HELLO CRISIS: WHERE DOES YOUR SECOND HOME LIE?

Article published on Dec. 18, 2013
Article published on Dec. 18, 2013

What does home mean to a Greek gar­dener in Berlin? And how long will a Spaniard last in Ger­many? The Ger­man-Chilean pho­tog­ra­pher Jean-Paul Pas­tor Guzmán won the Sec­ond Home Pho­tog­ra­phy Con­test with his Hello Cri­sis! (2012). In an in­ter­view he talks about the eco­nomic cri­sis, dy­namic CVs and the sense of home.

Those who ask Jean-Paul Pas­tor Guzmán about his home have to be prepared to get more than one an­swer: "When I'm in Berlin, I might reply Buenos Aires. But when I travel through Ar­gentina, I would rather say Ger­many. After all, I grew up and was cul­tur­ally in­flu­enced here." Thanks to a fa­ther who moved from Chile to Ger­many when he was 20 years old, and a mother who revered the French actor Jean-Paul Bel­mondo in her youth, Jean-Paul has been caught be­tween ge­o­graphic re­gions since his birth. After grad­u­at­ing high school he moved to Buenos Aires, where he also spent a se­mes­ter abroad dur­ing his later stud­ies in graphic de­sign at FH Aachen. Jean-Paul has been work­ing as a photo as­sis­tant in Berlin now for nearly a year, and plans to stay. 

Cuckoo Clocks and Grandma's China Set: What is home?

"The term 'home' sounds a bit old-fash­ioned in Ger­man, be­cause one im­me­di­ately thinks of local his­tory, cuckoo clocks and grandma's china set." Jean-Paul laughs as he searches for an ac­cept­able de­f­i­n­i­tion of the Eng­lish term "home." "Home is ac­tu­ally the place where you feel com­fort­able and se­cure. It's about mem­o­ries, feel­ings and emo­tional bonds." That's why for him home is Aachen, where he spent his child­hood and ado­les­cence. But also Buenos Aires, where he had new ex­pe­ri­ences and met great peo­ple. But Jean-Paul is well aware that not every­one can so freely choose a sec­ond home: "In my pro­ject Hello Cri­sis!, with which I com­pleted my Bach­e­lor's de­gree in Aachen, the focus for me was young Eu­ro­pean mi­grants who had to aban­don their home coun­tries out of eco­nomic rea­sons. So, the Greeks, Spaniards and Ital­ians who have sought their luck in re­cent years in Berlin."

He stum­bled onto the idea for his pho­to­graphic work be­cause of a Span­ish girl­friend who came to Ger­many to look for bet­ter prospects. "In Berlin you prac­ti­cally sit at the source, given the many south­ern Eu­ro­peans and Lati­nos." For months Jean-Paul looked through Face­book groups such as Ital­iani a Berlino (Ital­ians in Berlin; AdR), Movimiento 15-M, lan­guage schools in Kreuzberg, and by word of mouth for peo­ple who would talk about them­selves and be pho­tographed in their homes: "I por­trayed a total of five Spaniards, three Ital­ians and two Greeks. It was im­por­tant for me to give the pic­tures a per­sonal and tex­tual di­men­sion, not just to show anony­mous and young faces of the cri­sis. That's why I por­trayed Dim­itris, Lucía and the oth­ers in their nor­mal en­vi­ron­ment, and sup­ple­mented my pho­tos with long in­ter­views." 

GER­MANY AS AN IN­TER­ME­DI­ATE STOP: MO­BIL­ITY WITH­OUT A GOAL?

De­spite many sim­i­lar­i­ties, the CVs of young Eu­ro­pean eco­nomic mi­grants are fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent.  Dim­itris, for ex­am­ple, learned hor­ti­cul­ture in Greece and pre­car­i­ously came to Ger­many as a "for­tune seeker." He now works in a nurs­ery in Berlin.  Fátima, on the other hand, com­pleted a de­gree in jour­nal­ism in Spain and now bridges the wait­ing pe­riod with in­tern­ships in Ger­many. Jean-Paul's work is based in re­al­is­tic as­sess­ments: "I wanted to por­tray these life sit­u­a­tions as gen­uine as pos­si­ble, which is why I chose a more doc­u­men­tary style. So, just day­light, per­sonal items, with hardly any stag­ing." Some of the sub­jects are mean­while no longer even in Berlin: "Some have al­ready gone on to Poland, Tan­za­nia and Por­tu­gal. For these, Ger­many was just an in­ter­me­di­ate stop. That's why I'd find it in­ter­est­ing to meet up with all of them in one year and doc­u­ment their new where­abouts.  It would cer­tainly be an im­pres­sive ex­am­ple of the new mo­bil­ity of the 21st cen­tury." Nev­er­the­less, one should not be con­fused with Eras­mus and sim­i­lar pro­grams. After all, this deals with com­pletely dif­fer­ent types of mi­gra­tion.

Some are in search of fun and move to Barcelona. Oth­ers need a job and choose Berlin. The rea­sons may be dif­fer­ent, but the po­lit­i­cal and in­sti­tu­tional frame­works are the same: in times of major Eu­ro­pean largesse, ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries are blurred for al­most every­thing, from cheap flights to broad­band In­ter­net. To the "first home" is added the am­biva­lent "sec­ond home," which is a term coined by Cafeba­bel Berlin's photo com­pe­ti­tion. Jean-Paul ac­tu­ally sees this as some­thing pos­i­tive: "It's pretty nor­mal to quickly get on a plane to Paris or to skype with a lover in Madrid. And it's also not a con­tra­dic­tion to have two homes." How­ever, de­spite an in­creas­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal frag­men­ta­tion of iden­ti­ties, the op­po­site is also pos­si­ble.

"I no­ticed in Buenos Aires that many Ar­gen­tines, Chileans and other South Amer­i­cans  sim­ply des­ig­nate them­selves as lati­nos. This is an ex­pres­sion of a cer­tain con­ti­nen­tal pride, which surely has its roots in colo­nial­ism and the op­pres­sion by the West." Maybe the same thing is cur­rently hap­pen­ing in Eu­rope, de­spite dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal premises: "Will we soon only des­ig­nate our­selves as Eu­ro­peans?" To Jean-Paul, this doesn't seem im­pos­si­ble. It wouldn't come so eas­ily to him, should he begin look­ing for a sec­ond home. "Of course I like Buenos Aires a lot, but could I live there for­ever? I can't re­ally pic­ture it." Even Aachen has be­come too bor­ing for him.  In that case only Berlin re­mains? "Right now, most likely yes.  Here I've truly ar­rived with heart and mind." At least there's an emo­tional bond here.  And there are guar­an­teed to be plenty of lati­nos in the "in­ter­na­tional bub­ble" of Berlin with whom he could speak Span­ish with, should Jean-Paul ever feel home­sick for Buenos Aires