When in Carcassonne

In case you’re slowly getting confused with all the different locations I’m talking about here, or if you just recently hopped on the … ehm, blog train, listen up: After a month in the US and Canada, we’re now set in sunny France (although in reality I’m sitting in a small fifth floor room in rainy Brussels with lots of tea) and judging from the photos, it’s been a pretty good summer. We checked out Montpellier, a stunning old town with a bunch of cute and inexpensive boutiques, candy-coloured roundabouts (I may or may not have jumped on one with a happy squeak) and those French houses that I could spend hours photographing. Another stop was Carcassonne, a place that I embarrassingly only knew because of the famous board came, which is probably the most charming and touristy place I’ve ever come across. That’s what Americans mean when they can’t believe how much history there is in Europe: Century-old cobbled alleys, cathedrals that must be aching from all the emotional baggage and of course, crêpe stands. We’re in France, after all.

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I lost my heart on the highway

Pacific Coast Highway. That does sound a little more glamourous than M4 or M25, right!? It has a nearly constant view on the ocean too and it was the road I chose for the kick-off for a week of exploring the most incredible country by car. Besides, there was a substantial amount of prayers sent to heaven that I’ll not ruin that rental vehicle, as my previous driving history hasn’t been all that encouraging and gave my parents a lot of headache. But driving along the West Coast was so much more relaxed than anything I’ve ever experienced in Europe and then the strange thing happened: I actually enjoyed it and didn’t want anyone else to drive… Ha!

So I hope the photos below give you a flavour of how it feels to hit to hit the road over there. The majority of them was taken in Arizona on the way to the magnificent Grand Canyon. There’s also a playlist because roadtripping America has been one of those things I’ve wanted for years, so the tracks are mostly teenage rock… the stuff I listened to at 15 while wishing for those high school days to end and for a wild cowboy to rescue me from my boring town and show me the magic of the country. Ahem, yes…

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Lucy Rose: All over town they say I love you / I’m over it, I’m over you

I have been looking forward to this a long time: Seeing Lucy Rose at the O2 in Shepherd’s Bush. Supported by Sam Brookes and Peter and Kerry, Lucy yesterday created an intimate atmosphere that made sure everyone felt like she’s been their best friend since high school. It was the closest gig to perfect I’ve seen in a long time, but the fact that her music is exceptional did help, too. At the end, she asked all birthday kids to come on stage while everyone was singing. What present could ever top that?! So if you haven’t heard of her yet, shame on you, but make sure to click through her Youtube. That’s how I discovered Lucy a while ago, attempting to overcome a nasty writer’s block. Needless to say that it worked.

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Soho Nights

Soho is not exactly regarded as London‘s most beautiful area, yet it might arguably be among its most vibrant, most fascinating and most eccentric spots. In the past weeks I’ve found myself spend a huge amount of time on these cobbled streets between Marylebone and Mayfair, during both day and night time.

Have a look at the crazy range of people who queue before numerous clubs and bars, at the skateboarder who jumps away from an approaching car just in time and at the woman who stares out of a pub’s window. What might she have been thinking!? To me, Soho is hugely fascinating and dramatic at the same time. It’s full of tragedy, full of joy and full of a buzzing energy – especially from Thursdays to Sundays. Therefore, these photos are supposed to be a tad more documentary than aesthetically beautiful.

On that note, I have two little recommendations for you: During the day, check Café Flat White on Berwick Street out if you fancy a quiet read as well as amazing (!) coffee and go to 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street if you feel like an evening full of unforgettable music…

Folky Shadow Plays

Sometimes when taking photographs during events or concerts, I find myself forced to become a little creative (not to be mistaken with lazy!) in order to not get stuck in front of Photoshop curves for a day or two. Yes, that might have been a minor exaggeration.

Hence I’ve put together a little black and white series on which you won’t be able to identify too many faces – let alone the bunch of violins, flutes and guitars – and more vague forms that will inspire your imagination in the best case. … Or you might just get annoyed by the rather unfortunate lightning, who knows!?

However, that’s enough from the semi-serious photography talk department… Last week I had the pleasure to visit The Queen’s Head in Angel for a session of the newly launched Folk Room Records. The label does a showcase of three acts each Wednesday to show our beautiful city a decent range of up and coming folk talents. As opposed to what the name would suggest, the pub is refreshingly modern and has a minimalistic yet very elegant interior.

