Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Instead, I went to the Beauty Salon ...


It is an offer that I do find difficult to resist: a visit to three islands including snorkeling, hotel pick-up, sandwich, water, and coffee for 20 CHF. The beginning looks promising: the minivan that picks me up is on time, there are already six passengers (three couples, one from China, one from Korea, and one from Thailand) on board. The Chinese woman says she is a doctor but her husband corrects her. "She is not a doctor", he says, "she's a pharmacist. I'm a doctor, an oncologist."

The Korean couple speaks hardly any English, the young Thai woman speaks fluent French (her parents run a Thai restaurant in Geneva). "How long  have you been here?" the oncologist asks me. "Two weeks", I say and he's clearly impressed for he seems to think that after that short period I'm already fluent in Thai. "Well, that was French, not Thai", I enlighten him.

When we get to the pier I quickly learn that our group will be put together with a much larger group and it very much looks like about fifty will be herded onto a speedboat. But before that happens we have to listen to a guy giving a speech about the dangers of small creatures in the water whose sting might land us in a hospital bed for two to seven days ... and so I decide that this is not for me. I walk over to the office, tell the guys there that I won't do the trip, do not insist on a refund, and so they take me off the passenger list and offer me a ride back to the hotel. Nobody asks me why I don't want to do the trip, nobody tries to convince me that I should. The fact that I do not feel like it is perfectly sufficient.

Instead, I went to the Beauty Salon ...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bucher & Durrer

"Die beiden Kernser Franz Josef Bucher und Josef Durrer gehörten um die Jahrhundertwende zu den bedeutendsten Hotel- und Bahnpionieren der Schweiz", lese ich auf der vierten Umschlagseite. Gemeint ist die Wende vom 19. ins 20. Jahrhundert, in der Franz Josef Bucher Hotels vom Bürgenstock bis nach Kairo baute und die Firma Bucher & Durrer unter anderem die Stanserhornbahn, die Bürgenstockbahn und die San-Salvatore-Bahn baute.

Mein Interesse an diesen beiden Männern kommt daher, dass ich sowohl das Bürgerrecht von Kerns als auch das von Zürich besitze (mein Grossvater väterlicherseits stammte aus dem Melchtal und liess sich in Zürich einbürgern) und mit zunehmendem Alter mich gelegentlich auch mit meinem Herkommen beschäftige. Dabei gehe ich davon aus, dass die Durrers auf Bruder Klaus zurückgehen (das habe ich irgendeinmal gehört und da es mir gefällt, glaube ich es auch) und somit alle irgendwie miteinander verwandt sind.

Franz Josef Bucher und Josef Durrer sind legendäre Figuren. Das liegt hauptsächlich daran, dass sie viel gewagt, sich rücksichtslos durchgesetzt und enorm erfolgreich gewesen sind.

Begonnen hat die Geschichte so:
Weihnachten 1863 treffen der Bauer Bucher und der Schreiner und Sägereibesitzer Durrer zufällig im Melchtal aufeinander und kommen miteinander ins Gespräch. Sie beschliessen fortan zusammen zu arbeiten. Sie setzen auf Parkettböden, die zu der Zeit in der Schweiz noch selten sind, jedoch schon bald in Mode kommen.

Bucher, der eine harte, unternehmerische Linie vertrat, und Durrer, der zurückhaltend, diplomatische,  sind von ganz unterschiedlichem Temperament, was denn auch zu Streitereien und schliesslich zur endgültigen Trennung der beiden führt. Doch vorher geschieht noch ganz viel Aussergewöhnliches und Gewagtes, so werden etwa von der ungarischen Regierung 20 000 Eichenbäume in Siebenbürgen gekauft ... die beiden Obwaldner sprechen übrigens keine Fremdsprache und das damalige Reisen ist recht abenteuerlich ...

Doch soll jetzt hier nicht das Buch nacherzählt, sondern nur die Neugier geweckt werden:
"Grosszügige Werbung im In- und Ausland, internationale Anerkennung, Geschäftsbeziehungen mit den wichtigsten Metropolen des ausgehenden 19. Jahrhunderts ist eines. Der fast beschämende Kleinkrieg um jeden Rappen Ausgaben in Obwalden das andere. Die Firma Bucher & Durrer macht sich ebenso viele Freunde in der halben Welt wie Feinde in der engeren Heimat", schreibt Romano Cuonz, der für den Text in diesem Buch zeichnet. Dass er dabei schildert, wie er zu seinen Informationen gekommen ist und also den Leser an seinen Recherchen teilhaben lässt, ist so rar wie begrüssenswert.

