André Wagner is a photographer and photo artist. For many years he has enriched the world with photographs that combine the interplay of time, space, eternity and energy. His passion led him on various photo expeditions across the globe. Then came Corona Virus. And made the whole world stand still. And he and his family decided to use the lockdown for a photo expedition through Germany. Without any crowds or tourism. In the travel report he tells us about his trip, his fears, the Corona fatigue and how you can turn the negative into something good.

 

Characteristics

  • Number of passengers: 2 adults + 2 children
  • Vehicle type: Carado T447
  • Starting point: Leutkirch am Allgäu
  • End point: Rügen
  • Stopovers: Allgäu - Lake Constance - Black Forest - Felsental Wental - An der Rhön - Swabian Alb - Potsdam - Mövenort - Cape Arkona - chalk cliffs - Dranske- Regensburg
  • Travel period: 10.5-8.6.2021
  • Kilometers covered: 4000
My lockdown escape experiment:

I haven't been able to go on a photo expedition for over a year. The longing keeps growing and an idea simmers in me: Why look in India for what could possibly be found on your own doorstep? Certainly, there are places in Germany with whose special effect the mystical play of time and the elements can be expressed in a photograph.
The bad: Germany is in lockdown and everything is closed. The good thing: Germany is in lockdown and everything is closed. When, if not now, visit special places and feel their energy and process it photographically? Nobody will disturb, no tourist crowds will pour out there.
After some struggle, I get the work permit from the office and start preparing for a daring experiment with my family.


For and against:

We are traveling with a mobile home for a month and the important question arises: How does a family of four who are used to the comfort and space of a spacious single-family house get along for a month on a work trip in a 7.40 meter long mobile home? How do our children cope with this? Because this time we actually all want to leave. It would be the first time both for my 5-year-old son and for the two-year-old daughter that they would be allowed to accompany Dad at work. My wife knows this nomadic life from before. After all, years ago we drove 17,000 km across New Zealand in a 20-year-old Toyota bus and then later drove to Iceland in a 4x4.
I learned to appreciate the freedom that a mobile sleeping place brings with it at an early stage. Just being able to lie down on site and not having to go back to a hotel has enormous advantages. However, completely new fronts are emerging on which to fight. Where does the electricity come from, where do you shower? Going to the toilet alone is an adventure in many places. I still remember all too well when I was traveling with my assistant in a small bus with a bed in Japan and we had to take a shower somewhere. We lost a lot of time driving to the bathing houses, waiting in line for hours, changing clothes, etc. That should or must be different with the children this time, especially since it will be their “first time”.


Let's go!:

We are accepting our new home for the entire coming month. The weather is anything but favourable, but our mobile high-tech house has a lot to offer. We have a Carado T447 with heating, autonomous power supply, shower, toilet and two beds and an incredible amount of storage space. There is plenty of space in the back for my tripods, flash lamps, and camera cases without any problems or fiddling. We even take two bicycles and my folding e-bike with us.
We could all sleep on the large family bed in the rear, but my son finds the mechanics of the fold-down bed so exciting that we quickly turn it into our men's corner. He has a lot of fun tying the safety nets with his little hands every evening. And funny how he slides off the bed and onto the passenger seat every morning. In general, everything has been a huge and exciting adventure for the children since they moved in. I'm a little worried about how to get work and family under one roof in such a small space. Secretly I hope a little in the patient and balancing magical powers of my dear wife.