The beautiful people on stage were Lucy Cait, Indigo Earth (from whom you will surely read a little more in the near future on this space) and Herons. I’d love to see some of you there on one of the next Wednesdays as it surely wasn’t my last time!

Folk Room Records / Every Wednesday / The Queen’s Head / 66 Acton Street / London WC1X 9NB / Free Entry

“You can get out of this party dress but you can’t get out of this skin” – BOY live in Berlin

A really non-productive issue when you’re trying to shoot some great photos is a dirty lens. That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? And you’d usually notice that as it is quite essential. However, I didn’t last time because I was concentrating on a very captivating performance of the German indie folk band BOY. (It’s fine, I don’t accept that as an excuse either.)

Located outside central Berlin – although there is no traditional centre but you get me – the Citadel in Spandau is surrounded by a lake and a massive fortress. It is beautiful. Now picture a warm summer night with outstanding music, a really close friend that you finally got to see again and pure happiness.

BOY are two girls (!), Sonja and Valeska whose voices feel like balm. They sing about new beginnings, old loves and spontaneous twists and turns. It’s as if they are inviting you to take part in their journey. Theirs is currently heading straight to the top. In May they played the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. Touring through Europe has left them no time to write new songs at the moment which is fine, considering that it’s impossible to get tired of the ones from their first album “Mutual Friends.”

Another nice surprise were Me and my Drummer. These two pals are another German-based band who are just… different. If you’d compare them to any musician or band, it’d probably be Florence and the Machine. Their songs are full of a strong sense of melancholy that’s underlined by the weirdest and greatest rhythms, it might even be described as vaguely mystical. The charming kind, of course!

So. Back to the photos although I’ve been trying to avoid this topic. (Quite a challenge regarding that this is meant to be a photography blog) I’m very sorry for the bad quality of the photos, they look rubbish indeed but maybe we could just call this vintage…

Kiez Opera: Dido and Aeneas

Having found out that there would be an untraditional Berlinesque performance of Dido and Aeneas, my attention was immediately caught. Not because of my endless love for Greek mythology or Latin literature, but because I have a very vivid yet not so pleasant connection with Virgil’s Aeneid, which is where Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas originated from.

Back in high school, I took Latin as a voluntary subject in school. I didn’t even have to take all the lessons but I did as I desperately wanted to gain a formal qualification which would enable me to study law. (Why did I ever want to study law?!) Well, that was three years ago. However, despite my honorable aspirations I failed. I mean, I really failed. I studied Virgil’s scripts and tragedies for hours and sometimes even nights and still failed.

Of course, all the other students in class were naturally gifted and I ended up being the one who always copied pages of homework because it just took too long considering my motivation was leaving me faster each day. The fact that my teacher was a very determined – and some mean people might even say he was heartless – (I wasn’t one of them obviously!) didn’t make my life easier. At the end I didn’t get that qualification which made five years of non-obligatory Latin lessons absolutely pointless. That’s what I meant by not-so-pleasant. Back to the opera!Some Berlin actors, musicians and artists decided to give Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas a young and contemporary face. Dido, Queen of Charthage falls in love with the Trojan hero Aeneas. However, a Greek legend can never be as simple as that. Evil witches hate Dido and want to ruin her life. Consequently, they organize a ghost who’ll remind Aeneas of his national duties: He wouldn’t be destined to stay at one place with Dido. So when Dido finally allows herself to love Aeneas passionately, her heroic prince has already decided to leave. Dido commits suicide.

As the actors and actresses had an incredibly accurate facial expression you might be able not only to spot whose intentions are good or evil but also who the protagonists are. The performance was very passionate, loud and not always beautiful but that would have failed Purcell’s point anyway. The songs have been produced by a small orchestra and the lyrics have been sung in English, their original language.

What also struck me was not only the pure content of Dido and Aeneas but also the beautiful setting near the Ostbahnhof: Salon zur wilden Renate, quite a well-known club with a ship hanging in the woods in their massive garden. Yes, a ship!

The perfomance was stunning and I admired it just for its will to experiment with patterns that have been omni-present in the history of opera far too long. Some legendary ideas can only permanently exist and fascinate generations from different backgrounds if they are constantly re-evaluated and maybe even adjusted to a culture’s different settings. Still, this time major parts stayed the same in the story of the lovers Dido and Aeneas. However, it felt like a different universe to my depressing Latin memoris that were created in that grey concrete building called high school. Happy times, it’s so good to move on, evolve and to still go back to well-known spaces!

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