Sometimes ideas are born from ideas from ideas from ideas. ;o)
- What looks like a typo is actually the narrative behind this fashion short story, which I photographed in the beautiful city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
It all started as a different project. I tried to find a Slovenian model, who would be willing to show me her home and tell me her story, in order to continue my European project on homes. Because two of my friends couldn’t find time, I found Larisa. She studies in Ljubljana and works as an aspiring model for several international brands. We decided quickly on working together. However, since she actually comes from the coast we couldn’t photograph at her place. Thus we needed an alternative.
My mind was looking for ideas. We needed a fast solution since my departure to Germany was imminent. There were several options but I wanted something really special. And by chance I found this interesting, classy place, which reminded us of a museum or a gallery. Every inch of the walls was filled with paintings or small items from far away countries. The furniture was an assembly of antique chairs and cupboards, having so many details itself. Being inside these rooms I felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of things and apparently memories concentrated there. So many stories!
Seeing Larisa with her long black hair discovering the room, laughing and being playful with its interior (haha, not mentioning the whiskey bar), I wanted something elegant with a provocative touch. Larisa brought her friend Nika, who is a make-up artist and fashion blogger. Together we looked through the clothes and tried different things. But in the end it was the combination of dark colors which struck us. And in the end it was her nearly white skin and those strong warm reds and that inspired me to the story. Hence I conclude that it is sometimes good to stay open and let oneself being inspired by the outcome and leaving the initial path of inspiration.
We set out into the spring. Sunlight was seducing the tender buds of trees and bushes to blossom. The air still cold from the heavy rain and strong winds of the night. A scenery undecided between triste desolation and colorful pomp. A perfect setting to inspire our pictures.
Isabelle and I love nature. Thus it was easy to find together and come up with ideas. After plundering her closet we found what we thought would break the classic spring atmosphere. An artificial(!) fur coat, a black pantyhose with catchy pattern and white low chucks. Nothing too elegant, nothing too playful. Simple colors for a minimalist setting. Only red lips and red hair a splotch of color.
These beautiful Russian ladies. Their elegant dresses, their accurate make-up, their long hair and flowery smell. It is so easy to spot them in the streets. “You will always know she’s a Russian,” said Galina while serving me a cup of tea. “Their dresses and make-up distinguish them from Germans.” So of course I was curious how a Russian girl looks like at home. Can they be overslept, casual dressed and yet very beautiful?
"On our first day here we were only cleaning" remembers Reda who shares an apartment with Raminta. Both girls have been friends for five years and wanted to move in together since school days. However, none of them dared to dream that it would be possible to live even in the same city Kaunas, the second biggest in Lithuania. But when Raminta was accepted to study in Kaunas, too, both started looking for a place to live in. It had to be central and not expensive. And with some luck they found a spacious apartment in one of the former workers' quarters.
"An old woman used to live here. And when we moved in it looked like a horror movie" says Raminta. "And we are always joking that she may have died in here!" adds Reda smiling whimsically. To change that Raminta brought pictures, cups, small things from her parents' place. Just the furniture, some carpets and curtains are still from the previous tenant. "The rest we just put into a dark room. It feels strange if it is everywhere around and it is not yours."
The three rooms of the apartment were scarcely decorated. The old cupboards made out of synthetic wood, the living room lamp with flowery glass embellishments, the wallpapers, it all depicted a different time. And apart from some lonely pieces of furniture, a cupboard, a sofa, a desk, the rooms were nearly empty. It felt a bit surreal. And I could literally imagine the old woman living there. But something didn't match: The two 19 year old girls in their playful, cheerful way, always laughing and added a contrasty spice to the fusty, boring spaces. Both haven't brought a lot to re-decorate the old flat, no IKEA furniture, only a cozy blanket and some photographs of friends and family. What makes them feel home?
It was something I have heard before. From Reda's and Raminta's description I got the impression that home is only in parts physical and connected to their apartment. Both girls explained that going out with friends at least once a week and traveling back to their originating cities to celebrate birthdays is very important to them. The apartment serves mostly functional purposes, offers a shelter for sleeping and a room for studying. It is their first time living away from their parents and both enjoy the new freedom. "Wow, I am an adult, no one can say anything anymore!" describes Reda this feeling. Together with the meager decorated flat, this expression of surprise mirrors well the newly begun stage of life, with its unexpected progressions and twists. Luckily both girls can give each other hold and a sense of security in this yet undiscovered world of adults. They both didn't bring much from their parent's homes. Maybe be cause having each other was most they needed to feel at home.
Going to Slovenia in late October was a good decision.
The small country with borders to Austria in the north, Croatia in the south and Italy in the west, offers a wide range of landscapes. From steep mountain cliffs to flat coastal lines, from gigantic needle forests to smaller Mediterranean villages. And the best thing is that everything is not more than an hour car drive from its “heart”, the capital Ljubljana, away.
And right there, in the center of Slovenia, I met Eva. Well, actually I could have met Eva in Germany too. Or in Taiwan. Or who knows in what other places our paths have crossed already. But no, we met in Ljubljana, her hometown. Actually this story began with Eva applying for my "home project." She mentioned that she just returned from an Erasmus year in Germany and was thinking about the meaning of home herself. Thus I became very curious to meet her and to include her into the project. However, because of the holidays and family obligations it was not possible to realize pictures for the project. But I wanted to meet her anyway. Another good decision!
