Klein in Vogue and most recently by Van der Elsken’s Sweet Life, but Van der Keuken’s We are Seventeen, which I had known most of my life, was really something that had impressed me. The way he had portrayed his friends had always appealed to me. It made it easy to identify with them. I could ‘feel’ them. Just like they were. Like I wanted to be.
“Yes, yes, yes!” I said, looking at my mother. “Say yes!”
“Tell me, Koekoek, what exactly is it, this Johan van der Keuken wants?” my mother asked, interested.
From that moment on I knew Van der Keuken was going to use our house in a film. And I had a chance to meet him!