about the chicago sun-times

Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times called in every one of their 28 staff photographers to tell them that they were fired effective immediately. Apart from the fact that this is about the most repulsive and asocial way to let go a whole bunch of employees that were loyal to your company for decades and apart from the fact that it’s apalling that there are no laws in Illinois that allow for at least a four-week notice for those people to restructure their lives, this is about as low of a blow to the journalism industry as I can think of.

I have been simmering over this for few days now, but it’s been haunting me ever since I first heard the news. It makes me want to say a few things to all the people out there in charge who may have similar thoughts:

Dear Newspaper Editors of the United States,

I’m sure that in this moment, many of you are eagerly watching the experiment that the Chicago Sun-Times is undertaking; you may hope that if they get away with it, you might, too. And you may be waiting a few more weeks until you think you’re on the safe side, and then do the same.

Let me tell you this: I live in a country that has abandoned staff newspaper photojournalism a long time ago. Most newspapers here work exclusively with agency material, only very few still have a pool of freelancers. Some of them even send out their reporters with smart phones or small point-and-shoots. And with the exception of maybe a handful of papers (in an entire country), they all look pretty bleak.

The prevailing idea of newspaper photojournalism in Germany is that the pictures illustrate the text. Original, self-produced photojournalism is virtually non-existant. The pages of most newspapers may look nice because they run big pictures, but below the surface they are as dead as a rotten tree trunk. The problem is, no one here cares anymore, because the regular Joe Shmoe doesn’t know what good photojournalism is anymore.

PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN IN THE UNITED STATES! Your country has such a rich and long tradition of newspaper photojournalism. Every paper in the country that has a photo department is sitting on a national treasure! You don’t appreciate what you have until you loose it, but then it will be too late. Please be smarter than that! Please do not go down that road. Believe me, it’s not pretty where it leads…

Sincerely,
Jakob Berr

June 4, 2013

japanese-turkish costume party

Last Saturday, I had to shoot one of the numerous costume parties that happen in Munich during the carnival season. It was co-hosted by a Turkish gallery owner and the vocalist of the German-Japanese ethno-blues band SaSeBo and themed – surprise, surprise – Japanese-Turkish. It was a visual treat and I had lots of fun shooting it. The icing on the cake was the band, though; their music was amazing, and I can’t wait to hear them play again. Following are three of my favorite frames:

From left, Klaus Köstler, his wife Angelika Köstler and Alexandra Hack chat at the Japanese-Turkish costume party at gallery Kullukcu in Munich, Saturday, February 9, 2013.

From left, Klaus Köstler, his wife Angelika Köstler and Alexandra Hack chat at the Japanese-Turkish costume party at gallery Kullukcu in Munich, Saturday, February 9, 2013.

Party visitor Thomas Sachs, left, and the guitar player of SaSeBo, Yutaka Minegishi, cast shadows onto a projection of Japanese movie clips at the Japanese-Turkish costume party at gallery Kullukcu in Munich, Saturday, February 9, 2013.

Party visitor Thomas Sachs, left, and the guitar player of SaSeBo, Yutaka Minegishi, cast shadows onto a projection of Japanese movie clips.

From left, Klaus Köstler, his wife Angela Köstler, a man who introduced himself as Ali Escigeoglu, and Alexandra Hack pose for a friend's camera at the Japanese-Turkish costume party at gallery Kullukcu in Munich, Saturday, February 9, 2013.

From left, Klaus Köstler, his wife Angela Köstler, a man who introduced himself as Ali Escigeoglu, and Alexandra Hack pose for a friend's camera.

February 11, 2013

munich underground

Just a short post today with a photo I shot of the Munich underground for a story about public transport a while back:

An underground train stops at the station "Münchner Freiheit" in Munich, Friday, January 4, 2012.

An underground train stops at the station "Münchner Freiheit" in Munich, Friday, January 4, 2012.

January 23, 2013

to the throne!