Station 1:

The first destination of our photo shoot tour through Germany is the Black Forest. For more than a year, a few concrete picture ideas have matured in my head that I have to implement. Yes, have to! The term TIME has gained a new aspect for me and in my imagination, I can already see the finished work in large format on the wall.
What strikes me in contrast to my previous photo trips is the totally decelerated way of being out and about with our Carado. The unfamiliar dimensions alone slow me down a little at the beginning. But otherwise, I have no desire to hunt around. And it is not necessary either. When I am out and about in my car to take pictures, one rushes. I usually stop working sooner than it would be good. On the other hand, the main advantage of having your “house” with you and simply not having a long way home is a dream.
It is already late, and we are on our way to the city to stay overnight when I am driving down a rather steep mountain in the rain somewhere in the middle of the Black Forest. From afar I can see in the twilight that there seems to be a waterfall back there. As we get closer, there is even a parking space in front of the waterfall. I park the car in the parking lot, pack my camera, tripod and plastic bags, wrap myself in my raincoat and look for a good angle. I am experimenting at the waterfall until well into the night. Despite the rain, I take a very elaborate picture of a huge panorama shot in mega format. It will later easily be able to be enlarged to a length of 12 meters. I've often taken long exposures at night, but there was always the pressure of having to go home at some point. It's different with the mobile home next door. I am absolutely focused and calm inside. I know my family is probably cooking right now, the kids are having fun, playing games and all is well. So, I work late into the night. The folding blinds at the front, directly on the windshield, does not allow even the smallest amount of light to escape. And so, when I return I don't even know whether the family has already retired. But when I open the door and shake off my wet clothes, I am greeted with a big hello, as if I had been gone for days. Because somehow the children didn't want to sleep yet. I find that interesting, these emotions, the calm, the closeness and the opportunity to work with the family. Somehow, it's a kind of home office.


At night when everyone is asleep:

Now it is really late, everyone is asleep. My son in the lowered fold-down bed, whose safety nets he has carefully tied again. I cannot sleep yet. My tension and concentration were too strong. I also want to save the data from the camera and transfer it to the computer. Although the bed hovers directly above the dining table, I have enough space and freedom of movement for my laptop on the dining table, because the front seats in our Carado can conveniently be turned completely backwards. Thanks to the solar system, we don't have to worry about electricity. I still plug the batteries of the camera and the flash units into the chargers before I finish my day's work in the total silence and the peaceful ambience.


The day after:

Sometimes I have to go back to the place of the previous evening the next day. Mostly because my subconscious is looking for mistakes and I might be looking to improve something in photography. And so, I go out into the rain again this morning after breakfast. Will it be necessary to stay another day? After fifty meters it is in front of me, this magnificent waterfall. Despite the heavy rain, I suddenly hear behind me the "splash-splash" of the rubber boots of our two little ones who want to see where dad is taking his pictures. My wife also comes after and brings a really big umbrella. I can't find any mistakes in my recording yesterday and so we're going "home" again. A hot tea, the heater on and off we go. I am impressed again how incredibly uncomplicated such a life in the smallest of spaces can actually be and all kinds of thoughts about social constraints, our values, ingrained habits and apparent needs are buzzing around in my head. The children had completely settled in from the first moment, found their peace and completely accept our Carado as their home. There can be no question of whining and homesickness. On the contrary, they think it's totally cool to be part of the expedition. In addition, you only know your dad on the computer in the studio and can now experience for the first time how the pictures are really created. I even go so far as to encourage the two of them to come up with suggestions for interesting pictures along the way.


The difference:

What we do is not camping. We are practically only on the move and do not have the mobile home as a house on a campsite. Rather, the motorhome has become a work tool that I really don't have to do without anything. I have electricity and you don't have to go anywhere to draw electricity and charge the batteries, which is very convenient compared to my previous photo trips. Another aspect is that I have the food with me. I love to cook myself and so far, we've always cooked very well. I think the main difference to other forms of travel and home is this feeling of freedom and independence. That allows me to be incredibly spontaneous. I have enough space and virtually infinite freedom to work. Even in this disgusting rainy weather, our motorhome offers us an excellent retreat with an astonishingly fast and powerful heater and, above all, a toilet. Although ... we are in the middle of lockdown. Everything is shot, even the campsites. In the end, that requires a little logistical planning, because we need 140 litres of fresh water every two days. In addition, the dirty water must be disposed of, and the toilet emptied. It's not that easy in lockdown, but thanks to the internet and special apps, we always find official disposal points. It's good that I'm traveling for work ...


