Possible Worlds

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In a possible world I would live in the old family farm by the forest. I’d have a wood fired oven, plenty of vegetables and fruit from the garden and more space in- and outside the house than I could possibly fill. I would eat my home baked bread for breakfast in the old chicken yard while enjoying the most stunning view over the Weser-valley.

I’d also have had an idea why I would and could live in the sticks, I’d have had another idea that would fill ex-barn and ex-stable with something sensible – preferably something sensible and income-generating so it would provide me with yet another idea on how to pay for maintenance of the gigantic roof.

In the real world the old family farm just got sold.

 

Telephone Boxes

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For several years now I have been taking pictures of a dying breed: telephone boxes. I managed to upload a few yesterday.

While some of the boxes have been upgraded to a non-box shape with huge screen and WiFi, many are in a sad state and some even stripped of their primary function. The variety of shapes and types of boxes and telephones even in a single country is astonishing and even the gutted ones continue to serve as advertising space, rain shelters, smoking rooms and toilets for dogs and humans alike.

Hochschwab Hiking

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Second time Hochschwab, second time no summit. This time better pictures, though. In late May, I started in Präbichl and, through considerable amounts of snow, made my way up to the Sonnschienhütte where I had the dorm all to myself. Unfortunately, I had my eyes at the wrong place at the wrong time and so I fell and injured my finger. Thus, instead of summiting the Hochschwab the next day, I went down to Tragöß (via Grüner See) – and straight into hospital where the trip ended with an »Eintrittsaufforderung«. Luckily nothing serious came to light in Koje 1, but damn you Hochschwab, next time I do want a summit. Please.

Hanover by Night

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In January I went to Hanover. While my wife attended a conference, I took care of our daughter and walked around quite a bit, morning to night. I grew up in the area and always thought of Hanover as by far the ugliest potato in the bag of post-war architecture – Max Goldt once claimed that »every German city had something of Hanover«. The city suffered a lot from bombings and after the war people quickly rebuilt it, aesthetics clearly towards the end on the list of their priorities. Yet, this time I was surprised to discover some really pretty areas, both pre- and post-war. Here are a couple of b/w shots of pretty Hanover by night:

 

Gerd Ludwig at NHM

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Last Wednesday the »Long Shadow of Chernobyl« exhibition opened at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. During several visits to Chernobyl, National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig documented the people, the remains of the plant and life in the exclusion zone (see a short video here and more content here).

Thanks to the generosity of NHM’s communication department, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation for the opening function/book presentation last Tuesday. Apart from recommending to go and see the exhibition (until September) I took away some food for thought from the opening talks.

Constructive Overlapping

Christian Köberl, the museum’s director, explained how the Natural History Museum – an institution that is widely associated with stuffed animals and a vast collection of rocks – came to host an exhibition covering a problem that is clearly man-made. He linked it to two other exhibitions currently on display: Trading in Death – the Final Mass Extinction? has the commercial interest and its impact on nature as a common denominator. Experiment Life – Gabonionta overlaps as it shows the oldest complex life forms known to man, which share the time and the place (Gabon, 2.1 billion years ago) of a highly above average activity in natural nuclear chain reactions similar to the counterparts in man-made reactors nowadays. Whether there is a causal link to the advent of the first complex, colonial organisms is unclear but interesting.

The museum can shape the context and thus shape perception. By putting three different, seemingly unrelated temporal exhibitions on at the same time, a very constructive overlapping is created – interferences come into being simply through putting three seemingly unrelated things next to each other.

The power of a book

Lois Lammerhuber (of the book’s publisher Edition Lammerhuber) recounted the media reception. Despite the lack of a Chernobyl jubilee, all the important news outlets had already covered the publication and exhibition. When he asked German state TV, who filmed for two hours in the exhibition, why they were doing it, they answered: »Weil ein Buch erscheint« (»because a book is being published«, where the German »erscheinen« can both refer to an »appearance« as well as an »epiphany«). Lammerhuber was visibly impressed by how he, in letting a book appear, can force something onto the agenda of a world that would otherwise not have taken notice at that point in time.

As the two preconditions he identified Ludwig’s willingness to commit to such a long term project and his capability to make something visible.

Making a difference

Gerd Ludwig gave a few insights into the way he works. Even though the subject of his images is suffering and destruction, the are aesthetically pleasing. Aesthetics to him is the grammar of photography.

He views the fact that he does not have to work under a tight time constraint as his biggest privilege because it means that he can talk first and then take the pictures. The trust he establishes through the conversations greatly helps reduce the momentary amplification of suffering he inevitably causes by taking a picture.

He finished by telling a story from Sicily: one night an enormous number of starfish were washed ashore. In the morning, when the sun rose, they started to dry out and die. The children of the village noticed and started carrying them back to the water. An older man from the village stood and watched and said: »you can’t save them all, your enterprise is futile – the little you can do doesn’t make a difference«. One child, holding up a single starfish, replied: »And yet for this one, it does make a difference«. Ludwig wants to be this child always.

Access to our World

Finally, the section chief Michael P. Franz closed the circle Christian Koeberl established by opening the exhibition with a Gottfried Boehm quote: an image, he says, pre-formulates the access to our world.

Wien Südbahnhof

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I spent New Year’s Eve with magician, architect and fellow photographer Sven Wuttej. Going through his images from the last day at Wien Südbahnhof reminded me of the pictures I took of the monumental old landmark when I still lived right across the road from the train station. Somehow I quite liked the architecture, and was hence rather sad to see it go. So here are a couple of images from the transition of the hood: »Wien Süd« to »Quartier Belvedere«.

The first few pictures, where the train station (if already partly demolished) is still busy are from August 2009. The ones of the gutted building I took in February 2010 and the last two, where nothing remains of the old glory, are from September 2010 (you can see the very last one with just a flat stretch of sand where the station once was in full size).

Hyperborea

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In small talk situations people often ask me where I come from, and I never find it easy to answer that question because I moved about so much. When I tell them I come from Vienna (where I live now), their answer usually is »no« (one can hear quite clearly that I did not grow up in Austria).

So where I am not sure where I come from, this at least answers the question of where I grew up: I grew up where people decorate their homes with wheels and fake wells, I grew up where toilets in educational facilities are closed due to soiling and destruction, I grew up where many shops are empty and those still operating are run down. In a word: I grew up in Hyperborea.

If you choose to have a look at my Hyperborea-Set, I suggest you listen to a song from Live’s Throwing Copper while doing so.