early training

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A quick cup of tea with a dear friend and fellow photographer in a place called Frida brought me to Düsseldorf some days ago. It was already quite dark and so there wasn’t much opportunity for regular street photography after leaving the main station.

All pictures taken with: Olympus Pen E-PL3 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

Don’t worry, it was malt beer. Nevertheless the kid was behaving like it was drunk. The picture didn’t turn out quite as odd as the real scene.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

We were too bored to wait inside for the train. For my little Oly the lighting situation was a bit difficult though. I guess a NEX would have done a better job.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

The photographer on the advertising pillar is actually a sculpture by Christoph Pöggeler.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

Mmmmh, fast food. Can’t really relate to that blissful facial expression.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

Extremely dark on the platform. Not exactly ideal conditions for street photography.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

The view from Bilker Kirche.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

“Steinreich” means something like “filthy rich”. Sums up a rather large proportion of the population of Düsseldorf.

 

The last few days I was largely busy with necessary evils like going to the doctor’s office for a prescription, making a backup of my computer, grocery shopping and all sorts of little things that made the days pass much too quickly without really adding any meaning. However, I also went to one of my favourite bookstores – Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus at Friedrichstraße – and picked up a book that I wasn’t able to get from my usual source online. Being in Berlin has its advantages as well, although I can’t wait to be back in Spain. None of this stuff was very creative, but of course I used the opportunity to take pictures while running errands. On another creative note: Yesterday I also managed to mount a couple of pictures on foamboard (in preparation for the next exhibition which I will announce soon) and I have to say that the new foamboard cutter was a good investment. Considering how difficult it is to cut these boards by hand it will make things much easier. The right tools can go a long way.

Apart from such rather boring and inconsequential success stories like getting the right prescription without much effort or being able to cut foamboard without swearing I also have a bigger success story to tell you: These days I am very focussed on reading and developing new ideas! The last weeks I spent in San Sebastian before coming to Germany I realised that I tend to become rather restless, when I’m prevented from doing something creative. Editing pictures seems rather boring and uncreative to me and so I tend to get annoyed, when I spend too much time editing pictures and too little taking them. I then decided that I needed another creative project to occupy me that I can do even while the weather is bad or my health is keeping me at home. I have found a very good outlet in engaging in preparations and research for writing a book.

As you might know, I actually planned to do a PhD when I graduated from my Masters degree a few years ago. Up until recently I had been very unlucky with this idea, losing all opportunities for funding, struggling with my health and finally I even started having doubts about the use of a PhD in general for someone with my health problems, but also about the topic in particular. The longer I thought about it, the more it just seemed undoable in any sensible period of time in part due to my health and in part due to the topic. Since the topic was rather interdisciplinary there seemed to be just too much literature involved, too many things to consider and on top of things I began to develop an emotional problem with my main focus of research: tango argentino. I don’t know whether the problems with the research came from a problem inherent in my very subject of study and maybe its context in Berlin, or whether the research caused me to see the tango in a new light. Maybe it was a little of both. In any case, it was rather worrying to find myself questioning something that I had loved rather unconditionally for many years. This conflict deepened even further when my health took a turn for the worse and I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t even dance anymore. From then on research on tango started to seem actually rather depressing, as if scrutinising a long lost friendship.

Finally my inability to even attempt to start the project somehow began to resemble the kind paralysis one might find oneself in when facing a huge hairy spider. Maybe one could defeat the beast if one tried, but the bigger the beast is, the more likely one is compelled to consider permanent cohabitation rather than to have the thing suddenly crawling up one’s arm. Every few months I would attempt again to get myself motivated to try, maybe read a few books that were barely related to the topic at all, and then give up again. Many times I decided to finally give up the struggle entirely rather than to keep pretending that I was still seriously considering the prospect of tackling the beast. But then it was still sitting there, mocking me and giving me the feeling that I had given up on something important, something for which I worked hard for many years. Maybe a stronger person would have accepted defeat, but I just couldn’t begin to face the prospect of having somehow “wasted” six years of my life studying without any real outcome. A couple of pieces of paper with a few insignificant grades on it that had no bearing on my life whatsoever just couldn’t make up for having sacrificed my health, part of my sanity and a good deal of comfort over the years. The deadlock was complete: I was equally unable to do the project as I was unable to give it up.

I have now finally broken away from this deadlock by realising that my move to Spain would make it impossible or maybe very very difficult to follow my particular research project any further, since there just isn’t that much tango there. Once I got away from my spider I realised that I wasn’t dreading to do research in general, but rather that I was dreading to do research on that particular topic. I started following my own intuition again and almost immediately I came up with a new and much more promising idea. The new topic of research is still indirectly connected to the old topic, but sufficiently disconnected for the overlap to seem useful rather than threatening. And contrary to my previous topic, which I couldn’t even manage to start properly, I somehow already found myself in the middle of the new topic without even having intended to even find one at all. I have now been working on the project a bit more than a month and I already have made much more progress on it than I made the previous two years while avoiding the old one. It only goes to show that when you’re confronted with failure it’s sometimes a rather stupid idea to just try harder! I’m very glad that somehow I have found a way to let go without settling on defeat. Giving up entirely would have been one of those things that would have haunted me for years.

Comments

  • I admire your courage, fortitude and resilience, and wish you all luck in our new research project. The photographs were great in this episode,too, but this time it was the narrative that overshadowed them to warm the very cockles of my heart. I want you to know that you have an unknown supporter (and fellow Olympus user) in distant India rooting for you, ‘Dr’ to-be-soon Lilly Schwartz

    • Lilly Schwartz

      Aww, thanks Subroto! Good to know that I have your support! I’ve come to realise in the past though that getting a PhD is in fact a rather political enterprise. It’s all about convincing the right kind of people that one deserves their support and finding the right kind of framework where one’s ideas fit in. My own research doesn’t seem to fit in the current mainstream though and therefore I have already failed to find the right framework in the past. At the moment I feel disinclined to spend all my momentum on the barriers of the system and prefer just to do my work instead. Since the right kind of support doesn’t usually materialise by itself, it’s therefore rather unlikely that it will lead to getting the PhD unless of course it happens by chance and pure luck. I don’t care though, since writing the book will be a worthy goal in itself 🙂

  • Ralf D.

    Just do it! 🙂

    • Lilly Schwartz

      Thanks Ralf, will do! 🙂

  • Lilly, great pics and wonderful comments — street photography does have its charm. Do you use a remote to shoot your pics, or is it the finger that does the work? I assume your camera is carried on a shoulder strap and it took a while to know what you´re shooting. I tried it last week with my Oly PL-3, but got mainly park benches, pigeons, legs and the occasional newspaper vending machine — not too many faces.

    And write the book. It´s very satisfying. Took me forever to do it, but once the first one is done, you´re hooked.

    http://www.amazon.de/Peter-J.-Kraus/e/B001K1L7HI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_16?qid=1396192537&sr=8-16

    Again, thanks for the great photography that really brings Berlin (which I love) closer and shows Düsseldorf (which I remember fondly for the Altbier) for what it is: Einkaufsparadies für Überreiche.

  • OK fine, I think I know what hurdles you’re talking about, since my daughter has just about come to the same place as you are in right now. Whatever path you take, I know the outcome will be a worthwhile contribution, and I look forward to buying that book when it gets published.

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