A Photographic Essay
SONS IN A GARDEN
*** You’re from a newspaper?
– No, I’m a student. I do this as an art project. I’m not a journalist.
– There have been people from a newspaper here. They published pictures of us in a newspaper. This was no good.
– I’m sorry.
– Maybe someone else wants to participate. Good bye.
Pictures: Anna Voswinckel
*** Hello, you’re the photographer, aren’t you? You can come over once more. My father does like the idea.
– Yes, really?
– Yes, we’ve explained it to him in a better way. He didn’t understand it well. Our parents don’t speak German as well as we do, you know.
Plenty of roses
At home we had a house with a big garden. My father is a good gardener. There were plenty of flowers. I don’t know their names in German.
Roses! Roses are my favourite flowers.
(Mr B. shows me a picture with his sons in the rose garden of his brother.)
*** Hello, this is Anna, the photographer. I wanted to ask you if you got the small pictures of Mr G., and whether you have already decided on a motif.
– Yes, one moment please, I have to ask my mother.
… So..My mother cannot decide. Can you also do two?
A picture as big as a shopping basket
– I can only make one large print. I could print another motif smaller.
– How large can you make the picture?
– About 40 x 50 cm, which is roundabout DIN A2.
– How big is this then?
– Hmm. Like a small poster? Or, for instance, as big as a big shopping basket, the biggest one of the supermarket baskets.
– Fine. So we take the picture No 2 as big as the big basket, and picture No5 in smaller.
HORSE AND ROTTWEILER
***You know, we’re not Muslims. We are Zartusht. I don’t know the term in German.
– Is this a religion?
– Yes it’s the oldest religion in the world.
– Really? Hmm. When did it originate?
You believe in Zarathustra?
– Take this book. A friend of ours in the states sent it to us. Look, there’s an English part.
– I see. Thank you very much!
… Aha, you believe in Zarathustra?
– Well, I don’t know the German names, I’m sorry. We believe in Ahura Mazda. You can borrow the book and read it in length.
*** We have two different picture requests. Is it ok?
– I wish myself a Rottweiler and a real horse together on a picture. Is that possible?
– Yes, I will try. Why exactly a Rottweiler?
– You see, in Iran I worked as a horse trainer. I liked it very much. One of the horse-men there had a Rottweiler. I found the dog very beautiful. Very strong!
There is a warning sign board hanging above of the wash-basin, with a portrait of a Rottweiler. “Attention! I could be in a bad mood today…”
*** Do you miss anything of your home country?
– I don’t understand the verb you where just using.
– I’ll try to formulate it differently: Are there any things that are good in your home country, that you cannot find here?
Everything there is good
– Of course… What a question. Everything in Iran is good! Only the government isn’t.
There’s everything in Iran: Different landscapes, culture, good food. We would return immediately, but we cannot.
*** S. expresses her picture request in Persian and asks M. to translate, as he speaks a little better German. He thinks about it for a long time, and only after a while I notice he and S. are crying.
– She wishes herself a picture of a bird…
….a bird that flies.
– I will try my best to take a picture of a bird for you. Maybe I need some more time for this, because the camera I’m using now doesn’t have the proper lenses.
– That’s no problem. We have a lot of time.
SON AND HEART SURGEON
*** Good morning. I’m calling to ask for the permission to visit the family C. again. I have reached the doctor who operated their son, and he agreed in taking part in a picture with him together with the son.
– I’m sorry, I cannot help you. The family C. has moved into another apartment. I can only give you the telephone number of the residential establishment.
– Good morning. I’m calling you in connection of a photo-project in which the family C. participates. They just recently moved into your establishment. I would like to visit them. Could you tell them?
– I’m sorry. I don’t speak Russian. My Russian colleague will be back only the day after tomorrow.
*** What is the doctor’s nationality?
– Mr Liu is Chinese.
– I thought a German doctor has operated Said.
– Professor Liu remembered Said very well. He said it was a complicated surgery. He is glad that Said developed so well.
*** Unfortunately I speak only a little Russian. That’s why I’m so silent.
– That’s ok! I also don’t like to speak Russian so much. I prefer Chechnian. And besides we do not need to speak. We understand each other anyway.
The importance of being married
– Are you married?
– No. I have a boyfriend, but we’re not married.
– You have to marry, build a family. That’s great!
– Yes, but why marrying?
– Why don’t you want to marry? There’s nothing peculiar about it.
– How long have you been married?
Looking for one more wife
– For 4 years. Now I’m looking for one more wife.
– In Chechnia we’re allowed to marry various women. My grandfather had 7 wives.
– Well, maybe in the early times this was common. But today? You want to irritate me, right?
– No I’m serious.
Hard to understand
– But you love your wife, do you?
– Of course. First I liked her, and now that she gave me two beautiful children, I love her.
– Hmm. I think in this point we do not understand each other so perfectly…
*** Anna, have you been to Africa yet? No? If you get there finally, you will never want to return. Believe me! There’s still nature. And always summer.
– Is it hard for you here with the winter?
– No I like it. Everyone is complaining, but I like it this way, cold. It’s fresh!
*** Could you please make a picture for me, of Maria holding the dead body of Jesus? As you can find in the Church? I want to have that really huge, for my room. As huge as you can. Like a poster.
*** But what is happening in Sierra Leone? Is there still a civil war? I hardly know anything about this country.
– Sierra Leone? Well, I’m not in the mood to talk about my country. You can look everything up on the internet. Just type in “Sierra Leone” and then you get every necessary information.