Eindrücklich sind auch die Fotos (etwa vom Grand Hotel Bürgenstock und von Sophia Loren mit Carlo Ponti) in diesem Band, der von Christof Hirtler konzipiert worden ist. Schön, dass es noch Archive mit solchen Bildern gibt, die uns eine Vorstellung längst vergangener Zeiten vermitteln können.

Romano Cuonz / Christof Hirtler
Franz Josef Bucher und Josef Durrer
Hotelkönig und Bergbahnpionier
Brunner Verlag, edition magma, Kriens 2015

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Beyond the 'Arab Spring'

Remember when Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power? The TV reports of Cairo's Tahrir Square? The time when lots of people in Northern Africa were full of hope that their lives would get better?

Petra Stienen, „an independent advisor in the fields of democracy, diversity and diplomacy“ with nine years experience in Egypt and Syria, states in her introduction to Stories of Change: „For many viewers in the West, these uprisings came as a surprise. Somehow the image had sunk in that there was an inherent complacency in North Africa with the status quo of poverty, inequality and oppression. Nothing was further from the truth.“

The 'Arab Spring' refers to the first months of the spring of 2011. The pictures in this tome, on the one hand, give testimony to the uprising that then took place, on the other hand, they document aspects of life in Northern Africa that, as the subtitle suggests, go „beyond the 'Arab Spring'“.

What we get to see in this book are eleven photo-stories as well as five texts that offer, as Petra Stienen states, „an impression of how the revolutions have affected people's lives, their dreams and their future.“ That might be true in regards to the texts yet I'm not so sure whether photos can really do that. When looking at the pics of the uprisings one can – that was at least my experience – sense that something that cannot really be controlled is in the air.

The stories, and photographs, are however not limited to the uprisings. I thought it particularly interesting to be shown pictures of, and told about, people with disabilities who live in difficult and challenging social conditions – for this is not what is usually reported from these parts of the world.

For more, go to 
http://www.fstopmagazine.com

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Around Sargans



These photos were taken in May / June 2013. 
I'm not sure whether this is relevant ... it does actually often look like this around here ... but I do rarely see it ... I need photographs to be reminded ... and in order to see ...

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Magnum Legacy Eve Arnold

Let me admit right away that I've had considerable problems deciding which of the images made available by Magnum I should choose to show here  for there was this limit that only up to three can be used without fees  and so, well, to leave out the truly wonderful Marilyn Monroe shots or the one of Angelica Huston at the age of sixteen or ... wasn't that easy. The ones I've finally chosen will give you an idea of the variety of Eve Arnold's photographs. And, it will hopefully make you want to see more of her often stunning pictures.

This book is the first in the Magnum Legacy series. From the foreword by Susan Meiselas and Andrew E. Lewin I learn that the series "seeks to explore a photographer's life between and around the photographs. Through the combination of biographical text, archival materials, and iconic imagery, each book will be devoted to one former or living Magnum photographer. It will explore his or her individual creative and work process, the mechanics of story making, and the evolving relationship of photojournalism and documentary photography to the various media outlets and beyond that Magnum has served since its inception in 1947."
USA. Hollywood. Joan Crawford. 
1959 © Eve Arnold / Magnum Photos

Eve Arnold was born poor in America, on 21 April 2012 in Philadelphia, the fifth of ten children. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. Her photographic education consisted in a six-week course at the New School for Social Research in New York City. An important lesson she learned early on was "to retain editorial control over her work and, whenever possible, wrote the accompanying text herself."

In 1951, in Brookhaven Township, on the North Shore of Long Island, she "started what would turn out to be a ten-year project on one family, the Davises, whose Long Island roots dated back to 1710." The most extraordinary shot shows them having a church supper near the tombs of their ancestors.

"Eve always felt that being a woman was an advantage", author Janine di Giovanni notes. Arnold explains: "Men like to be photographed by women, it becomes flirtatious and fun, and women feel less as if they're expected to be in a relationship."
USA. New York City. Marlene Dietrich at
the recording studios of Columbia Records, 
who were releasing most of her songs she had 
performed for the troops during World War II, 
including Lili Marlene, Miss Otis Regrets
She was 51 years old and starting a come-back 
in show business. It was a wet and cold November
night and work could only begin at midnight at the 
advise of Marlene's astrologer.
November 1952 © Eve Arnold / Magnum Photos

On the one hand, Eve Arnold was photographing celebrities ("I was not impressed with the names but interested in why they were the chosen ones"), on the other, she documented cruelties like, for instance, "early trials of a tranquilizer called Milltown that was being tested on 'guinea pigs' inside a Haitian insane asylum." One of her most intriguing projects I think to be "Behind the Veil" that started in 1969 in Afghanistan where the veil had been outlawed a decade earlier, went on to Egypt, where the veil had already in 1920 been removed, and to the United Arab Emirates, "home of the Muslim world's most heavily veiled women."