The Germans take carnival really, really serious. Starting on November 11 at 11:11 am, the so-called “Narrenzeit” (jester season) lasts almost three months, altough the main events are all concentrated in the four weeks preceding Fat Tuesday. Dating back to the 15th century, it’s original function was to drive out the winter and bring joy and happiness back into the dark, dreadful days of the cold time. The idea behind it hasn’t changed much over the centuries. To this day, people get away with stuff during the fifth season that might otherwise get them into serious trouble, like cutting their boss’s tie off.

All over the country, carnival societies have formed that maintain and promote the traditions. One of these societies is the “Narrhalla” in Munich, which was founded in 1893. The name is an amalgamation of the words “Narr” (jester) and “Walhalla,” the Bavarian Hall of Fame. Originally established to promote a carnival procession in Munich, Narrhalla has established itself as the definitive carnival institution in the Bavarian capital. They officially open the jester season with the enthronement ceremony of their carnival prince and princess, which takes place at 11:11 am exactly one month before Fat Tuesday at Munich’s prestigious central square, the Marienplatz. The event marks the beginning of four weeks of glamorous balls, hilarious parties and pranks, pranks, pranks.

Together with my colleague Tom Soyer (no joke, that’s his real name – he calls me Jacklberry Finn), I got to look behind the scenes last Saturday as this year’s “Royal Couple” prepared for their coronation ceremony. We met them at 8:00 am in their suite at the prestigious hotel “Bayerischer Hof,” where Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid I. of the Upper Bavarian Chamber of Crafts was just getting her make-up done. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shoot the actual enthronement because I had to head out for another assignment afterward, but there are tons of pictures of that online all over the place. This look behind the scenes however is pretty unique, so I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Hair and make-up artist Dilek Sahin puts the finishing touches on the make-up of Narrhalla Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) in her suite at the hotel Bayrischer Hof before the enthronement ceremony at Marienplatz in Munich. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

Hair and make-up artist Dilek Sahin puts the finishing touches on the make-up of Narrhalla Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) in her suite at the hotel Bayrischer Hof before the enthronement ceremony at Marienplatz in Munich, Saturday, January 12, 2013. This assignment was also a great exercise for off-camera flash use because I had to deal with three mirrors framed around the subject that reflected large parts of the room. The spot-like light on the princess and the make-up artist that casts this amazing shadow however was unintended and remains unexplicable to me as the strobe was directed against the ceiling. Another wonderful example for the flukes of luck that sometimes happen to us photographers...

Hair and make-up artist Dilek Sahin fixes the hair of Narrhalla Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) in her suite at the hotel Bayrischer Hof before the enthronement ceremony at Marienplatz in Munich. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

Dilek Sahin fixes Astrid Dengler's hair before the enthronement ceremony.

Narrhalla Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) holds a 100-year-old tiara in her hand that was lent to her for her tenure as Carnival Princess by the gold smiths' guild of Upper Bavaria. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

Astrid Dengler holds a 100-year-old tiara in her hand that was lent to her for her tenure as Carnival Princess by the gold smiths' guild of Upper Bavaria.

Narrhalla Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) puts on her tiara in her suite at the hotel Bayrischer Hof before the enthronement ceremony at Marienplatz in Munich. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

The 2013 Narrhalla Princess puts on her tiara for the enthronement ceremony.

Prince Manuel I. (Manuel di Nardo) and Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) walk from their suite at hotel Bayerischer Hof to be taken to Marienplatz for the enthronement  ceremony. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

Prince Manuel I. (Manuel di Nardo) and Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) walk from their suite at hotel Bayerischer Hof to be taken to Marienplatz for the enthronement ceremony.

The previous year's prince and "royal" driver Niklas Schreier takes Narrhalla Prince Manuel I. (Manuel di Nardo) and Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) to Marienplatz for the enthronement ceremony. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

The previous year's prince and "royal" driver Niklas Schreier takes Narrhalla Prince Manuel I. (Manuel di Nardo) and Princess Astrid I. (Astrid Dengler) to Marienplatz for the enthronement ceremony.

January 14, 2013

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