“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” ~ Hans Christian Anderson
“Your life passes before your eyes.” That thought occurred to him when, soon after he took the above picture in Munich and then boarded a luxury ICE train headed north. The above building seemed, on the overcast day when he passed it, to summarize a failed attempt at heroic architecture that mimicked a long dead empire. Not the empire of the never realized Third Reich, but the many empires that had failed before. Even this attempt to copy a heroic past was utterly foolish in context.
It stood there as a severely dysfunctional monument to its own out-of-timeness. The city itself was an amalgam of hyper-decorative post-war structures littered with modern upscale or downscale commercialism whose only function was to be functional. All the black and white feeling of that time came to him as a real fact. Just outside this city, Dachau functioned as a factory and storage facility to aid this kind of soullessness.
On the train he sat in an almost decadent modernist perfection. Eating a marvelous concoction of ice cream and berries, he watched the verdant German landscape pass by through a high-res, wide-screen window at 200 miles per hour. The contrast to what he knew of German train rides from books and film was simply a conundrum which could hardly be understood, much less empathized with. In his mind rocked a creaking wooden cattle car where heat, cold, human mass, and indignity crushed lives. Every form of imagined future was a too distant dream. Their own land was passing them by like an invention of Dante and Bruegel. Life was reduced to a one word sentence with no beginning and no end.
He imagined a window to a real world that had been reduced to a slit between boards. A creak in a railing. A view to life that had narrowed to the point were only a diffused hint of light was life – now the other.
He pressed a camera against the expanse of glass. He closed his eyes and imagined a glimpse of that other as best he could. It would be blurred beyond all recognition. It would not come into focus. It would slither outside leaving a snail’s trail of what was.
These are some of those images. These are some of the pictures of life no longer.