Maybe it all started early in life, when I meticulously sorted with my spoon through alphabet soup, trying to bring a system into what is supposed to be simply a wild and unruly noodle mess merrily floating around in broth. I cannot recall if I was relentlessly pursuing the slippery Bs back then.
Or if I targeted the crunchy Bs when reaching into the beloved “ABC Russisch Brot” bag; cookies shaped like alphabet letters, a popular snack among German children and an iconic food brand with a long tradition. A bit like animal crackers in the U.S.
No matter what: I seem to be drawn to great cities starting with a B. I have lived in Berlin and Beirut, so moving to Bishkek appears to be part of a larger tripartite pattern in my life. Three strikes, then I might move on to a different letter/city. Shanghai, Singapore, San Francisco? New York, Nice, New Delhi? Or, to mix things up further in that maze of life’s paths and destinations, Xian, Yerevan, Zagreb? Maybe. In the meantime, following chronic pangs of Fernweh/Heimweh (they can be the same), I frequently return to Berlin and Beirut and wander around. And – to borrow from Langston Hughes – I wonder as I wander. And all the while I take lots of photographs. I always carry my little digital camera with me. It’s very basic, easy-to-use technology. Nothing fancy. Just takes a click. Zooming in and out is the utmost artistic finesse. Using the flash correctly (assuming one reads the manual) is a lost cause, but not using it right makes for experiments with light and colors and for unanticipated results. Some are your typical tourist snapshots. Most capture random objects, colors, angles, and shapes in what strike me as interesting constellations, converging and colliding. Abstractions of sorts. Fleeting moments, sights, and atmospheres. The things that catch my eye (actually, both eyes).
I am particularly interested in documenting what people have to say and show on walls and sidewalks, and in the interplay between text and image. And I find that wherever I am in the world, paying attention to what people communicate through this medium of public expression conveys a lively and contested urban culture: messages of love and anger, of opposition and resistance to existing conditions and structures, of witty humor and social critique. They are tender and raw, bold and delicate, poetic and political, profound and banal. Sometimes they are artistic and creative, in content or form. Sometimes they are simply beautiful. Or funny. Or smart. Because they are accessible as public sights does not mean that their meanings open themselves to me. But since they participate in, and use, public space, and thus surround us in daily life, they are worth capturing.
So, in the current absence of any Bishkek photographs on this blog (I will hit Bishkek ground running on August 11), there is Berlin and (soon) Beirut for you to look at – through my eyes. How I see them. And what I see in them, looking up to the skies and down on the ground I walk on. 199 times I looked in Berlin, for you to see in the Berlin flickr photostream posted below, in case you cannot wait for the Bishkek photos. One B city at a time.