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Why seek far afield...

....when the good is so close ? "Warum in die Ferne schweifen, wenn das Gute liegt so nah".

This well-known saying, paraphrasing a poem by J.W. Goethe, came to my mind quite often in recent months. The obvious reason is the pandemic which did not allow for travel, but made many people discover their surroundings. I, for example, went on several hiking tours discovering Brandenburg which I would not have done otherwise to that extent. I am glad I was sort of forced to do so.

But even before Corona restricted our movement, I wondered why I used to take out my camera more often when travelling, but rather seldom when at home. When I was preparing my solo exhibition in Tunis in 2016 selecting pictures from different cities in Tunisia, it occurred to me that I had hardly any photographs of Tunis itself - the place where I was living! And despite the fact that Tunis has one of the largest old cities (medina) which was one of the themes of the exhibition. Was it because it had become too familiar and the city did not surprise me anymore? Was it because I used to go there for work or always had some errands to do when passing through the narrow streets of the souk? It seemed that I had forgotten how to look at it from a different perspective or to look at it closely at all. My mind was full of daily routine stuff that I had stopped noticing and seeing my surroundings.

When I returned to Berlin/Potsdam I deliberately decided that I was going to work on a photographic theme that was not far away, but close by. That was part of my home town. It is how the portrait series of Alexandrowka came to life. I had known the place for many years, it is a touristic site, but I tried to look at it from a new perspective. I started wondering who lived in those wooden houses? What kind of people and how to they cope with the flow of tourists? In the course of a year, I got to know the inhabitants of three houses quite well and learnt about their different stories. It was as exciting and interesting as a trip to an exotic island or a new city ! And what I had not believed in at the beginning ("why seek far afield..") came true.

So, when you feel stuck or confined to the place you are in - look at it again, closer, deeper and find out what stories hide behinde the seemingly well-known facade!

And as for Tunis: of course, I went to the city center several times without any plan, only carrying my camera to make up for the lack of images. Here are some of them from the modern city with its building sites, some from the medina. You can also see more in an exhibition in the a/e gallery "City portraits - Tunis - Sidi Bouzid" in Potsdam opening on Friday, 28 May - 15 July.

Take care, Petra

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