*** So you’re alright here?
– Me? Yes. I’m safe here. Germany means a 100% safety to me. You know, I get along.
I’m a foreigner here. It’s difficult for the Germans these days. They earn some money and half of it they have to deliver to the state. That’s very bad!
*** How do I best get home again, towards train-station “Schoenhauser Allee”. Do you now?
– You take S42 from “Baumschulenweg”. Track 3. You have to change at “Neukoelln”. But the circle-line runs right on the other side of the platform. If you take the direct train via “Treptow” it takes you longer.
– You could work for the BVG (Berlin Public Transportation)!
– With pleasure, but I’m not allowed to work here.
*** Could you travel to Nis, our hometown? My father would like to have a picture of the town centre.
– No, I’m afraid, I cannot travel to Serbia right now. Anyway, I would like to take a picture for you here in Berlin. Is there anything you like here?
– Think about it: What do you like to do. What are your favourite places?
A picture with Michael Ballack
– We play football. Here in a club. “Gruen-Weiss”.
– Do you watch “Bundesliga”?
– Of course! “Bayern Muenchen” is my favourite club. Michael Ballack is my favourite player. Maybe you could make a picture of him?
– Well… That’s not so easy; I cannot promise that. But it would be funny in deed…
– This was cool (geil)!
*** Good evening. Do you remember me? I made a visit the other day, to ask you if you like to participate in my photo project.
– Yes, sure. Come in! My father asks if you went to Nis and made a picture for us?
– No, I’m sorry. But I can make a picture of Michael Ballack for you! I go to Munich tomorrow.
– Oh yes? Hmm.
No cap for Ballack
– I wanted to ask you if you could give me anything of you on my journey. Clothes, a cap, a necklace or anything. Michael Ballack can wear it on the photo. Then you can see the picture has been made exclusively for you.
– Mom, the woman wants a cap from us.
– A cap? Why?
– For Michael Ballack.
– My mother says we need our caps ourselves now, because it’s so cold.
– Well, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a cap. Just anything. Come on, think about it. A football shirt (trikot) or anything.
– I got it!
The younger boy fetches a shirt from the closet. It’s a shirt of “Hansa Rostok”
The older boy laughs.
Bayern-towel and Hansa-shirt
– Come on! That’s a shirt of “Hansa Rostok”. Of course it needs to be of “Bayern Muenchen”.
– Do you have one?
– No, we sent all the Bayern- and Germany-shirts home. Here we don’t have anything.
– One more try: Do you have a special towel?
– For sure! We have one of FC Bayern.
– There you go…
THE FORMERLY DIVIDED BERLIN
*** I’d like a picture of Berlin. I’m interested in the history of the city, the division, the wall.
– You like me to make a photo on which the former division of the town can be seen? For instance remains of the wall?
-Yes, or a picture of the “Brandenburger Tor” would be nice.
Choosing is confusing
– But at the “Brandenburger Tor” you can hardly recognise the division anymore.
– I see. Well then, just choose for yourself.
– But you’re supposed to choose…
– Now I don’t know anymore.
– I’m sorry I was confusing you. I will take a photo of the “Brandenburger Tor” for you.
*** How come you can speak Russian?
– I once was in Kazakhstan.
– I see, that’s why. So you came here as a child together with your parent’s, right?
– Well no, I’m not “russian-german”. I went to Kazakhstan during my studies.
– I was just interested, nothing more.
– Funny. All those Germans from there, they come here, and you go there.
*** Hmm. Who is the man on the picture?
– He’s a tourist, from India. I asked him to pose with the postcard of the Berlin Wall in front of the “Brandenburger Tor”. Does he disturb you?
– No, it’s alright. A good picture.
THE FAMILY IN THE LIVING ROOM
*** We’d ask you to make a photo of the family, here in our living room. We have already made a family portrait, but this was in a photo studio. We like to keep the memory of this room we’re staying in now.
– Do you like the room?
– Yes, but it’s very dark. Our plants don’t get enough light. Look, this one died.
Four years waiting for an apartment
– We are a big family, 5 kids. We’d prefer to live in an apartment.
– Can you apply for it?
– Yes, we’re waiting for 4 years now. The “Sozialamt” (social services office) has to give green light.
*** My fathers asks if you might have forgotten to set the light right. The lamps are turned towards the wall and not towards us.
– Oh, that’s to get indirect light. Then there’s no ugly shadow.
– I see. ok.
*** Now we finally got a domicile.
– Great. Where are you moving to?
– We move into “Wedding”. That is far away. We’ll have a long way to school. Maybe we have to change schools. But our parents are very happy.
More space, less friends
– You’re not so happy?
– Oh well, yes. We’ll have more space. And our own kitchen and bathroom. Then everything will no longer be dirty. But we’ll not see our friends so often.
I would like to thank Bobby, Mehdi und Somajeh, Family Chassarow, Family Demirovic, Family Gigolaj, Mrs Kilaewa und Family Mrsic for their frankness and hospitality.
I thank all persons that helped me with the organisation and realisation of this project:
Jörg Ossenkopp for inspiration and support.
Roman Bittner, Mrs Geissendorfer, Mrs Giebert, Roman Grill (FC Bayern), Achim Hatzius, Frau Köpp, Gesa Ossenkopp, Frau Schüffner, Frau Schwarz, Frau Strawinski, Sekretariat Prof. Kunertz (Charité) for help and cooperation.
Special thanks to Michael Ballack und Professor Liu.