Archives for posts with tag: documentary

More than a look at the few remnants of today’s Berlin Wall, a certain documentary film evokes the spirit of change linked to that symbol of separation. Jürgen Böttcher’s documentary “Die Mauer” has captured the immediate aftermath of the peaceful German revolution in 1989 around the wall. His aesthetic brilliance adds to a discrete narration: while the filmmaker’s voice remains mostly silent, his attentive glance tells so much about moments between (almost comical) uncertainty and newly gained freedom. The pensive style of the filmic narration leaves space for thoughts. As the camera scanned the length of the wall stretching and disappearing into the nightly dark, my very own remembrances of an East Berlin childhood gradually welled up.

berlin wall thoughts documentary die mauer juergen boettcher

Glancing at this concrete wall provokes so different feelings in all of us who were separated by it. Arisen from villages, this city’s vastness makes it hard to gather and feel close to each other. A look around sometimes reminds you of how small we really are.

I saw the screening of “Die Mauer” at the Berlinale film festival in 2006, when Jürgen Böttcher was awarded with the Berlinale Filmkamera. It was this film that sparked my interest in documentaries in general. Ever since, the documentary section proved to be one of my favorites at the Berlinale.

If films crystallize our dreams, good documentaries have the power to remind us of what dreams truly are: sparkles of personal experience, mixed in with hints of our secret fears and wishful thinking.

Seeing “Die Mauer” has made me realize just how much of a dream came true for me when this hated piece of concrete came down.

When the place you inhabit becomes too narrow for your dreams, move out!”

… said the bird to the wanderer, so wander we did.

manga lucid global village bird and wanderer
When a journalist recently asked me to draw a manga sequence for a TV feature about two Japanese players from the Berlin based football club Hertha, it kinda made sense. I’m not that big of a football fan, but this year’s world cup saw me taking more interest in the game than usual. Starting with a first excitement about (the Chilean) outsiders who went for unexpected chances, eventually closing the chapter of former (Spanish) domination…

…I gradually went more emotional seeing the German soccer team making its way til the finals – and beyond. Around the games I found small hints of what I think really matters in a good teamwork: a kind of fair play and moving on together that transcends the sport context.

Three months later, the idea to use manga drawings for a TV feature on football came quite out of the blue. On the occasion of an away game, the rbb regional broadcasting station’s journalist Christian Dexne figured out an unconventional story hook: portraying two players of the local team who hadn’t really been in the spotlight yet, using a typical medium of their far away Japanese homeland.

Both Hajime Hosogai and Genki Haraguchi are relatively new in Berlin. Meant as an encouragement for them, this visualization project actually became a great motivation to me, as well.

After a friend had already filmed me drawing for a documentary project, this new experience gave me an even deeper look into the whole process of professional TV making. From first idea discussions to interviews, filmic execution, cutting and sound recording, I learned in a few days what has interested and bothered me for years now. How to plan a sequence of scenes, how to decide on what to cut away and what to keep in, how to synchronize the music with the visual content? Is the work of a sports journalist that different from mine as an urban researcher, when we skim our documentation material for decisive hints – for foul play on the football field, for signs of social appropriation in contested urban spaces?

We actually took chances. Before knowing how Hertha would play, we made a big fuss about how they were maybe going to win.

And they wouldn’t win, at first. The TV feature was broadcast shortly after Hertha lost a match against Schalke. One week later, though, our “motivational medicine” took effect:

Playing in Hamburg, Hajime Hosogai managed to realize what his comrade Genki Haraguchi had promised, enchanted, after seeing my manga depicting himself:

We’ll make these pictures come true.”

Sometimes, life is made of second chances. If being seen is what matters most today, then changing the script of how you’re perceived by others can be crucial. Switching from raw sketch…

manga illustration storyboard
…to final picture always ends up reinforcing my confidence and the will to experiment. Nowadays, I’m realizing things from a bucket list I haven’t even written yet. Teamwork has often been the key to realize the most difficult steps of worthwhile projects, and making it happen is what counts most.

