Looking back on a turbulent 2022
Reading time: 15 minutes
My wife says I write a bit corny, but I'm usually so matter-of-fact in my descriptions, that I think a little more personality can't hurt my writing.
Currently I am feeling highly privileged. After two dreadful Corona years I finally get to look back on a year in which I was allowed and able to work creatively again.
Traveling is part of my job as I need to discover places that allow to create stunning photographs. When I visited Tenerife in January I experienced my first Calima. I thought it was a special event, but it seems to happen quite often on the Canary Islands.
Sand from Africa blows over and covers the sky. This gives a kind of end time light in the middle of the day. It felt surreal, and the world around me kind of numb.
Getting older, I realize that my work is so much more than clicking a shutter release button.
When I gave a workshop, I felt it in the interaction with my students. Of course you have to be able to operate the camera and understand all the technical stuff with the light.
But there's a lot more to photography. Maybe it's even good sometimes to know less and to approach things more naively. Then you bring that curiosity and the playfulness of a child. Certainly, some things go wrong in the process. But I don't think that's wrong at all.
A new child came to kindergarten when I was five years old. I watched him closely. He had built an airplane out of mixed colored Lego bricks.
I said to him that this was wrong. You should only put the same colors together.
He looked at me with wide eyes and replied that this was clearly an airplane. He later became my best friend and this moment I learned what it means to think out of the box.
Does it look good?
Today I really only have one simple principle regarding my work: Does it look good or not? Then I decide if I want to press the shutter or not. I do not calculate beforehand where the sun is or according to which rules I work. Sometimes chance helps me and I steer a little. I think it's very important to let yourself drift at a certain degree, though.
That is one part of my work. The photographing. But I spend most of my time in between. With planning, thinking and structuring. This theoretical work takes place seven days a week. I don't have classic working hours at all.
It probably also helps that I'm nowhere near reaching my potential. Not been able to exhaust it. I remain hungry and have this inner drive. For a long time I suppressed such thoughts. But the more I deal with being an artist, the more important it has become for me to write down these feelings.
Rome in March
Did you know that Rome is located at the sea? At least the airport. From there it is almost a whole hour into the city. I had booked a driver to pick me up.
This may sound like luxury VIP treatment, but with photo equipment and strict Corona rules in Italiy in March, I didn't feel like using public transportation.
The driver was very friendly and as we drove along the long streets, I read the name of the avenue: Cristoforo Colombo. What a cool name! An alliteration and six “o”s in the name. Why is his name translated in German (to Christoph Kolumbus)? I think that's weird. Especially when the spelling is no longer nearly as beautiful.
Ibiza in rain
Ibiza in the low season was always my thing. No overcrowded beaches, less traffic chaos, not too many drunken Englishmen. And so I went again and actually had really nice weather when I arrived at the airport.
But then it got colder and colder and especially wetter. In my hotel everything was fine, though. Super friendly staff and free parking right in front of the entrance. What a surprise!
But I felt yet more comfortable when I saw that I had a safe in my room. Shortly I checked the manufacturers' default codes: 9999, 0000, 1111. None of them opened the safe, everything was perfect.
And the best thing was: All my equipment fit in. Laptop, lenses, cameras, chargers and the hard drive. This meant I could go to dinner without having to carry my camera bag with me all the time. It's a big relief.
Only one downside. The drunken English girls were already there, even if the party season had not yet begun. I don't understand why you have to bawl around in the hotel. And what their fascination with alcohol is. They have really lost control.
Earplugs are definitely the most important thing to take to Ibiza.
Rain washes away the beauty
It being a small island feels good. And nature is stunning. The olive trees, fields, mountains and of course the coast. When it rains, this beauty is quickly gone. I used to think that there were red rocks on the cliffs. This time, when I stepped on one, it collapsed. It rained hard and everything turned into red mud. I had a change of shoes with me, so I could put the muddy ones in a plastic bag and didn't mess up the rental car.
Inwardly I struggled with the situation, but outwardly I radiated absolute calm. I think staying cool is one of my superpowers. And my model was also top notch.
While I was shooting in a fleece jacket with a rain jacket over it, she quickly changed out of her jogging suit and jumped naked through the rain at 13 degrees Celsius. I let her warm up in between and she didn't complain at all. She was one with the elements.
