Soundtrack To My Youth – Part 6

In a new ancient land

It’s 1983 and I am having to speak English all of the time but that’s good, because now I can!  Three years earlier I had packed my bags, plus one wooden box filled with records, and moved to Australia. I did this all by myself, I left my mother and my younger brother in Switzerland, promising, that I would do all I could to ensure them a visa to migrate as well.  They would join me five years later. I remember my English teacher in Switzerland telling me, that once you dreamt in another language you had mastered it.  It actually only took me about three months to have my first English language dream, I was amazed!  Mind you, I still couldn’t understand a bloody thing.  I think it was more a case of culture shock, rather than me being a language genius.  Besides, when I got off the plane in Melbourne, I first thought that I had travelled to the wrong country. As far as I could work out, no one spoke any recognisable English here!  Australian lingo was a long shot from the nice Oxford style English they tried to teach me in the evening school back in Switzerland.

One of my first jobs was as a delivery driver for a French bakery, the place was run by an erratic, always hung-over French man who simply gave me the job, because I wasn’t an aussie.  Suited me just fine plus, I learned to drive a small truck on the wrong side of the road in a big new city.  What could possibly go wrong!  Besides managing to have a small crash on my first day, all went well! In fact I really loved the job, I was out for most of the day driving around and taking in my new world.  And then there was the car radio, I discovered a small public station, that was obviously the cities lefty voice.  It not only helped me to hone my language skill, I also received an education in humanitarian issues.  And if it wasn’t for 3CR I may have never have heard of Ivor Cutler, the great Scottish poet.  I had been a reggae fan for a number of years but there was one sound I had never heard of before; contemporary Koori music. A mixture of reggae, rock and protest music all held together with the ancient sound of a didgeridoo!  This was a real eye and ear opener for me.

Melbourne had a great live music scene and I was fortunate enough to live only 5 staggers and 3 rolls from a wonderful music venue, run mostly by Maori bikies.  It was here that I discovered my soundtrack for most of the early 1980’s.  I saw this band a couple of times and loved their energy, commitment and passion.  No Fixed Address are now considered an iconic Australian band and this song is bonafide Aboriginal anthem.

No Fixed Address ‘We have survived’

I am a lazy artist!

I’m happy to use whatever gets the work done the easiest and quickest way.  Granted, ‘easy’ and ‘quick’ are relative terms. The idea of achieving results in a shorter time and with less effort has always appealed to me, a decisive factor in my early adoption of digital photography.

In 2001 I purchased my first digital camera, a secondhand Kodak DC220, a 2 (!) megapixel beast of a thing. My film cameras started to gather dust from that point on. Not only did digital photography offer instant images, something that I hadn’t experienced since shooting Polaroids in the 1970’s, it also allowed image manipulation without the need for a dark room.  I was sold!

Nowadays I have a camera that has wifi and I can transfer my photos onto an iPad and edit my images on the go.  This has made a big difference to my travel photography, as I carry my ‘dark room’ in my bag!

In this spirit, I am always happy to try new ways of working with photography and image-making. So this weekend I am exploring the latest instant digital print making method, which kind of takes me back to my early photoshop printmaking methods.  I’ll be posting some images that have been made with the Prisma app.  I should point out, that I am not a fan of heavy manipulated photos but I see this app as creative printmaking method rather than a photo editing tool.

Besides, it’s easy and quick!

London D-Day

’11:30! … Oh you have got to be joking!’  The man looked worried and rushed past me. I had only been in London for a couple of hours and I was already upsetting the locals.  But much worse was to come.

It’s 1978 and I am on my first solo travel trip.  A week earlier I had spontaneously decided to spend a week in London.  This would be the first time I’d be in a country that didn’t border on Switzerland plus I was going to fly! I booked my ticket which included a hotel stay somewhere in Earls Court, I borrowed my best mate’s bag and my mum’s 35mm camera, a basic rangefinder. It was a big step up from my old camera, a Kodak Instamatic.



My Mum’s BALI 35mm rangefinder camera.

The adventure started the moment I arrived at Heathrow airport, a short two hour flight from Zurich.  I grabbed my bag, which was small enough to be taken on board, so I wouldn’t have to bother with any luggage carousel.  No hanging around the airport for me.  I stepped out into the arrival hall and thought, ‘Now what?’  Using my rudimentary English skills I asked someone, ‘ How do I get to London from here?’  I was told to ‘just catch the train.’ I observed that many people bought tickets to Victoria Station, and that sounded about right to me.  With a ticket in hand I set off.

Travelling on the crowded train I experienced the wonder of being in a new place for the first time. I was in England!  As if to underlie my exhilaration, outside the window I spotted the Battersea Power Station!  Remember this was 1978 and the previous year Pink Floyd released ‘Animals’ which featured an image of this magnificent structure on the album cover.  I was liking this trip a lot!

Made it to Victoria Station and now I had to find my hotel.  I had an address and a little map of London, besides that I could simply ask someone.  I remember it involved a couple of Tube rides, twice on the same line just so I could work out which direction the trains were running! Once I made it to Earls Court I felt better.  Walking along a busy main street, a gentleman came up to me and asked if I knew what time it was.  ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘It is 11:30 Sir!’ He went a shade paler and hurried off.  Only later did I realise that there was an hour’s time difference between Switzerland and England.

Finally I entered the hotel lobby, introduced myself and was greeted with great fanfares.  ‘Mister Schatz,’  the lobby worker exclaimed, ‘So good to see you, we have been looking for you all morning!’  I was puzzled and asked why.  Turns out, the flight I had booked also included a hotel transfer from the airport.  But having only travelled with hand luggage I was out of Heathrow in no time, missing all of the paging announcements. Oh well! That first day was certainly adventurous for me but I was still to have my Robert Capa moment.

