It is not so much about what a place is like but how one feels at a place. In many respects, life in Berlin is better and yet, I miss the intensity of London. The difference in feeling is that where Berlin is by all means interesting – London was a muse. Berlin doesn’t make me suffer as London did – but nothing compares with working behind those windows stating Dream the Dream offering a view to the mad nightlife of Chinatown and Soho.
These are times to rest and recover, it seems, not to be tested, not be challenged, not to be turned upside down.
When I want to feel at home I watch the trailer of the film Bright Star. It connects me so much with England, with Hampstead – and blue bells. The beauty of English blue bell woods reaching the horizon with their colour I didn’t know from Germany and in fact, saw them the first time in the film Bright Star where I couldn’t believe that they were quite real. The Blaue Blume – takes back to the German Romantic where it stands for longing which itself is just an unsatisfying translation for the wonderful German word Sehnsucht.
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.
There is much talk about the first time but never the last times we go through in life.
My first last time experienced intensely was in December 1989; I was sixteen and the political change in East Germany had just caused the end of the course of studies I had enrolled for a few months earlier. I still remember the heavy university door closing behind me. I was so young that I had never gone through the end of something and just knew about things starting. Another closing door is etched in my memory and belonged to my first sincere boyfriend who refused talking to me which then seemed to be an experience not to overcome. A shocking experience was also losing a close friend for the first time. One good aspect of growing older is certainly getting used to things ending and to feel less painful about it; the long row of things lying behind me now rather gives me a feeling of age than regret.
My last photo trip through London started in the spring like garden of Fenton House, led me to Soho and ended in Chinatown where I bumped into a Chinese wedding. On my way to the bus stop I took this image of two girls with ruffled hair which could be rather unspectacular if it hadn’t been the last subject I photographed before I left London.
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.
Last night I returned from Dresden to Berlin on a two hours bus ride. While watching the sunset after a thunderstorm, I was listening to Beth Gibbons’ Tom the Model which took me back to a sad night when I was waiting on Oxford Street for bus 98 to go home to Willesden Green, listening to the same song in infinite loop. Of all places I lived in London, the one in Willesden Green was the shabbiest one, shared with a gentle guy from South Africa who carried around this relaxed sunny beach feeling and his miserable, misanthropic friend with eyes that indicated that he would have better kept in a mental hospital. The house could only be accessed from the backside via a path that came close a refuse dump. After heavy rainfalls, a giant puddle arose in front of the door; usually it was of such depth that accessing the house became basically impossible unless a friendly person had put pieces of surrounded rubbish in the water on which one could jump from one to the next. The next door neighbours led an illegal brothel and it could happen that its punters helped you getting through the puddle. – And yet, while listening to Tom the Model, I realized how much London was a genuine home to me. There is a deep wound the city caused by not allowing me to stay and settle. This is what I will never forgive London: that, instead of welcoming me, it rejected me.
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.
When I was a child there was a popular fairy tale film “Das kalte Herz” (“Heart of Stone”) which was set in the Black Forest. However, because I grew up in East Germany, I had never heard of a Black Forest and hence, thought it must be some sort of fairy tale forest and certainly not a real place. – Now, thinking about London it quite feels the same. In Berlin, one is surrounded by images of London – on large advertising panels in the streets or on buses, in TV documentations, in magazines. I still remember exactly what these places feel like; I easily see myself passing by the places shown. And yet, while looking at them wistfully, they don’t seem to be real places but from a world far away behind an iron curtain.
There is so much I owe to London. And now time has run out.
But never say good-bye. A while ago, I said good-bye to my favourite London musicians. However, everything comes back – in a new shape. I’ve always loved a particular song by the bearded singer with the cowboy hat whose warm voice sounded through the tunnels of the tube; recently I discovered it was a song by Jackson C. Frank, Carnival. So the song has returned to my world.
And this is how things meet in life. They are torn apart and yet connected through time. So I trust that London will come back in my life, in a different but nevertheless delightful shape.
It is strange to think that life in London will carry on without me. As if there was a double universe in which I could be too – but while everything and everyone else is still here, instead of me, there is an empty bubble.