We had intense, deep conversations about sensitivity, working together as a model and photographer, spirituality and art. I don't experience something like that very often. It was a big surprise and like I said before, this year I had been thinking a lot. And now, driving through the rain in Ibiza, I exchange thoughts with a young woman who I never met before.
It went over muddy dirt paths and I drove extra slow because I was constantly afraid that the car could touch down and we would break down in the middle of nowhere. Twenty minutes later we came to an intersection. If you can call this a cross-road. Is that even a road?
Summer in Paris
Only one week later I sat in bright summer weather on a fun fair in Paris. It amazed me that this place was quieter than Frankfurt. It was my first time in this neighborhood and I instantly liked it. This is where I shot my calendar cover and as my second shoot got canceled last-minute by the model, I had a day off in Paris. Summer in Paris.
From now until October there was pretty much consistently warm weather. Actually, it was clearly too hot for me even in Germany, especially as we don't have air conditioning in our country. In brutal heat I can no longer work properly.
Summertime is actually always difficult anyway, because due to the vacation season, the accommodations at all the beautiful destinations become unaffordable. And during the big vacations, all the places are also too crowded. In addition, the sun rises very early and sets very late, which makes production days very long and stressful for models.
Partying with the bunnies
July had one of the highlights of the year for me. The 50th anniversary party of Playboy Germany in Munich. Everything was highly official. Dress code and guest list, security and red carpet.
There was a line in front of the carpet and I thought to myself, great, the press doesn't know my face. I will stand in front of the sponsor wall in the spotlight and will quickly be pushed forward.
But by then I had discovered Jacqueline Scherer. I produced her in 2016 as a Playmate at the Kempinski Hotel in Berchtesgarden and so I greeted her with kisses on the cheeks. She was a bit perplexed and maybe the kisses were also a bit too much (as people greet with fists or elbows since the pandemic), but it came so spontaneously.
Behind the press photographers someone suddenly shouted “Simon's cover, Simon's cover!” and a woman jumped out of the darkness and handed me the anniversary edition with my cover. I had not yet seen it printed and was of course mega happy that I was recognized by the Playboy staff (thank you Corinna!) and one has switched so quickly and brought the right copy from 50 different magazines.
The dress code at the party was “cocktail”. I had to google what that meant. Since I didn't want to be the dork on duty, I bought myself a blue suit, a matching tie, brown shoes and a belt.
Always do everything right.
At the party I appeared a bit over-dressed, but several Playmates said I looked good in this style and I have to admit, it's quite different from my everyday look.
I was especially happy to finally meet Ana Dias (and her partner Gonzalo) in person. We've known each other for many years, as we started working for Playboy in the same year. She has gone up like a rocket and has had over 100 Playboy covers world-wide since then (which means she is the most published Playboy photographer of today).
Ana is a great person and I totally begrudge her success and she absolutely deserves it! She is down to earth and I understand why I always only hear good things about her. Such a lovely person who is infectious with her positive charisma.
Apart from the Playmates, I didn't know many people at the event. And so I hung out with them a lot. With one or the other, I had the feeling of being some kind of gay friend. The one they feel comfortable with as he doesn't hit on them.
And even I could feel the greedy looks of some party guests (not at me, but at the bunnies).
I enjoyed the Playmates' company and also had to laugh inside when, for example, one of them said “I'll come with you” when I said I'll go to the toilet.
Normally I would prefer to go to bed at 10 pm. But because I had a bucket of coffee at Starbucks before the party, I lasted a long time.
Fortunately, I held back on alcohol and only drank enough so that I could still talk straight. I had interesting conversations with various editors and also with people from the print shop. It was all really great.
When I found a cab on the street somewhere in the industrial area of Munich at 4 am, I was just as surprised as the cab driver, because he told me he didn't even know the party was still going on. I think officially it was scheduled until 11 pm. And I wasn't even the last one to leave.
I would not have believed that my cover production for the 50th anniversary would bring such media feedback.
First I was asked for a radio interview by Hessischer Rundfunk (local radio). The woke editorial staff had a hard time with the topic Playboy and so only two sentences of a 20-minute long interview were broadcast.