The small café by the river Ljublijanica was very crowded. It seemed like everyone went out to enjoy the last sunshine of a golden autumn, having a cigarette, a coffee and enjoying afternoon conversations. The waiter - a German! - was overworked to clear the tables and serve new drinks. But this gave Eva and me time for exchanging our stories. And I found out that Eva used to live in Lübeck and in Taiwan and that she wants to live abroad again soon. Just where she doesn't know yet. Perhaps Germany again?
After our Cappuccino was drunk I asked her for a place to take some pictures, which is less crowded. Unfortunately the small streets and bridges of the city center were not an option because it was too full with people. So we went to a near place by the river. Eva said young people meet there usually during the evenings before going to the clubs. And so Eva and I went playing with the leaves by the Ljublijanica river, where autumn couldn't decide between painting nature in gray or colors.
Madalina and I met the morning of my departure. After a cup of coffee and some pastry, the small and still empty streets of Bucharest invited for a stroll. The light was soft as if it felt dizzy after after a short night. Yet at this early hour, the air blew warm through our hair. Back home autumn is already knocking at the door. But Bucharest is still in the spirit of summer: people wearing short skirts, sitting outside in cafés, drinking long drinks or beer. It is a capital of young people. Life seems to be faster than in other places I visited in Romania.
I asked Madalina where are all the young people. And why I haven't seen many in places like Craiova and Sibiu. While I was traveling by bus and train through Romania I had the impression small cities and villages were only inhabited by elder people and young children. The reason is simple, thus it must have sounded like a stupid question. For me it was more surprise than the need for an answer. Of course, people go where work is. And where living conditions are better. That's why a big city like Bucharest attracts so many young people. Big companies create work, and hundreds of clubs and bars an option to spend the hard earned money.
So Madalina and I spoke about happiness and life. The details shall remain a secret here. But a quote summarizes well I think: "travel far enough, you meet yourself" (Cloud Atlas). And meeting a stranger may oftentimes turn into meeting a friend. Thus our morning ended on a bench in the same park where we started our walk some hours before.
Finally. Summer has come and semester break started. For many students this is the season of traveling or for family visits. “Tomorrow morning it’s time again but actually I don’t go home that often” says Rike, who I visited for my home project in her small student’s dormitory room in Potsdam. At first she was worried that her room would be too small for a “home story” but home is home and I found the colorful decorations and limitations in space being more an invitation than a limitation to shoot with her.
I noticed the small drawings in her room, most of them showing something related to the sea. This painting of a lighthouse in her window board for instance. And some scribbles on her desk. It was apparent the sea must play a role in her life. Asked about it, Rike admitted she actually misses the sea, the fresh breeze in the air, the vastness of the water and the sand between her toes when walking the long beaches. And all those revive in her drawings, when she starts to doodle sometimes in bed or in front of the television of her shared apartment.
Having moved from Stralsund (near the German coast) to Potsdam, she left the sea behind to study sports medicine. However, with all the nature and water right in front of her doorstep, Rike feels home in Potsdam. There is even a big park right outside of the dormitory. Every day she exercises in the park and goes swimming in the nearby river Havel, which runs across the city. It may not be the same as the Baltic Sea but Potsdam has just more to offer, especially for a young, creative and hard-working person like Rike. Thus returning to the coast after graduating is more one of the less likely options.
For this shooting I wanted to incorporate the aspect of drawing. Thus we looted Rike's pencil box with all the colorful pencils we found. Rike told me she sometimes lies in bed and starts doodling when resting her mind from a hard day at university. The bed seemed to be a good idea since the things around wouldn't be too distracting. Rearranging the room is always out of question for my home stories. I always "take what I get." So eventually the series evolved there. Overall I took most of the pictures with my smaller Fuji X100T. With its fixed 23mm (APS-C) lens it would offer a good range for the narrow dormitory room, I thought. However in the end, 50mm gave me a more intimate look (for my taste).
On my way from Malaga to Madrid I stopped in Granada to meet my beautiful friend Mar. We worked together already in the Home Project and since then stayed in touch. So that one afternoon Mar invited me to her place where we had pasta together and chatted about the recent happenings in our lives. Then we picked clothes and set out into the streets of Albaicín, the old part of Granada, famous for its narrow streets and white houses with view to the Alhambra.
Choosing clothes was a creative process already. Mar had some things in mind, something more outgoing and mixing different styles. I on the other hand was not too convinced about this mixture at first. So as always we looked into her closet and played with several options. But as a fashion blogger, she is the expert. ;o) So in the end I could go very well with Mar’s suggestions and we went with the shirt-and-boots style. I kinda liked the idea of putting this casual modern street style into the nostalgic, picturesque streets of Granada. Mar’s friend Mari Carmen helped us doing the hair.
Personally I very much like to roam the small streets of Albaicín and to get lost there. And I am always surprised to find other places than those I was actually looking for and to discover something new there. But this time Mar and Mari Carmen were my companions and I didn’t need to fear getting lost. After having enjoyed the white houses with their colorful flower decorations and the sound of flamenco music in the streets, our walk ended in a local bar. I was happy with the spontaneous pictures of the two girls and treated myself with a “tuvo” – a small beer. Oh yes… I said two girls. Mari Carmen is a flamenco dancer and actually the shooting was about her. So come back to see the article about her soon.
Luisa and I have known each other for over a year now. Actually since then we planned to take some pictures together, but we never found the time to do so. But a happy outcome is worth waiting for. So finally last weekend we had a breakfast together and used the hours of a late morning to create some pictures at her apartment, before university started again.