“No, don’t do that!” I tell myself. Again and again I hold myself back. “Let others talk about you, but don’t talk about yourself.” It’s these old dwellers on the threshold that keep screaming at me, wanting to prevent anything from… – no – me from changing. Perhaps you do recognise this.
Then, two days ago, on 27th of September, at an event in Frankfurt, I heard the following words from Florian Langenscheidt (that’s right, the one from the ‘dictionary dynasty’): he said: “92 percent of all worries turn out to be unfounded”.
Wow. That hit. Like a cave diver slapping his fin on the bottom, it stirred up sediment inside me, which will take a long time to settle down again.
So, what am I waiting for? Publish the text now.
It all started in the spring of 2012. My photography business was … well … lukewarm and I was looking for new sources of income. I sent out a selection of my Burma pictures to all sorts of presentation organisers. In the hope that I could show my pictures as part of a full-length show. Among the addressees was Dieter Glogowski.
I was very fortunate: Dieter invited me to his place. It was August 2012. Dieter asked me: “Have you ever given a talk like this before?” I replied in the negative. “Do you think you can do it”. I hesitated and nodded. “I have a confession to make,” Dieter went on, “I’ve already scheduled you for the “Weitsicht” in April 2013.” I was rendered speechless, didn’t let my slight delight and a great deal of apprehension show, and agreed.
I surely underestimated it!
In due course Dieter gave me countless tips and suggestions like “You have to give the talk ten times beforehand. “Yes, yes. I’m doing it. Why does this total professional dedicate so much time to me, a total presentation amateur?
Looking back, I must add that there is a huge difference between just taking good pictures (I can) and giving a good photo presentation (I definitely couldn’t back then).
I surely underestimated it!
Immediately after the meeting with Dieter, I started programming my picture show like a madman (you need special software for this, with which you can nicely cross-fade pictures and add music and sound bites: Wings Platinum). It’s a lot of tinkering. So I sat behind my computer for 12 to 16 hours every day and built the first show. For exactly 10 days up until my first presentation on Usedom. It became a multimedia round trip, one picture highlight after another.
It did not work.
Usedom was strategically chosen so that I would not embarrass myself in front of a Berlin audience – or even friends. The presentation had an audience of 35. I was mercilessly running overtime. For two hours I bombarded the audience with my pictures. One place of interest after the other. No break. Bam bam bam.
The audience, totally exhausted, fled the hall. Still, it was good that I held the show right there. But I would never be able to present it like that at Dieter’s festival WEITSICHT. I would have to change something. But what? How?
Shortly before Christmas 2012, during the end-of-year clean-out, on my bookshelf I rediscovered a book on screenwriting. All right. Let’s have a look.
While I was leafing through the dusty book, I recalled: it was during my first trip to Burma, in 2005, that I started taking pictures again at all. It was a kind of reincarnation of my photographic career – after I had sold all my photographic equipment years before. In Burma, a fresh unknown energy took hold of me and made me take pictures non-stop, as if in a delirium. On the second trip to Burma, when I went just by myself, for four weeks I did nothing but act the “geo-photographer”. If I’m not one, then I’ll pretend to be one. So for four weeks I lived my dream.
I closed the book. Why shouldn’t I talk about this in the presentation?
“You must be insane to want to reveal such personal things!” it screamed inside me. “What will people think? You show-off!” It went on like this for weeks. Again and again, my inner critic-imp “Toxy” drooled. He spat and grumbled for all he was worth. “You can’t do it! Are you crazy!!! They will laugh at you, hahaha!!!”
And Toxy… will shut up now.
At some point I began to understand Toxy. Toxy has one big drawback. He only reacts. He never initiates anything himself. Then there is something else that appears before Toxy enters in. I call it the “first fresh impulse”. That first miraculous, magical, pure idea. It arises from the middle of your head and then you become aware of it.
Toxy can only take the fly swatter and hit it. Nothing else.
And Toxy … will shut up now.
I reframed my presentation with a few ingredients from my life – not too many, the audience surely wants to get an impression from Burma.
Then came the big day in Darmstadt in April 2013.
“The WEITSICHT is sold out,” Dieter’s assistant told me. Yes, what does it mean? “It means that there are 730 people in each performance.” I beg your pardon? Seven hundred and thirty. There are no more tickets.
That could turn out to be something.
At the end of the first day of the festival, it was my turn to rehearse because I was the first one on the following Sunday. It was 11:30 pm and the two technicians wanted to go home I was sure. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding and I didn’t prepare the things that needed to be prepared. What a bummer, my fault, I should have made sure. How embarrassing. Dieter was annoyed and rightly so! Tempers flared at the technical desk, but everything quickly calmed down again and we managed. Still: It was all my fault.
Back at the hotel, I went on recording my presentation until half past three in the morning. I definitely wanted to “deliver” and not disappoint expectations.
At 7 a.m. I got out of bed, meditated and without breakfast hurried to the lecture hall.
10 am. The doors open and the crowds pour in. And sure enough, the hall is filled up to capacity. I can hear my heartbeat in my ear. Dieter introduces me, it starts.
It’s going well. But in one section I falter: in 1976 my cousin Ulrike bringsme the first Geo-edition from Hamburg to my hometown Lüneburg. An exotic, unseen world unfolds before me at the age of ten… Ulrike just died only a few weeks before, in February 2013. This hits me now, I struggle for composure. I allow everything that comes and think “This is who I am and you must accept me this way”.
Shortly before the end of the talk, I express my gratitude to the Burmese and my family, closing words and another five-minute declaration of my love for the Burmese: my most beautiful portraits accompanied by music, selected by my godchild Danilo, Ulrike’s son. The circle has closed.
It does not stop. It’s unbelievable. What is happening?
Then the lights come on. Applause. Dieter stands in front of the stage and gives me a sign to go to the centre of the stage. I do so. Still applause. It doesn’t stop. Dieter comes on stage, takes me in his arms, says something to the audience. I see tears in his eyes. The old fox with his over 25 years of stage, festival and talks experience! How beautiful.
Then the people rise. And continue to clap.
It does not stop. It’s unbelievable. What is happening?
None of this I even remotely expected. It is one of the biggest and most beautiful surprises of my life. I am very grateful for it. It is a great gift.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my mentor Dieter once again. He is always and unreservedly at my side with advice, deeds and help. Thank you!
Now I’m sitting here in Berlin, typing these lines and wondering what actually has happened, what magic elixir I was allowed to collect at WEITSICHT. I think it is this: in the beginning there was a little impulse, an idea, a little strand. With a lot of regular ‘training’, discipline and basic trust, with these fertilisers and catalysts, a resilient muscle grew that is now part of me.
Therefore, I would like to share with you: trust the first, fresh impulse. Have the courage to overcome limits. Train your “muscle”.
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