Happy New Year! It’s 2020 and therefore I cannot help but look back to the last decade. So much has happened and I am grateful for most of it. Even the bad stuff.
Ten years of adventure, laughter, love and tears. It has been quite the rollercoaster indeed. Graduating from university, shooting documentaries, tv/online commercials and virtual reality projects and documentary photography work around the world, whilst hugging with cheetahs, standing eye to eye with leopards, elephants and wolves, combined with a lot of hiking, running, climbing and flying (and nearly crashing) while looking through the lens of over a dozen different film and photography cameras, has been amazing to say the least. Getting unexpectedly hit by sandstorms, snowstorms unable to pinpoint where we were, not even knowing if we’d ever even get out while nearly freezing to death, has been a part of my life and I have loved and hated (in a good way) every moment of it.
Working with children in the slums of some of the cities in Africa and documenting the lives of a nomadic tribe in the South east of Turkey, while traveling on foot alongside the riverbeds of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers —where we nearly drowned, I might add— into Syria, Iraq, Iran and back into Turkey, has been a highlight moment for me personally (although I think I could have done without all the food poisoning, snakes and giant spiders, maybe :) ). These are places where you look at history and history looks right back at you. It makes you feel incredibly small and insignificant. And I have been very grateful for that.
On my travels I have seen climate change first hand. From islands that were completely submerged in water due to rising sea levels, dead corals due to warming temperatures, extreme drought and lack of snow when there should be an abundant amount of it. All this is always very troubling to see. More than I can put in words.
I became an uncle of a lovely girl named Alena and both family and friends got engaged, married, divorced while others had children. Some people passed away. It is all part of life. All the people I have met and worked with around the world in the last ten years have become a part of me along the way, never leaving my heart. With most we stayed in touch, either professionally, socially or both. And with others we did not. That is life, too.
I also met my girlfriend, my soulmate and love of my life. At some point, she got sick. Really sick. And her illness got worse and worse, up to a point where we both thought her life would simply come to an end. But it did not. She kept on fighting her illness with medication and me by her side. Family and friends stood by, always helping. We are so grateful for that. Besides all that, it was mere dedication and perseverance for the love of life that she has. For nearly five years she was in a wheelchair and through most of it she was mainly bed bound.
But in February of 2019 she was able to leave that wheelchair behind. We went on small walks. And small walks became longer walks and in the summer we went on our first short holiday together. In December she celebrated her first Christmas with more energy than the years before during her illness. And even though she is far from better still —every little thing she does still takes its toll by the end of any given day— it certainly is better than both of us could have ever imagined, even a year ago today.
As for me, I cannot wait for what the next decade has in store. I am ready to pick up those cameras again (albeit some newer models would be nice) and to hit that road again that is fully off the beaten track into the future unknown.
Here is to 2020. Make it a good one, dear friends.