12 August 2008


July 28, 2008

When the ifa-Galerie asked me to participate in the upcoming exhibit, “Nature–Living at the Edge,” I knew it was perfect for Industrial Scars. So, I proposed that we include one of the Industrial Scars symposia as part of the program, which the gallery embraced enthusiastically.

The point of the project is to present people with enthralling images of industrial nightmares, “the consequences of our consumption,” that will serve to inspire reflections on the impact of the euros we spend and the effects our spending will have on our grandchildren. The symposium project has turned in to a vehicle to establish dialog between audience and artist, and, ideally includes a local component, in the form of an aerial photo shoot of nearby environmental damage that is affecting the lives of the residents. Of course, the mining of brown coal (lignite) is the first thing that comes to mind when brainstorming environmental issues around Berlin, so I proceeded to research and map the possibilities. Lignite is an environmental disaster; its mining devastates large areas - entire towns are moved by the powerful conglomerate of industry and government with little regard for the displaced populations. Lignite itself has so little energy value that it’s only worth digging up if it’s burned on the spot. Therefore, tremendous power plants are constructed in the middle of the mines. Aside from the other contaminants produced (only some of which can be filtered), the carbon output is huge.

Having photographed the mines near Koeln, I was interested to see the different techniques used in Cottbus (just south of Berlin).

These photo expeditions require tremendous research and preparation, so we began with preparations forthwith: producing and shipping the images for the exhibit, and organizing the logistics of an aerial shoot.

Too soon the departure date was upon us, and for once I arrived at JFK airport with plenty of time, only to discover I had forgotten my passport. There had been some thunderstorms that day, so there was some hope I could race back in to the city and get it. Sure enough, a call to Delta uncovered the fact that the flight was delayed, and I made it back to the airport in time to check-in, only to wait through a variety of Delta excuses for the continued delay of the flight. As the hours passed, the other passengers became increasingly angry; I, on the other hand, have decided that in this life there are too many things to bring stress, and it kills. Finally, 7 hours after scheduled departure, Delta cancelled the flight at 2 AM, leaving everyone stranded at the airport. I hailed a taxi and went back to the city for a few hours of sleep.

Having another day of work is always a good thing, in this case especially, as the Berlin newspaper, The Taz, was interested in a feature story and needed a large selection of images. I was able to send those along, and decided I would take the low-carbon transport to the airport this time. As I condemn Delta, I praise the NYC transit system with its new train to JFK, which takes about the same time as a taxi, at a fraction of the financial and environmental cost.

As the direct flight to Berlin was booked, I was put on a connection through Paris, which arrived in Berlin just in time for me to race to the small airport in Strausberg, from which we would do our aerial flight. Interesting the legacies of the past that affect our lives: this was an old Cold War landing strip in East Germany… so many resources squandered on our militaristic posturing in the superpower arms race.

More to follow…

07 August 2008


May 1, 2008

Some final thoughts on a fantastic project and experience…

Unfortunately, because my projects are booked so tightly, I rarely have time to enjoy the local charms. This was especially tragic in this case, as Jerez is one of the nicest towns I have seen in a while. It is the home of sherry (the liqueur), and one of the most charming, under-run towns in Europe. Hotel options from Hotel Nova Centro (37 Euros a night, happy staff to help you chase down the meter man and correct the error in the ticket), to the more upscale Barcelo (with a restaurant in a renovated church, where you can have an amazing arroz negro). I regret even more that I did not have time to go to Cadiz, a legend in itself. To walk the same streets as Goya in his illness would make me feel a connection to him and old Spain that I would cherish. To all of you travelers out there, please do not make the same mistake as I!

During the trip, I had the very cool opportunity to be interviewed by El Mundo in Huelva, which I gave in my ever-improving Spanish. It’s always very difficult to give an interview about these complex topics in a language you don’t speak at all well, but my approach was to say things in different ways until my interviewer nods in understanding.

In spite of the fact that it’s a bit difficult to get a vegetarian meal, I quite enjoyed the trip to Spain; the Spaniards are polite and possess immense charm and grace.