let's talk about art :

The Story Behind (the Landing of the Adventurers)

One of the most iconic images of my upcoming ‘Socotra’ book is the Landing of the Adventurers. I summons the whole objective of the project, the character of islands, the idea of travel, and the nature of exploration in one single photograph. I would like to share with you how I took that photograph.

It was during my second stay on Socotra that I met two German travellers. Actually, we first met at the airport in Sana’a already – and then again by chance on the beach of Di Hamri the next day. We got along well and they offered to go along with them for couple of days. One evening I invited them over to my hut and cooked pasta with shrimps for them and I generously shared the little wine I had brought along.

The next day, the next day, they planned to go to the beautiful lagoon of Sho’ab. It is quite remote and only reachable by foot or boat. They asked me along. The currents were strong that day and we were all glad to reach shore after an exhausting hour in the waves. Usually, tourists are brought to the far end of the beach, away from the hamlet of Qabahan. I planned to stay in the village for some days to photograph and to create a genealogy so our boatman directly headed for the settlement. Immediately, all the children gathered on the beach to welcome us. I was the first one to get out of the boat and looked back to take pictures of the others wading through the water. On the spur of a moment, one of the local boys saluted my travel companion. I snapped the photograph.


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Very Last Special Editions for Auction

Most of the 100 numbered, stamped, and signed special edition of my upcoming ‘Socotra’ book is sold already. The very last 25 books will now be auctioned. Lovers of opulent photography, book worms, collectors, and Friends of Socotra have now a last chance to secure one of the few remaining copies of the strictly limited edition.

(The idea is to raise additional funds necessary to make the (very expensive) printing of the book possible.)

The special edition includes a 20*30cm print of one of the photographs in the book, and a numbered and signed copy of my Socotra book. Most importantly, supporters will be named and thanked in the final book. (Please also see the initial blog post on the presale for exact information about what the special edition is like.)

(There are also some very very few books of the all hand made and self bound version, covered in goat leather which is died with resin of the rare Dragon Blood Tree from the island Socotra, available – contact me for exact details.)


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The Cynical Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Middle East

Remember the socialist, communist, and capitalist dairy farmer jokes? “You have two cows…”

FP greatly revamped them. Have a taste:


You have two cows. You wish they were camels. Feed them only your words of wisdom and kill them if they dare moo.


You have two cows. Feed them khat instead of grass and neglect to milk them. Watch them fight each other.


You have two cows and one sheep. You claim that the sheep is really a “mountain cow.”

via Foreign Policy.

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Yet Another Dummy

I don’t even know how many dummies I produced over the last couple of months but it is at least half a dozen. This is yet another one.

This time, it’s all about the binding of the book. I wanted to see how the combination of open spine, cloth covered hard back, and waist band look. I think: great!

The idea is to have a reference to library bindings (plain cloth cover) but with  a contemporary touch (visible binding). All photographs will be double page spreads running over the fold. The open spine allows the book to open completely flat – for the strongest impression of the images.

For the final book, I want to use black thread for the sewing. Black contrasts very nice with the red of the cover and the white of the paper and will make the sewing more visible, too.  The two versions of the book will be differently stitched. The hand made edition will feature a combination of Coptic and French binding while the regular edition will be sewn.

It kind of makes sense to put a photograph on the title of a photography book, right? I decided for a waistband cover. That way, the beautiful cloth of the cover and the open spine are visible but there’ll be also space for one of the gorgeous panoramics.

What do you think?

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Appointment at the Printing House (it’s getting serious)

A lot of paper.

This Monday, I visited the printer I (most likely) will print with. I won’t disclose the name of the printer or the location here (or rather yet, as things can still change) but I am very very confident. For months on now, I am working on nothing else but the book. I thought that I thought about everything already. The size (quarto), the paper weight (150gsm), the binding (sewed with open spine) but the printer still asked many many questions I never thought of. Lamination of the waist band dust jacket? Foiling or silk printing of the title? And then, “Where shall we deliver the books?” asked the printer.

F*ck, it’s getting serious. It’s getting real. This one question made me realize that soon, my baby (or rather embryo) will be an actual, physicly existing book. With a cover, pages, and a prize tag. People will buy it, people will read it and look at the pictures. Some will like it, others won’t.

But first I have to think about a place where I can get 500 books delivered too. 500 books, that’s big and heavy! This one single question made me realize that the day I will hold the very first book in my hands is getting closer and closer…

Also, the list of pre sold books is getting longer and longer, soon I will have the hundred full and thus the money to actually pay the advance for the printer!

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Schock am Montag (I): Der Spiegel & The Barbarian Arabs

The current Spiegel Geschichte, Der Spiegel’s bi-monthly history special, is all about “Caliphs, War, and Struggle for Freedom”. And it has a cover of the worst kind: orientalist, chauvinist, and most of all depicting Arabs as barbaric and chaotic. It makes me want to choke.

Linda Steet, in her excellent book “Vails and Daggers, wrote that “What signifies the best of the Arab world, as we have so often seen, was the period of the Arabian Nights and what conjured up within Orientalism.” The fairy tales of Thousand and One Nights draw the positive image of the Arab: romantic and beautiful women, depicted in the Spiegel Geschichte cover as a magnificent arch and young women. Everything else about the Arab world is -in the White Christian Male (WCM) depiction which Der Spiegel follows- barbaric and reactionary, well summarized in one of the article’s title: “The Muslim is not modern.” Consequently, the cover is full of a dark collage of slaughter, veiled women, yelling, revolution – and even a flying axe. As if there is nothing bright, nice, and postive to say about Arabs.

The particular dangerous about this (and similar) illustrations is their claim to be objective and scientific. Der Spiegel Geschichte is published by a respected (though notorious) publisher and creates credibilty by (pop-)scientific self-conception and the prominent placement of a story about “What Europe learned of the Arabs” on the front page. I haven’t read most of the articles in the magazine but I am honestly not motivated to spend time with gibberish teased with “The French wanted to turn Arabs and Berbers into “Modern Humans”.” (about the Algerian War of Independence), “League of the Lame” (about the Arab League), “a World Going To Pieces: Backward Orientated, Divided, Suppressed – for Centuries the Arab Countries are lagging.” (about the Arab Spring).

The magazine’s cover collage says it all; this publication is yet another example for the visual language that sub-consciously reconfirms negative stereo-types about Muslims and Arabs in the West. ‘Slaughtering with axes, veiling and suppressing women – The Arab can’t be anything but a primitive’ is the unequivocal message this illustration conveys. It is yet another brick for the construction of the WCM-world view in continuously-colonial, chauvinistic tradition. Thank you Spiegel-Geschichte Team. I ward you the first Schock am Montag award for your sincere efforts in promoting the clash of culture.