Next morning I was up early and eager to explore London.  There were so many famous sites that I had read about it was hard to know where to start.  For the first time I loaded my camera with 35mm film and I was ready to go. I was going to see as many iconic places as I could manage: Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace etc.

I think it was in Trafalgar Square when it happened. My first roll of film had come to an end.  I was sure I got some fabulous  shots.  

I sat down, got another roll ready and opened the back of the camera.  Disaster struck right there and then. Having only ever used 126 cartridge based film, I forgot that this film had to be rewound!  What an idiot I was.  I quickly closed the camera up rewound the film and hoped for the best.  I decided to be on the safe side and retraced my steps to re-photograph the sites I wanted photos of, cursing all the way.

It was only the other day, while watching a documentary on the famed Magnum photographer Robert Capa, who famously photographed the D-Day landing in World War 2, that this memory was triggered. Most of the photographs that Capa took of the Allied invasion of Normandy were destroyed in the rush to get them published.

There are only nine known surviving photos that Rober Capa took on that fateful day.  I fared a lot better and managed to bring home about 22 images plus the only danger I faced was stepping into some dog shit.

I have since managed the art of loading and rewinding film, I can speak a lot better English and I alway remember to adjust my watch to the local time.

NB if you are reading this and you are born this century, please look up 126 Film, 35 Film and Pink Floyd ‘Animals’.

Endure – Urban Change in China

Endure is a photo essay of Urban Change in China, it is now a featured exhibit on the Social Documentary website.
The online exhibit features photography by myself plus a short film that was produced with Morgan Schatz Blackrose and Shane Schatz.
To see the video, please select the Video/Multimedia section on the linked page.



Analog Magic

I love cameras, both as a creative tool and as an object. Spending Sunday afternoon with some of my favourite analog ‘super-models’!


Lain ladang lain belalang, 

lain lubuk lain ikannya.

Different fields, different grasshoppers; 

different seas, different fish.

My artist in residency project in Java at the Jatiwangi Art Factory (JAF), was an exploration of harvest, both physically and metaphorically.  I was fortunate enough to arrive in Jatiwangi during the rice harvest time, a perfect opportunity for witnessing local work and cultural practices. The township of Jatiwangi is a small collection of villages in East Java, where rice farming, brick and roof tile making comprise a large proportion of the local industry. There are however, not many farms left in the town, and I was privileged to accompany the last full time farmer from Jatisura to witness the harvesting of the rice.

All work is done by hand; there are no fancy machines only hard manual work.  I was introduced to one of the workers who proudly announced that he was 72 years old. He and his wife still worked every day in the rice field.  He barely stopped his work to tell me this, and continued separating the rice from the husks. It was at this moment that I conceived the visual and conceptual idea for my project.  I would do my own harvesting of the most precious commodity the village had to offer, it’s people.

The people from JAF are some of the most supportive people I have ever worked with. The wonderful Evni was my translator and guide, and together we set out to ‘harvest’ a selection of faces from the local community.  Having a local guide makes a big difference in my work. It gave me a closer understanding of the environment I was working in and allowed me to create a dialogue with the people I was working with. I even learnt a bit of the local language. A big thank you to Evni for her patience.

The project however was more than just getting a good image; I wanted to know more about the world. Creating an image with my camera also allows me to explore cultural aspects of the situation.  It’s not about exploiting the situation for an aesthetic advantage. The relationship between the person on the other side of the lens and myself has to have some harmony and understanding, otherwise the photo isn’t heard.

I am not interested in the concept of ‘shooting’ picture, I find this idea far too intrusive; I make images.  My aesthetic curiosity is driven by the need to learn something new about a person or a culture. This desire keeps me exploring.  I don’t consider myself a journalist or documentary photographer as I believe in a humanity that unites all people.  Capturing this concept in an image is my ongoing challenge.

While I believe that all photos I make are fundamentally a form of self portrait, it is essential that I also keep my distance and let the subject in the image speak.  Ego is doomed photography!  The more I take photos, the less seriously I take myself. To me, letting go is the key.  Letting go of myself, letting go of the technical side, letting go of my preconceived ideas.  (I just keep hanging on to my camera!)  This will lead, in an ideal environment, to a lightness in the way I move around the subject/situation, and that I become part of the situation at the same time I am looking in.  This feeling of irony and lightness can lead to a more honest image.

The concluding exhibition was held at the JAF gallery and we wanted to make sure that it reflected the locality and topic.  Food was presented on banana leaves and shared together.  This was also the start of Ramadhan, which I joined for the rest of my stay. It seemed fitting that the discussion at the exhibition be centred on sharing and caring.

One of the most precious outcomes of this project, was an email I received from an Indonesian student who is studying in Switzerland.  She recognised her Grandmother in one of the photos and was overjoyed to be able to connect with her in this way.  On the the day I left I presented the grandmother with her photos. It was a most humbling moment for me. All of the portrait photos in the exhibition were given as a gift to the people in the image. Harvest after all is about sharing.

A big thank you to all the staff at JAF, with special thank you to Arief, Ginggi, Abi, Umi, Nita, Al Ghori. Tedi and Beben.  Special ‘terimakasih’ to my wonderful assistant Evni.

But the biggest thank you goes to the people of Jatiwangi who allowed me to visit their world. I am  still a different grasshopper but I now feel at home in your field. Hatur Nuhun.

untitled (traveling)

Pick something

All the stars

All the stars

Come pouring down

It is true                       I know it

Impatiently                        I wait

                                            I wait


On the bus ride home

The next day

She led me 

                                     Across the road

 How glorious