The Leica Interview – Après le grand Déluge.
A compassionate photographer documents the grim but hopeful aftermath of the Great European Floods of 2013.
Q: We last interviewed you in March 2014 for your work “OBSESSION FOR FREEDOM.” What have you been up to photographically and professionally since then?
A: Oh, a lot has happened in the meantime: some productions in fashion and a cover production for music. In addition to reportage, in connection with a film production, I was on a road trip through the United States from Los Angeles to New York by car. We’ve done a lot of PR for the Book “OBSESSION FOR FREEDOM” that will result in an exhibition in 2015. Currently we’re in the middle of planning with a charity organization for children for a huge production in the Philippines in January 2015. This should result in a new limited edition photo book as well as an exhibition. For both of these projects all of the money generated from sales will be donated to charity. Also I will assume all the costs of traveling and printing to further support the charity. Every single euro we will create is for the children of the Philippines.
Q: These images show a city flooded. Can you provide us specifics? Where and when did it occur?
A: The flood came over many areas of Europe, especially southern Germany and Austria, between May and June 2013. In Passau, Bavaria, it was the highest flood since the year 1501. In this city three rivers come together, so flooding hits it really hard. I was there from June 2nd until the 4th of 2013.
Q: What were you trying to achieve in documenting the flood?
A: Documenting the flood was not the first thought that came to my mind. The city of Passau is very close to the town where I grew up and on June 2nd I happened to be on an autobahn near Munich, about 150 kilometers away from Passau. While listening to the radio I heard reports about the huge disaster unfolding there. That’s what motivated me to go there and help, because it was my home area.
But, of course, the camera is always with me and as I arrived in Passau I knew from the first second that this was no ordinary flood, like those that happen every couple of years. I knew that this was going to be a huge thing, a huge natural disaster, and I knew that someone needed to capture these moments for the future of Passau and for other people around the world. A flood like this could show us that the force of nature itself is always greater than that of humans, and an event like this could definitely teach people in many different ways. Of course, it was not easy for me. On the one hand, you’re trying to help the people struggling with it: you carry sandbags, you pull cars out of the area after the flood, you shovel the mud away, etc. On the other hand, you need to focus on what happened around you and not forget to capture it with your camera.
Q: Preserving moments in history is a worthy end in itself, but what do you think people can learn from your images that will be useful in helping them understand and deal with the forces of nature going forward?
A: I think, or rather I wish, that it will help us to be more thankful and not to take our circumstances for granted. The forces of nature are able to take everything, all material things, away from us within a couple hours or even minutes … and all this without warning! For example, as you could imagine in studying the photograph with all the destroyed books in front of the book store – the people have had to leave as fast as possible and they were not able to take their stuff with them. That’s horrible and irreparable. The books are gone, forever!
Q: What camera and lenses did you use to take these photos?
A: I took all of these photographs with my Leica Monochrom with the Leica Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 and the Leica Elmarit-M 28 mm f/2.8.