Moving house is always quite unsettling and even more so at the start of a new year and makes me a bit philosophical. I was thinking how important it is to enjoy the journey of life, because the destination-death-is pretty shitty, unless one believes in heaven and pearly gates, or a lot of virgins waiting. My idea of heaven would be more a massive cello orchestra serenading me all day.
Let’s forget the undesirable end of life and concentrate on the beauty of the journey, of meeting great people, seeing great countries and engaging with great cultures. With an open mind and tolerance one will experience extraordinary things that are as mind-blowing as they are life changing.
Nearing the end of my journey I have found that the vast majority of people all over the world are good and kind people, who want to engage and are willing to help and share.
Strangely some of my favourite countries are third-world ones with a lot of poverty, but also a huge amount of culture and celebration of life. I twice spent six weeks in Sri Lanka and it was sublime on both occasions. Delightful people, stunning nature, and delicious food. Prague in the seventies was poor with large queues for food, but what a magnificent city and lifestyle. The small student bars, the music, the old Jewish cemetery, the stunning buildings and bridges. People who had little made something out of nothing. Rwanda, Morocco, Kenya, Croatia, London, Berlin, Paris, Venice, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Sydney, Alice Springs, Purnululu. I could go on. Wow, what beauty!
I lived a happy youth in the Netherlands before moving to the south of Germany where I lived a great life for 13 years and started my career as a photographer that I loved, and still do. Adjusting to a new culture, habits, food, etc. is always a challenge but I love the challenge of change and adaptation and learning a new language.
No doubt my move to Australia was the biggest one in my life. To give up everything to start in a country one knows little about and where one knows only two people, who also recently migrated, is enormous. The frustration of not finding work fast and of being told one is over-qualified, or that one has no Australian experience is demoralising. To have to start as a kitchenhand, cook, waiter, when one is an experienced professional media photographer, was probably one of the biggest personal challenges, but I was proud I was good at those jobs as well.
West Australia was far more embracing when we arrived in late 1984 with businesses keen to start working with us and let me do their corporate photography. We were flat out with work within six months of arriving and it hardly stopped for those first seven golden years.
But then the challenge of separating from the woman I had lived with for 20 years became bigger than anticipated and resulted in a huge midlife crisis and depression, which led me to sell my lovely Fremantle house and everything I had and to start driving throughout Australia. This was probably the darkest period of my life, but also the most character building one. Eight months and 58,000 kilometres later I knew I wanted to get involved with my local community more. I wanted to speak out against social injustice and lose my shyness of public speaking. I had survived my epic life-threatening trip and nothing would deter me from standing up for what I believe is right. That was probably not a wise career move because many businesses were now less keen to work with me because I supported our Indigenous people and social causes, but money had never been a big factor in my life as there was always enough to have a good lifestyle. Fremantle has been just the right place for that. I love being part of a community of really interesting people.
This blog has helped me to express who I am and what I believe in and to show I have real compassion and empathy for people and for the great city of Fremantle, but some people judge me on that and believe I criticise the City of Fremantle too much and don’t deserve to get photography or other work in this city. There are always some narrow-minded few who are better at judging others than being part of the solution themselves.
The last quarter of my journey-if I get that far-has set me the basic challenge of survival, of finding work that pays enough to pay the bills. The photographic industry has changed dramatically and I am no longer in the loop of designers, architects, the mining industry, etc. and work has become sparse. The challenge here though is mainly with those who are reluctant to give someone of my age a chance and realise my potential outside photography. I work bloody hard and take on ownership of any work I do. There are not many who are more reliable, dedicated and punctual than I am, but at 66 experience is just dismissed as old age by many employers.
I love life and working with people, so somewhere out there is the perfect job for me. My journey has not finished yet, so why not become part of it. Bring it on and let me positively surprise you!