I guess, I’m kind of a football fan, after all.

manga YOLO bucket list
*The colored pictures shown here were made last Saturday at this year’s AniMaCo. Inserting them here means checking another item from my unwritten bucket list: show more of your drawings at a faster pace, since you can do it.*

So, the tighter you’re gripping the bars, the more they restrain you?

manga watercolor prisoner
Let go, then. Think of what’s beyond, and we’ll see how fast you’ll make it disappear: a prison of thoughts and habits holding you back from the next step towards more awesome things.

manga_watercolor_prisoner_work-in-progress
Big thanks to André for encouraging thoughts on the freedom to pursue a personal passion: Your words inspired this picture and its message. It was fun being filmed while drawing, and I’m looking forward to further documenting sessions.

A closer look on what held Vivian Maier back to publish her posthumously acclaimed street photography work unveils parallels to a very modern dilemma. To be honest, we’ve all become data junkies, aimlessly stacking digital media just as the nanny used to stack her (mostly undeveloped, unseen) visual material. Nowadays, every new app, every new technical device invites us to produce more of the global amalgamation of data junk. And yet we are rarely invited to meditate about what we produce, why we do so, and what we could renounce to do in order to focus our energy on something more worthwhile.

Learning from Vivian Maier urban street chronicle
So let Vivian Maier speak to you, a “socialist worker style” woman with her favorite hat and a shaded, enigmatic glance. Listen: she might tell you about her life, her regrets and unfulfilled wishes. She could talk about her experiences on the streets of Chicago, or maybe not, knowing her photos do the job better than words ever would.

Learning from Vivian Maier creativity imitate to learn
…maybe she wouldn’t talk to you at all. In front of the incredible audience that she got now, I guess she would rather choose to rest in amazement. Eyes intently fixed on what she never expected to happen, she would finally realize how many people are actually seeing her, speaking through countless picture frames. Whoever sees and likes Vivian Maier’s work nowadays can testify what an astounding effect a layman’s visual work can have, once it is physically there, for the world to see.
Learning from Vivian Maier creative pen and paper
Now, it’s your turn. Time to take that deep breath of self acknowledgment: If you are reading this, needless to say, you are alive. If so, you got a blissful prospect to fill, with dreams and actions as well. No matter your age and your condition, there is something essential to realize: Nobody is resourceless.
Learning from Vivian Maier creativity blogging community ressources
Even in the truthful realization of a lack lies the power to search for a compensation, for help. And there has never been a better time to search for each other, to connect and unite forces in order to get better things and projects done, better stories told. The making of “Finding Vivian Maier” is just one excellent example of it.

(Note: This 6th episode concludes the series “On Creativity: Learning from Vivian Maier”. Your comments are very welcome, I’m curious to know what you think.)

For me, the key to Vivian Maier’s story is not her posthumous success. Her visual work is there for us to see and to remind ourselves of what we care about. Concluding this, I care to give a shout-out to the many people whose talents remain locked and whose works, professional or not, remain unseen.

Learning from Vivian Maier Zeitgeist-follower needs to publish
Vivian Maier never had the chance to interact with her (potential) public, so her story is a sad one, regardless of her late recognition we are witnessing. For us, though, now is the time to publish our doings and to interact with whoever might be interested in what we do and what we like. Our lifetime is the precious moment to enjoy our own creativity. And we rarely live up to the potential of our own skills. I often notice that people don’t acknowledge their own skills because what one is able to do well always seems so normal, natural to oneself.

Learning from Vivian Maier visual talent displayed
If you want a film to make a difference in your life, put some metaphoric thought glasses on when you see this documentary. Ask yourself: “What exactly made Vivian Maier resourceless? And to what extent do I resemble her?”
Learning from Vivian Maier through metaphoric thought glasses
(tbc: The 6th episode will conclude this series.)

