July 5th, 2018

rescEurope is the place on the web where I want to document journalistic experiences in text and images that have to do with the order of Europe. So far I have published such reports in a separate section of my photography page, SandWorks, and on the online platform of the Young European Federalists, Treffpunkt Europa. Now I want to give them their own space.

My ambitions to document political or social topics from Europe make no claim to completeness or regularity. Rather, I choose them arbitrarily. When an imminent moment relevant to Europe is surfacing, I think about whether it is feasible for me to go there. The limits of feasibility are quickly reached when the European deadline overlaps with a production that has already been agreed and planned with a customer for the same period.

In addition, I would prefer to travel in summer rather than winter for a political project of my choice. This has a lot to do with the way I travel. I will come back to that later. Spoiler: I take the bus.

I guess I’ve always been a political person. My mother used to say that I act as if I were Jesus or: “With your mouth you gotta go into politics”. With Europe and all the bickering about it, my will for harmony has found a wide field of activity. It was the time of Putin’s wannabe-great-man epic on the Crimea and his lying in the Ukraine and the time of the terrible Islamist attacks in Brussels and Nice, Böhmermann’s blood grave in the farce, which the other Poser, Erdogan, had with Extra 3, when I became increasingly nervous about stability and self-image of Europe. Then the Brits decided for Brexit!

I wondered why not all people accept the idea of a colourful and united Europe and share with confidence the warm feeling of being part of a benevolent and protective whole? This thought is a great hope for many people. But it seems to threaten some others. I was interested in the discrepancy in the perception of the European idea. I wanted to know why there are so many different expectations about it. Is it poor communication about how and what? Or does the friction of the processes of coming together let of the size of that idea fade? And would all this suspicion vanish the more finished the Union would become?

In order to find a way to understand Europe and to document processes in this multi-ethnic entity, I have linked some of the red threads of my life. I connected the existing political thread with the photo thread and knotted the two with the travel fever thread. By setting off for Europe and making a photo project out of it, I could channel my pro-European energy within the bounds of my possibilities.

It was immediately clear to me that I needed a buddy. He should be rich, powerful and influential. I contacted Martin Schulz.

At that time he was President of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He had made impressive speeches there. His heart beat for Europe and it seemed as if he too had a problem with the fact that even in the 21st century democratic values and universal human rights still have to be negotiated. I wanted him to be my patron saint and advocate.

What probably few people could have guessed was that Schulz was presumably already being appointed as the SPD’s candidate for chancellor in 2016 for the 2017 election. And of course he will have had been totally busy as President of Parliament in these stormy times keeping Europe running. At least that’s what I thought when a thin letter came from his office with wishes for success and happiness and Go for it – but sorry.

I quickly rejected my first impulsive idea of a road trip through Europe for budget and time reasons. I couldn’t drive through Europe for months. Instead I went back to the old box of life experience, picked out a few of them and forged a plan. In the nineties I spent some time in New York to forget what I had learned about photography in Karlsruhe as quickly as possible. The Think Big Therapy worked out well back then and in a few months I learned more about photography overthere than in the three years of apprenticeship before.

In NY I gained another important insight about myself and about moving. While half of New York was underground, that wasn’t an option for me. I wanted to get to know the city above. And so on the third day I bought a Disc Man and a bike called JAZZ! I have cycled all the boroughs for weeks before pushing the button of my Canon the first time. At that time there weren’t many people cycling in New York except for a few Bike Messengers. But for me the bike was the most effective, beautiful and elegant way to experience the city.

In 2015 I returned to NY with my friend Lars. We aimed to take a portrait of the city’s vibrant design scene for his design magazine, SLANTED. We planned ten days with up to five appointments a day which were not geographically sorted. Lars is also a cyclist and so we made all appointments by City Bikes.

There is a second bicycle thread that connects me with him: The two of us were responsible for the visual communication of the Single Speed pioneers of FIXIE Inc. The photo bike party in 2011, where we put the heroes of a real bike polo tournament in crazy clothes and photographed them for the “Cycles For Heroes” campaign, became legend. That was fun!

Here the circle closes: When I’m photographing Macron today for a European project in Paris on the night of the elections and I’m racing back and forth between Place de la République, the Louvre and Macron’s party headquarters, or during the G20 summit in Hamburg I’m speeding from the landing bridges to the Schanze, then I’m cycling on my “Peacemaker”, the most beautifulbike that FIXIE-Reçep and Holger ever built.

When my son Tim was eleven, we had a running gag when it came to his future. If all the ropes were torn, he would become a bus driver. I don’t exactly know why this anymore. It is quite possible that driving a bus had been a huge playmobil topic by that time. Today, however, it looks as if back then I had put together a self-fulfilling prophecy for myself.

When I was thinking about rescEurope, photo and roadtrip two years ago, I also thought about how I could practically organize going to relevant European events, staying there for a few days, photographing a story and disappear again. A defined requirement was to be able to be spontaneous. It wasn’t possible to know and schedule appointments, book flights, hotels and rental cars weeks in advance. I had to find a solution for how to transport clothes, equipment, the bike and the cholesterol reducers. And it goes like this: On the bus. BulliBus.

In early 2016 I spent weeks on the configuration page of VW, with no practical experience in putting together a motorhome. Anyone who has ever used an online configurator knows that you spend hours combining everything with everything, clicking back and forth on pointless options and attractive additional packages including sub-options, realizes that one doesn`t go without the other, caches it, discards it again.

In the end you press showing and the happy-car pops up in your dream color and the monster 18 inch light metals in a blinking photoshop background. Price: Eight millions! Then you convince yourself and your wife that without the 18 inch things the light and vision package is not possible…

I had to slim down a lot to get a reasonable price in the end. In November of the same year I picked up the BulliBus in Hannover. Everything fits and Bussi and I are pretty good friends now.

Now it`s October 15th 2018, 33,122 kilos on the speedometer. In 2017 I had many very interesting and some really exciting trips with the Bulli. Because I had been away a lot that year, I had to slow down a bit in 2018 in order to make some money again. I`ve only been in Canobio / Italy to build up this site and later in Augsburg to record the city during the AfD party congress.

The most exciting trip by bus was in the summer of 2018 with my wife, Nadine: Sardinia. Couple vacation on the island! We had no idea how we would get along on few square feet. We both felt like getting involved in the adventure and suspected that after twenty (quasi) years of marriage we were ready to just be the two of us. I say “quasi” because we are not married and “…my wife” because Nadine is more than my girlfriend. We had quite a buzzing.

Without reason, as it turned out. It was great!

Being happy as a couple is one of the mysteries of marriage. It seems to be the same as with Europe here. The thought of belonging together is a great hope for some people. But it seems to threaten others. You have to want it in order to get along. Confidence helps and practice, then it becomes an enrichment.

I practice.