December 3, 2012
Boy, it has been a long time since I last posted on this blog. I didn’t have much time to spare in the two months since my last entry. I’ve shot a ton for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, had two weekend-long board meetings with FREELENS, the German freelance photographers’ professional organization, and worked as a photographer and digital assistant for an online fashion store on my remaining days. This past weekend was the first time in four weeks that I had a day off and man did it feel good to do nothing at all…
A lot of photography has piled up from my assignments at the paper that I would like to share here, and at the same time I shoot new stuff three days a week. In order to maintain a fairly complete record on this blog, I need to start catching up somwhow. So, on top of vowing to become better about posting regularly, I’ll start a series of posts with stuff that I did between September and now.
I’d like to start with something that I did very recently (consider this my post from current assignments – I’ll do one with archive stuff later). Two weeks ago on Tuesday, I got a call from the newsroom to photograph a Greek family that lived in Terminal 1 of Franz-Josef-Strauß airport just outside of Munich. They weren’t able to tell me more about it at the time, but nevertheless I was intrigued by the story. It brought the whole abstract issue of the European debt crisis down to a human level. I asked the photo editor if they would let me do some form of long-term project – possibly even multimedia – on this and they were immediately fired up for the idea.
So I called Laura Meschede, the author who first researched and pitched the story to the Süddeutsche, and together we went to the airport that same day to do a video interview with the family.
After the initial interview, I kept going back to shoot more video and stills, and also to record ambient sound for the multimedia piece. The story was published on Wednesday, November 28, almost exactly one week after I first met Sakis, Albena and Nikola. It got an entire page in the print edition and ran with a multimedia special on the website and the iPad edition. To get the video up in time, I had to pull an all-nighter on Monday, since I had a job in Nuremberg the next day and couldn’t do any editing on Tuesday.
It was worth the effort though. Less than twelve hours after the paper hit the stands, a man had driven out to the airport from a town 80 miles away to give each of the family members 100 Euros to buy food and cloths, loaded them into his car and dropped them off at a woman’s place in Munich, who had offered to let them stay in her spare room until they find something of their own. A third man, a professional employment counselor, offered to pay for German classes for the whole family and then work out a long-term strategy out of poverty with them pro bono.
Offers for help continue to pour in, and it looks like the whole thing is going to turn into some sort of Christmas story. But enough talk now. Here’s a quick intro, and the pictures will tell the rest:
40-year-old Athanasios “Sakis” Tsitiridis, of Thessaloniki, left his home in 2008 when the global financial crisis first hit Greece. Together with his 37-year-old Bulgarian girlfriend Albena Haralampieva, he came to Germany in search of a better life. Her son Nikola Rumenov Iliev, then ten years old, went to Bulgaria to live with his grandmother.
Since their arrival in Germany, Sakis and Albena have been getting by with odd jobs lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks. They have not been able to find permanent employment or even accomodation. Between jobs, they keep returning to Munich airport where they collect bottles and return them for deposit money to make a living.
On October 18, 2012, now 15-year-old Nikola joined them in Munich because his grandmother could not afford to feed him any longer. For more than six weeks now, the three have been living in the check-in area of Terminal 1, section A. After appealing for help in vain to every government agency and exhausting all their options, they are left with nothing but the hope for a miracle to happen.
Filed under: Germany