In January 2017, a friend of mine invited me to join him to New York. As he sold his company two years ago, he was working as a self-employed consultant and travelled around the world to meet customers. It was the first time for me to visit this city so I was very excited about the invitation and a bit anxious. I thought it could be a little too big for my prospect and I could get in strange situations you won’t be if I knew the country better. And in fact, it was very dangerous – for my preconceptions of the city and the people: it turned out to be the most affirmative and peaceful cosmopolitan city I have been so far. So I came back in fall.
The city who never sleeps: New York
I learned that nobody needs to know whether you are a tourist or if you live in New York. As you are here right now, everything is fine anyway. Everybody wants to know where you come from, as he himself is from somewhere and has also been somewhere else before. Once in the subway, I asked somebody for the track and had a smalltalk. Seven stations later these guys reminded me to get out as the next stop was for me. This never happened to me somewhere else. Another day, sitting in a cafe, there was a bag on the table next to me with a MacBook beneath while nobody was seen. Half an hour later, a girl showed up, as she was in the backyard smoking a cigarette and having a chat. I asked why she left her stuff there unattended, but it seemed that she did not understand my question, and said “because this is New York City…”. That wasn’t the only situation of that kind.
Of course there is crime and people who are really struggling and have to use any opportunity to earn some pennys. To be poor is one thing, but probably the worst is to be forgotten by the society. In a strange way, even the poorest seem to have preserved their dignity. And there are those who manage their situation quite well. One evening at Timesquare, I had a chat with a DJ who “donated” his CDs to passengers. Of course it wasn’t a gift, as he gave it away asking for a reciprocal donation instead. So I ended up having a CD and spending some dollars without knowing whether there was any music on it or not. I asked myself how stupid I was. I learned very much from this slip-up in terms of communication, and this is what mistakes are for. He told me to search him on Google and there will be a clip on Youtube about him. I thought to myself, that’s a cool business model to create a movie clip just to push the selling of blank CD’s at Timesquare. But once more I was wrong and my negative expectations were disappointed. I have to admit, that I was surprised to find a large number of HipHop tracks on the CD which I began to enjoy during my following walks through the streets of Manhattan.
Don’t talk to strangers – they may become friends
There are endless stories of chance encounters and guys you meet if you are travelling to New York. On my last evening I came by a small wine bar in Lower Manhattan while the barman took a photo of the bar with his iPhone. In a few moments, the guests would arrive, but he took the chance to take a snapshot of the empty space. Spontaneously I went in to offer him to take the photo with my full-frame DSLR and a tripod. He agreed, and after having sent him the photos to his email account, we had an amazing time tasting one wine after the other, while the place got more and more busy. Out on the street again, I saw a cab driver who was lit quite special. You could hardly see his face – only the eyes were appearing, while the yellow color of the cab was literally shining. I was very close to him and pointing the camera right into his face. He seems to be upset about it, so I turned directly towards him and showed him the photo on the back of my camera. He immediately was laughing and shouted out “thaaaat’s coooool man, that’s Neeewww YYYoorrrkk Citttyyyy!” and we ended up giving high-five before he disappeared in the dark and around the next corner. These moments meant so much to me.
These short stories of strangers I got in touch as if we wouldn’t risk anything at all – made me feel alive. The encounters just happen as everyone is in his own pace and in a flow, which is very special in this city. There are cities where you lose yourself and you’ll be lost. And there are places where you’ll lose yourself and at the same time you discover yourself. For me, New York belongs to the second category. And even if we moved on in the next moment, disappeared in the next building and diffused to another space, it felt like a gift to me.
But there is one particular person who did not disappear. Instead, she was sorry to miss me at the fashion event she invited me to the day before. Lauren is working at saks/fifth avenue and we met as I asked her to take a portrait at North Cove Harbour. She was sitting there spending her break while I was looking for some nice subjects. As the light was beautiful. The sun went down behind the Statue of Liberty and I took a photo or two, we exchanged business cards and had a short chat. I really planned to visit this fashion show, but that day I was just done and had to go to sleep. I was not so much astonished about the invitation the day before, but she surprised me as she later asked why I did not show up. That time we knew each other for 5 minutes. I was honest as I wrote her that the first photos were not the best – and I would do better next time. Anyhow, I was so happy to get in touch with her as she made me curious. She is a beautiful women and very open minded. So we dated the next evening in a small bar.
It was a romantic and inspiring evening. We roamed around Wallstreet visiting the small girl and the bull. This is what I learned from you Lauren: even if life sucks, just grab the bull by the balls! We had a drink or two at Nobu Downtown bar. If anyone has seen us, this person would have noticed the magic between us. There were two lovers or at least a beginning of a very special friendship. The next evening she invited me to her place.
She is a very special person to me. She is smart and handsome. She is demanding a lot from her fellows as she is strongly committed to her values as well. It surprised me how she looks at her origin, full of love for her culture but very skeptical at the same time. Her love as well as her rage about the country and its recent development comes straight from her heart. She is a person who really wants to achieve something and she will. But not at all price. She is someone who would give away and sell everything except for her dreams. She has plans and is working hard. She wants to start a family. She is the one who surprised me like no other.
Being addicted to life
The most important thing about being creative is that you are in love with life. You can call it crazy or stupid, but as a photographer you want to enter in a dialogue with your audience. When somebody is responding to my work and to my person, I feel alive. To share a moment which is meaningful to me and it has meaning to someone else too, I feel some sort of grace. Stefan Sagmeister, a well known designer from Austria was asked about his goal for the next year and he said he wants “to touch somebodies heart with graphic design”. This is what I dream of in regard of my photography and writing. And if it happens once a year, it’s already quite a lot.
If you are a photographer and you are going with the energy & pace of the moment, sometimes you’ll take a shot which tells the whole story in one single frame. For me this is the one.
Her expression, the morning light in her flat at Broadway, the nasty curtains and her beauty beneath. I love it.
This year was a good one
This year was good although I broke up with my girlfriend after 5 years and I am very sorry about that. The cutest dog on earth died this summer and I was not with her. Beneath, it was a time where I temporarily studied photography at the ICP in New York, was able to learn something surprising new about my work, my creativity and about myself as a person. I earned enough money to live and travel and I bought quite every book I was interested in. I would now see my personality in a different light than I did before. Yes, some things really went wrong and sometimes I felt totally fucked up or even was in a deep depression. But there were people helping me out. And there were times where I chose to be alone with myself, without any regret. Quite often being with myself was honestly enough. And there were times where I asked someone to spend the night with me as I needed company. I wrote an ebook about my hike this spring in the French mountains and gave some cool workshops in photography and self-development. I slept alone in the woods or went dancing with a friend. I stood on top of a mountain at sunrise, travelled to Spain with some crazy folks or spent a wonderful night with a girl I just met that day.
I don’t know how you think about all this, maybe – in your eyes – this Frick-guy just sucks. And I don’t have any idea if there was anything interesting or meaningful for you in this article. Maybe you are part of my german audience and you are pissed of by this english quirk of mine. But I know one thing: it’s a pity that in my mother language there is a certain expression missing while it exists in english: **Enjoy yourself** I honestly hope you do so, because I do. I wish you feel beloved my sweetheart. And so do I.
Hope to see you in 2018.