As in any other art business, the path to publish and gain visibility often requires faculties that are not directly linked to the art & craft a specific artist masters. So, no matter the quality of your product, you don’t necessarily know how to approach people in order to market it. More concretely: Vivian Maier had no idea how to turn a hangar full of negatives into paper prints.

Learning from Vivian Maier Archiving the essence of urban life
After developing the photos, John Maloof chose a modern way to expose her work, by putting it on tumblr and letting the internet audience decide about the quality. Positive resonance received, he probably gained enough motivation to pursue the search of suited exhibition platforms, and despite the daunting task, he finally was successful.

Learning from Vivian Maier Finding the audience
(tbc)

Can you imagine why it takes so long, sometimes, to bring your own creativity out to the bright daylight, for others to see? Might be because your creativity has grown overwhelmingly, while your knowledge of publishing techniques still equals zero. Vivian Maier’s story may be unique, but her output dilemma isn’t, at all. A nanny piling up stacks of journals for background reference, documenting the urban everyday life around her in clandestine photos. A person who remained a stranger to everyone who knew her.

Vivian Maier creativity Rolleiflex disguise
Understanding the kind of solitude that characterized Vivian Maier’s lifetime, one thing in John Maloof’s documentary portrait moved me to tears. On the one hand, consider this sheer helplessness of an unacknowledged talent. On the other, realize how a belated helping hand enabled publicity and triggered a success that Vivian Maier herself, who passed away in 2009, couldn’t experience anymore.

Learning from Vivian Maier creativity photography print teamwork
I was struck by this unexpected help of a total stranger, posthumously dedicating time and energy to sort Vivian Maier’s mess out and to dig her photographic diamonds out to the bright daylight. He explains about the division of work between photographers and photo developers, and while he mentions working his way through stacks of boxes with undeveloped film material, the load of such an unseen, unfinished legacy takes form.

Learning from Vivian Maier creativity load unseen photographic legacy
Vivian Maier didn’t keep her work away from the public eye because she didn’t want it to be seen. She lacked the means, back then, to produce her imagery physically, and professionally.
(tbc)

Searching for clues of Vivian Maier’s long time undisclosed photographic work, it would be easy to argue: “She was an odd fish, no wonder she couldn’t relate to whatsoever audiences. Maybe she wasn’t ready for it.”

Vivian Maier odd personality
But truth be told, no one of us is ready for success and public exposure until those things reach us. Excavating Vivian Maier’s unseen, gigantic body of work provides insights into the kind of barriers that can block the release of creative potential – not only in her specific case, but on a more general level as well.

Vivian Maier creativity hidden photographic work
To anticipate the most blatant difficulty of visual publishing: it usually requires professional teamwork a layman doesn’t have access to. Important transitions are to be made: for a photographer, from the adventurous on-site shooting to the more tedious task of archiving and structuring the content for publishing, followed by its promotion and release. Without these transitions from creating to administrating and releasing the outcome, a project never becomes publishable.

Vivian Maier creativity productive output chaos
As Vivian Maier’s legacy exemplifies, the problem of an isolated creation gradually blows up.

Vivian Maier creativity stacking problem
(tbc)

At this year’s Berlin film festival Berlinale, John Maloof’s documentary “Finding Vivian Maier” touched me most in my own experience of being creative. Vivian Maier is one of those antiheroes most of us probably wouldn’t have liked, had we met her personally. Many statements of people who knew her evidence what an awkward person she must have been – a gifted street photographer hidden in the body of a nanny.

Vivian Maier urban offside Chicago
Where did Vivian Maier’s clandestine visual work in the streets of Chicago stem from? More importantly, how could such a talent unveiled posthumously by the assiduous work of others remain completely unacknowledged during her lifetime?

Vivian Maier trash puppet
In the following posts I will alternate my sketch notes of the film with key insights Vivian Maier’s story provides about creative production in general.