This confused me, because it was not me who asked for an interview, but the station wanted to broadcast something because a photographer from Hesse had taken a Playboy cover for the anniversary.
When you get these insights into the media world, you get a different impression about the truth of media coverage in general. There is always a lot of politics behind everything that is broadcast, and every institution has its own filter. News are never neutral. An honest person like me was not quite aware of that.
The next day, I took a whole trunkload of calendars to the post office. And because I was so happy that calendar sales were going so well, despite the prevailing crises, price explosions, and all the fuss, I grabbed my skateboard and whizzed through the skate park.
Spontanity is best. Then I don't have much time to think about how I will look and what I could say.
The TV camera had a weird macro lens, which meant that I had the thing about 30 centimeters in front of my face. Very uncomfortable. The coverage itself went well, though, and this time I was at least allowed to say more than just two sentences.
I managed that without any slips of the tongue, and the content of what I spontaneously said wasn't stupid. That nude photography is my passion and fulfillment, that I live for it. And that censorship in social media is a problem for me.
Publications in 2022
As for my media presence, this year wasn't bad at all. I've had various publications like three times Playboy Germany, cover story and additionally two pictorials in Playboy Holland. Plus the cover of the official 2023 Playboy calendar among some more calendar publications.
What's the matter with flying?
When I was a kid, flying had something magical and was definitely very special. For twenty years, all we have heard from airlines is that they need to cut costs. The rows of seats are getting narrower and narrower, even though people are undeniably getting taller and larger.
New additional services are constantly being invented. The latest craze in 2022: You're supposed to pay money for the overhead compartment in the cabin.
Here, baggage claim takes forever and they often put six flights on one conveyor belt, planes are delayed and if things go badly (as they did with me in October) luggage is forgotten.
On the other hand, airlines cancelled several (pre-paid) flights for me this year, one even without informing me about it. I feel so powerless over the airlines when they do not honor the agreements booked and paid in advance. But there is nothing I can do about it.
My new coffee table book is taking shape and there is even already the book title (my currently best kept secret).
You're used to the immediate rush of pictures from social media, but it doesn't make any sense to me. When I deliver a finished product and show a lot of new images in a book, it's much more interesting, I believe.
Maybe I will even manage to have the book printed in 2023. I cannot promise it yet, because in current times, it's almost impossible to find a printing house that can offer paper at a feasible price but I want to stay positive regarding all of this.
Living in the past
When I'm in places like Athens or Rome, I'm struck by the fact that we're celebrating an advanced culture that is about 2,000 years old. Yet everything from back then is broken. There are only columns standing around and they obviously didn't take enough care of them, otherwise everything wouldn't be broken.
This has nothing to do with bashing Greece or Italy. Don't get me wrong. I only noticed it there because I had time to think about it when I visited these places. It's no different in Germany. What about the ruins of Heidelberg Castle? Where the word ruin does not appear in the name, although the tower is obviously just a pile of stones.
And when I think about it further, I wonder why Germany is called the land of "poets and thinkers" — what suggests cultural progress — though has so little to offer in contemporary art.
For example, the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt had an exhibition on Marcel Duchamp this year. The painter died in 1968. How modern can his art be?
I waited at gates, because I am supposed to arrive many hours early, in case there is not enough staff at the security checkpoint. Or at the train station, because once again there was a delay, although the train started in Frankfurt (which logically means it should be running according to schedule).
Overall, 2022 was a mixed year for me. I went full throttle as best I could. But the terrible Russian war put a lot of mental strain on me. I was just about to get out of the Corona trouble when the war started. And on top of that, my father's health was very bad, and you suddenly notice how fleeting time is.
Politicians have led us into an energy crisis and supply bottlenecks and inflation are consequences we all feel. We live in such absurd times you wouldn't believe it.
In social media, you could get the impression life is only sunshine but we know this is fake. Not everything was great this year. I was also often sad, worried or angry because I felt powerless against the behavior of politics and the arbitrariness of large corporations.
But I never bury my head in the sand and keep pushing. I'm also super motivated. Most of all, I want to find a new place to live in the new year and to to finish my photo book as far as possible.
And when you step outside and the sun actually is shining, I instantly feel positive again.