I don’t quite understand where time has gone. Old year, new year. London, Berlin. This year, I am turning fourty and although there is no reason to get nervous I don’t know how it could happen that just a moment ago, my life was all starting and now, has reached its mature middle (when I am lucky). When I was a child my grandfather once complained how short life was and being so young feeling time so vastly streched, I couldn’t find this remark anything but ridiculous. But now, every year gets shorter.
Life may get easier growing older; one benefits from experience. However, an aspect I can’t get used to is all these things passing by just to never return. And while remembering them, you even seem to lose your present.
When yesterday, while browsing around in a vintage shop, I re-discovered the song Somebody that I used toknow, I remembered that it is a long time, in fact a very long time ago that I suffered from someone, meaning that I was in love with someone.
I feel quite sentimental about my favourite London cinema, the Curzon Soho.
Several times in my life, whenever I had moved to a new city where I didn’t feel at home yet, I resorted to cinemas as safe places of which I knew how they worked and made me feel less strange. In London however and due to language issues, it took me months before I started watching films. Thus, it was rather a special event when I finally entered the Curzon’s largest room to watch a film in Australian English I hardly understood. Yet, this was the beginning of a cinema love. The Curzon didn’t just show ‘the good films’ but also conveyed the right atmosphere. There was the café in the ground floor offering rich cakes which one could eat while watching people out on Shaftesbury Avenue, and there was the cosy café in the first basement advertising the latest films released. There were film posters opposite the toilets in the second basement, The Class, Mad World, Lola rennt and there was a large poster in the box office of In the Mood for Lovewhich is one of my favourites ever. The months before I left London, my cinema trips to the Curzon – now taking place in wintery afternoons – intensified in frequency but also depth of experience. Strangely, I most remember the film Another Earth, beautifully shot in white and blue colours; by no means a perfect film but it somehow hit my feeling of futility. It was right before Christmas and the air dark and sweet, the Curzon café offered ginger bread men and an advertising prior the film played the overly sugary songs by Lana del Rey. I already knew it would be my last Advent season in London and it felt warm and melancholic and still reluctant that it wouldn’t happen what was going to happen.
The Curzon’s website is still bookmarked in my laptop and every now and then, I return to it and get a longing to escape my current world to its basement and feel at home.
It appears to me that photography is most of all an expression of my relationship to the world – and more than an expression it is my relationship to the word. I can’t photograph what I haven’t got a relationship to. If I don’t get involved in the world I don’t get images of it. So if I want my pictures to express something I need to live the very something. And this is why photography is more than art but also a way of living.
There is always a social interest prior to the aesthetic interest when taking pictures. To document people’s reality, to document how people live, to document human environment is a main motivation. There are wonderful stories to discover in everyday life. And what happens in the photographic situation, what happens between the person photographed and me is more exciting than many other things in life.
I’ve liked being a foreigner. I’ve always felt as a stranger and living abroad amongst so many other strangers just seemed to be the right thing. It helped clarifying my identity. There is no country I could go ‘home’. It was here in London watching the Chinese film Summer Palace that I realised what it had meant to me that the country I am from did not longer exist. I am not looking for a home anymore but wonder how it will feel to live in a country that is supposed to be my home.
What departing really means is that everything that is significant now loses its importance in the future. It is the nature of change that things one cares about now will become less relevant and drift from the centre towards the edges of one’s life. Once I’ve left the stream of London, the city will never be the same again. It will become a stranger and one day I might even wonder what I’ve ever found so appealing about this place. It is most likely that soon, I will never find MY London back. It will be a mere piece of memory, getting smaller and smaller.
No man ever steps in the same river twice (Heraclitus) – and no man ever steps in the same city twice. How much I fear what is going to happen.
I would give everything to go back to this night five years ago when I arrived in a shabby hotel room in West Hampstead right by the tracks of the overground, nervous, anxious, exhausted, having spent a day paralysed in the armchair of a home I didn’t know that night would never be my home again. I didn’t know that night that I would exchange a home for a whole city. I didn’t know that night what the city would mean to me very soon. I didn’t know I would have to leave the city five years later without having offered me a home or any permission to stay other than as a bohemian.