Fotoeins Fotografie

the visible wor(l)d, between Canada & Germany

Posts from the ‘Personal’ category

Festival of Lights, Berlin, Germany

Covering Germany’s central corridor this fall

… time I got the hell outta this dodgy town, and recharge for a few weeks …

Earlier this spring, I clinched my 17th consecutive year of setting foot inside Germany with a mostly Bavarian itinerary where I got some more Luther learnin’ done. But as the calendar switches from late-summer into autumn, I’ve been thinking about how I’m writing and photographing the country, whether I’m covering as much of her varied cities, towns, and regions as much as I can, and whether I’ve been covering a sufficient number of her World Heritage Sites.

Below is a map of my coverage of Germany thus far. Places I’ve already visited are shown as stars, and the country’s five largest cities* are shown as red stars. Despite a lot of traveling across the country over the years, there are still clear gaps to fill, particularly the corners, the centre, and the coastline.

Germany, fotoeins.com
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My Berlin: Hauptstadt Memories, 2010-2011

Above: “Pe(a)rlin’ in Berlin”, Hackescher Markt – 16 March 2011 (HL).

Berlin is one of my favourite cities in the world. From the moment I stepped foot inside the German capital city for the first time in 2002, it’s been an ongoing love story. I’m convinced the “Hauptstadt” will always be worth photographing; it’s my “long game.” Naturally, there are a massive number of sights throughout Berlin, and I’ve always combined public transport with plenty of walking. In fact, traveling 10 to 20 kilometres per day throughout the city is pretty much the norm. These photographs are personal observations and measurements of location, geometry, and motion.

The pictures and memories may be from years past, but all of the them retain their contemporary nature: images which include quiet snowy Christmas, an important memorial, and pieces of architectural design.


Neues Museum, Hauptstadt, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Closing time”, Neues Museum – 24 December 2010 (HL)

Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Platz, Hauptstadt, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Vacant”, Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz – 24 December 2010 (HL)

2. Weihnachtstag, Boxing Day, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“2. Weihnachtstag (2nd day of Christmas)”, Hauptbahnhof – 26 December 2010 (HL)

U6 Stadtmitte, Mohrenstrasse Ecke Charlottenstrasse, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Blizzard”, Mohrenstrasse at Charlottenstrasse – 27 December 2010 (HL)

Jüdischer Friedhof, Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Spandauer Vorstadt, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Nie wieder (never again)”, Old Jewish Cemetery – 16 March 2011 (HL); see also here and here

Domaquarée, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Duo”, CityQuartier DomAquarée – 17 March 2011 (HL)

Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Shiny”, Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse – 19 March 2011 (HL)

Ritz Carlton, Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Dusk”, Beisheim Center – 19 March 2011 (HL)


Postscript: As I look at these pictures years later, I wondered how I came to make many pictures of stairs and escalators in the relative quiet of the city around Christmas 2010. Had I already subconsciously incorporated the way I was seeing the world through my pictures my big life transition the following year (2011)?

More Hauptstadt Memories

•   My Berlin: Mitte on Christmas Eve (2010)
•   2009 to 2010
•   2005 to 2009

I made the pictures above on 24-27 December 2010 and 16-19 March 2011. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-aps.

The place where I died

With these pictures, I explore the perspective of witnessing a parent’s unstoppable decline to the end. While there are no pictures of my father in this set, I give voice to growing distress at his final journey as my gaze drifted externally to the hospital itself and immediate surroundings. Northern summers, specifically August, now mean something entirely different.

On 19 July 2014, Dad was taken to Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital after he had a minor fall down the stairs at home. No bones were broken, which was remarkable considering his worsening health in the final stages of cancer. He would never return to the house in which he and Mum had bought and lived since 1976. By the 2nd week, he had been moved to the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) on the 10th floor. The wonderful hospital staff took great care of him and other patients in the unit. Dad charmed the PCU staff by chatting with them in broken English; it was his way of exerting some measure of control. By the 3rd week of his hospital stay, his mind and spirit had departed, and he had become completely unresponsive. Over the next five days, his body remained, breathing steady, though often shallow and laboured. He was calm and at peace, and thanks to the meds, with diminished pain. I was with Dad a part of every day for the following 21 days until his death on 9 August; he had celebrated his 82nd birthday a few weeks earlier.


Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(1) Inside the room

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(2) Out the window

I looked out the windows to summer skies, to tell him the city he’d known for over 40 years was still out there. I was also in a hot rage because the rest of the world continued on unworried and uncaring, leaving Dad and the suffering and the dying behind. Entropy is all fine a concept until it reaches out and fucks with your reason for being.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(3) From the bed

St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(4) DIGS, Downtown Intercultural Gardeners’ Society

Bute and Davie, West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(5) Light

St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(6) The spot

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(7) Lounge

There’s a lounge area for family and friends, down the hallway at some distance from patients’ beds. In the lounge are couches, chairs, a piano, books, and a small kitchenette with a fridge, microwave, and a place to make coffee or tea. There’s also a small balcony with additional deck chairs for people to sit outside in the shade; the balcony is where I made pictures (6) above and (12) below. With the lounge at the building’s southwest corner, there’s an outstanding west-facing view to the rest of downtown, the West End, and English Bay.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(8) Passage

This corridor in the PCU connects the lounge area with staff offices, examination rooms, and patients’ rooms. By day or night, it’s generally quiet: it’s not an eerie atmosphere, but it’s more like a respectful state of mind.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(9) Celebration of Light

Next to the PCU on the 10th floor, there’s a section where the windows next to the elevators face west to English Bay. We watch the annual summer fireworks through the glass. There are subdued voices, interrupted by the sounds of mobile phones as people attempt to take pictures. There’s no shouting, no whooping, no clapping. Patients, family and friends, and various on- and off-shift hospital staff all gaze equally and quietly into the Salish Sea.

Law Courts, Arthur Erickson, Robson Square, downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada

(10) Lattice

St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(11) Helmcken

By this point, Dad had become a shell. His spirit had departed days earlier, and his body was hanging on. His eyes, open and unseeing. His mouth, open and sunken. His skin, smooth yet cool to the touch. He looked like a breathing ghost, but a part of him stuck around. And so, I stroked his cheek with the back of my fingers, and I held onto his arm, knowing fully he could no longer acknowledge me. Did I tell him all the things I wanted to say? No, but I had hoped my presence provided some comfort over this time. What I feared most was not the deterioration or the inevitable, but that he was trapped somewhere and unable to communicate. I whispered into his ear: “it’s okay, Dad. We’re all good. You can go.” I repeated this in both English and Toisan for several days.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(12) Last twilight

From the lounge balcony, I made the picture of his final sunset. While he could no longer “see”, I hoped he could sense the shift between day and night. Hours later at 610am on the 9th of August 2014, Dad breathed his last and slipped quietly into the eternal sea. When I got the phone call, I felt some relief for him, that his ordeal was finally over. That respite was quickly replaced by the empty vacuum that comes with losing a parent. Even now, 3 years on, I still relive key moments of those 3 weeks in the hospital.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(13) Notice


This post appears on fotoeins DOT com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-akW. I made all of the pictures between 31 July and 8 August 2014. All pictures were at St. Paul’s Hospital except number 5 (corner of Bute St. and Davie St.) and number 10 (Law Courts building).

Some may recognize the similarity of my post title with “The X-Files” episode “The Field Where I Died” which is a personal favourite. Those familiar with the episode will also know this video excerpt with this music score.

Lands End, Sutro Baths, Point Lobos, Pacific Ocean, San Francisco, CA, USA, myRTW, fotoeins.com

21 sonic landmarks to travel by

Featured: Late-winter sun over Lands End, San Francisco – 18 Mar 2012 (HL).

These are sonic landmarks and signposts marking passages of time. They’re also some of my favourite tunes to set the tone by which I’ll travel or while away the hours. That’s when I allow my mind to wander in dreamless landscapes, disentangle wished-upon possibilities, trek through inaccessible realms, sail on faraway seas, and arrive at a distant universe where Dad’s kickin’ it large with age.

With a sprinkling of songs in German and Spanish, your kilometrage may vary with these songs between 1975 and 2017. Select a single track or the entire playlist; I hope you enjoy listening to one and all.

( Click here for more )

Interview by traveling blogger Ricky Shetty

Published author, blogger, and fellow traveler from Vancouver, Ricky Shetty is presently traveling around the world with his family. On his YouTube channel, he has interviewed a variety of people about travel, blogging, and becoming “digital nomads.” I agreed to his kind request for an interview, and we spoke over video during their final evening in Trinidad before flying out to Colombia the following day.

During our hour-long conversation, we talked about a number of topics including care for aging parents, my frequent travels to Germany, and some things I’ve learned about photography.

You can find Ricky Shetty on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Thanks again to Ricky for his time during the Google Hangout on 4 July 2017; it’s hard to believe we last did this in 2014. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-a9P.

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