After the flood of the century

After the flood of the century


The water had gone but what remained were destroyed houses and existences and a whole load of mud and sludge. As one of the three rivers that pass through the city winds in an almost 90-degree bend just in front of the old town, the flood water carried all the sludge from the riverbed into the city. The roads were awash with almost half a metre of it and a playground on the riverbank disappeared completely under the thick mass, which was increasingly drying out in the sunshine turning into a solid concrete-like area.

Together with my assistant, we returned to Passau once again to get another picture of the extent of the damage and to capture it but as it turned out mainly to help. Similar to the night of horror when the water arrived, I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing, watching the many hundreds of helpers removing the quickly drying sludge from the city as quickly as possible this time too. So we also grabbed a shovel and pick and joined the crowd of students trying to get the chaos under control.

It was wonderful to see how great the solidarity in the region was. All ages tackled the job together and nobody thought it was beneath them to get stuck in and help out a neighbour. The strength of the community was unshakeable and they comforted each other and gave each other hope.

Catered for by the THW aid workers and Bavarian Red Cross, I spent two days on site and was therefore able to be part of this strong community. New friendships were forged and what initially seemed like an impossible task was tackled and in fact solved as a collective.

What I learnt from this experience: As great as one’s passion for photography is and however much you strive to capture events, catastrophes as a consequence of this, all the more you should be aware that in the end you’re just a human and you have a certain amount of social responsibility towards other people. Standing by doing nothing and photographing the suffering and misery is not an option.

Le grand déluge and Après le grand déluge are not impressive due to their quantity in the end but they should show that the person behind the camera is also a person who is just as powerless to the forces of nature as everyone else is.