"In the midst of a chaotic set  and a crowd of Magnum photographers", remarks di Giovanni on the photographs from the filming of The Misfits, "Eve somehow managed to seize intimacy from all her subjects - notably the ailing Gable - but it was Monroe who, even in her bleakest moments, shaped the shoot." I'm glad di Giovanni points that out for, sadly, the influence of the person photographed is often overlooked, one rarely gets to read about it. Eve Arnold wrote years later: "I never knew anyone who even came close to Marilyn in natural ability to use both photographer and still camera."

The collaboration between photographer and subject gets also mentioned when Arnold elaborates on Malcolm X, the leader of the Black Muslims (the Nation of Islam): "He obviously had an idea of how he wanted the public to see him and he maneuvered me into showing him that way." There are quite some photographers who would not want to be used by their subjects but Arnold thought that intriguing. "I am always delighted by the manipulation that goes on between subject and photographer when the subject knows about the camera and how it can best be used to his advantage."
China. Inner Mongolia. Horse training for the militia. 
1979 © Eve Arnold / Magnum Photos

Eve Arnold was an excellent photojournalist. By this I mean that she didn't just show up and shoot pictures but knew very well what she got herself into for she meticulously researched her stories. And, she was a creative thinker. "It seemed to me that Goya, who dealt with reality, was a reporter, and that if he had lived in the 20th century he might have used a Leica instead of a paintbrush to document his time."

"Janine di Giovanni, who had known and admired Eve, signed on to the project enthusiastically", I read in the acknowledgements. And, she contributed a formidable text, I'd say, that also includes insightful and informative readings of quite some of the pictures in this highly recommendable book..

Janine di Giovanni
Magnum Legacy Eve Arnold
Magnum Foundation
Prestel, Munich-London-New York 2015

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

In Phuket Town

On my flight to Singapore, the kids of a French-speaking couple are pretty loud, especially the cute girl of about two makes herself much heard at regular intervals, the parents do not intervene. One of the flight attendants smilingly distributes ear-plugs to the passengers in the next row.

While boarding the plane to Phuket, a short, and rather stocky pilot, who looks about 23, is running alongside the embarking passengers towards the plane entrance ... he is my first sweating, out-of-breath pilot; I've always imagined them tall, somewhat superior, and fully in control.

Phuket Town seems to be a paradise for dentists. Dent Center reads a sign, Dental Home Clinic another, and then there's also the Dental Master.
The tourists that I meet are from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Poland, and the North of Thailand. The Russians of recent years seem to have been gone. The young man who shows me around one of the hotels that I'm checking out says that there are lots of Chinese guests. Loud? I ask for I had seen them storming the buffet at another hotel not so long ago. Yes, he smiles, but they are on the first and the second floor, you would be on the third.

Like everywhere else in Thailand, taxi services are offered wherever you go. I remember a Thai teacher who, when asked how one should respond to taxi drivers who shouted at every corner: taxi, taxi, where you go?, said, well, you simply ignore them. If that doesn't help, you could still say pai rong pak because no taxi driver wishes to go there. And, what does that mean? I'm going to the police station, the teacher smiled.
Where do you get off? the Thai woman next to me on the bus wants to know from the woman sitting opposite. I'm not Thai, I'm from the Philippines, she says in Thai (which is about as good as mine - virtually non-existent, that is) and I feel reminded of this: Two young women, one Irish, very white, red hair, fluent in Thai (she grew up in Bangkok), the other a Filipina from Manila, indistinguishable from a Thai, fluent in English but speaks no Thai at all, get into a taxi. The taxi driver addresses the Filipina (he thinks she is Thai) in Thai and gets angry when she responds in English. The Irish girl tries to explain (in Thai) but is cut off by the taxi driver who does not want to be lectured by a Farang. And, above all, he surely does not accept such an arrogant fellow Thai who refuses to speak their common language with him ...

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Sich von Landquart her nähernd



Diese Bilder wurden mit einem Nokia-Handy im März 2015 in Landquart aufgenommen.