The image effect:

In my photos I usually deal with the relationships between time, space, eternity and energy. Most of my pictures are spiritually very strongly charged and develop a very energetic effect in the room. Much of myself can be found in my photographs. The totally decelerated journey from the Black Forest to the Allgäu is also good for my pictures. Unfortunately, no leisure activity is possible. Treetop paths, castles, playgrounds, summer toboggan run: everything is closed. The children in particular dream longingly of the advertised vacation trips, while the advertising signs try to lure us astray.
But everything also has its good side. And for me that's extremely good, because I finally really have a lot of time to deal with my picture ideas and the motifs. I am often out and about for hours on my own because the terrain is sometimes too steep, or I don't want to expose the children to the heavy rain. In addition to many hikes into the woods, I particularly appreciate the fact that I have my folding e-bike on board. With that I am incredibly flexible on site, can change perspectives at lightning speed and not only once does my family have the feeling that I haven't been away at all. Nevertheless, I can be very productive in the short periods of time. The finished photographs will ultimately reflect this timelessness in a wonderful way.


Apocalypse, but it goes on:

After a lot of rain, slalom and ups and downs, we unfortunately have to say goodbye to the beautiful mountain landscape with its enchanting backdrops in mid-May. The constant rain forces us to stop at home, to the disappointment of our children. After a complete change of linen, we set off for Rügen in the hailstorm. The weather has been announced, but Rügen is completely closed to non-locals at the moment. Only with my work permit will we be allowed to go to the island after a long examination. After a few kilometres, we can still feel the envious looks of the officers checking us on our necks. We feel a bit illegal, which increases our feeling of freedom and adventure. My wife smiles at me, and we feel like Bonnie and Clyde.


Incredibly beautiful:

The decision to go to Rügen was absolutely right. Everything is deserted. Beaches, roads and campsites: nobody. I like pictures where you don't see people. Therefore, the depopulated ambience suits me very well. It's much warmer here, on Germany's largest island, than in the south, and the kids can finally get out without rubber boots.
The purpose for this trip was from the beginning to photograph special places and scenarios in Germany and we only have one week left. How quickly this month passed! Here on Rügen, too, I manage to feel the spirit of the place in normally overcrowded places and the calm whispers to me why these places are so special. Nobody bothers. Neither my thoughts nor my photos are interrupted. It feels like in another dimension. As if I, as an outsider, were looking at the earthly moment from far away. Usually, I miss this distance and this freedom, especially in tourist places. Unique pictures are created, and I am happy. The kids are happy anyway. And my wife is happy too. Only the four of us are the only existing centre in a seemingly unreal world in the sometime of eternity.


Back again:

The month that seemed infinite to us at the beginning is over - over much too quickly. Somehow, we only started a few days ago. All of our fears about the mental state of our little ones had vanished after the first day. I've been able to take fantastic pictures in incredible places. We have healed our wanderlust and worries about the possibility of being able to live together in the few square meters turned out to be completely unfounded. We had a wonderful time, a great time with many experiences and loving harmony. Much was different and much more relaxed than at home. Such a small living space creates new structures, a division of labour, a hand-in-hand. It's like in real life, one person is in the driver's seat, but together we decide whether to the right or left. Our Carado gave us and especially the children the security of a home and gave them the opportunity to combine work with family in an uncomplicated way. My wife managed to keep her balance wonderfully. Everything, really everything, worked surprisingly perfectly.
We stand at a red light, look at each other for a long time and can't get rid of the thought: do we really want to go back? What would life be like as a photographer family in a mobile home? Why the big house in the cramped city? But what about compulsory schooling, health insurance, "normal life"? The children know that we are almost at home and hang quietly and sadly in their seat belts. We too are silent; we are overwhelmed by deep sadness and first have to rearrange ourselves. And so, we bite into one of our freshly filled rolls for the last time before we turn into the courtyard.


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