I grew up in a Swabian village in Germany but believe till today that something went wrong and I should have been born in Argentina – but this is where I ended up just many years later. As a teenager, I really only had football on my mind. It wasn’t until I studied at the Stuttgart Academy of Art that I got into photography. There, an internship in New York with the photographer Abe Frajndlich was certainly decisive in putting me on the track of street photography. I then did my degree about Football in Scotland and therefore took many photos of young people playing in rough streets and backyards of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Especially in poor neighbourhoods where drugs and crime were literally in the streets. That’s how I got into social documentary photography and found sympathy for those who have a not so easy life. And kept on going with that since then.
As a documentary photographer, you’re always watching out for realities and stories you believe are important to bring into the light. I find this mostly in underprivileged groups, those who are on the margins or receive no attention. I want to use the opportunities that I have as a photographer and make people aware of those whose everyday life is a struggle. I’m particularly interested in young people’s issues. Teenagers are at crucial point in life, but often have no lobby or ability to participate sufficiently in social decisions. I have documented child labourers in Bolivia, children stigmatized as witches in Nigeria, child mortality in Sierra Leone and youth gangs in the UK.
I don’t always have a camera with me when I leave the house. When I take pictures, I completely focus on this and don’t do anything else besides. At some point I started to accept that you will miss more good pictures in your life than you will take. For many projects I start without taking a single picture, but try to understand the environment I’m going into and the people who live in it. And to gain their trust. Only then do I start taking pictures.
Freelance projects and assignments have taken me to many countries in South America and Africa, often in post-war and crisis areas. My first major long-term project was “Wee Muckers” with young people in Belfast, whom I met in 2017 and have visited and photographed ever since. In the meantime, so much has changed — some now have jobs or children, others are addicted to drugs and some have died. I always believed that I would never find exciting subjects in Germany. But when I couldn’t travel during the pandemic, I started the project “#053kids” about teenagers in Duisburg. What was thought to be a project about kids from socially disadvantaged backgrounds during the lockdown has since become a long-term project about migration, identity, belonging and growing up in a country that is still struggling with being a country of immigration.
Because I believe in the power of photography that I want to use and not waste it by shooting irrelevant things. Probably even more in times of AI we have to show real people, real destinies, real rebellion!