Portland, October 2013
Portland is a beautiful city, especially during the fall season. Looking down on the city from Mount Tabour reveals the view of a small rural town rather than a major urban area. The trees along the city’s clean streets make the concrete disappear from the distant viewers sight, leaving but a few tall buildings reaching out to the sky as a reminder of a big city. But all the colorful leaves cannot cover that the streets of Portland are packed with homeless people just like in many other major US cities too, entire families sleeping on the sidewalk.
During my time in Portland I could review the footage shot so far and even edit a short video from my time back in Seattle. I also met Nestor and Kirk, two ‘free spirits’ traveling the country. The three of us wanted to get down to California, so we decided to meet up and discuss traveling together. On our first meeting I waited two hours for Nestor to show up, Kirk didn’t make it that evening. Nestor has a Mexican background; his long, curly black hair give him a wild hippie look. Before being on the road he spent a year in Seattle with his girl, working as a graphic designer. Some time ago they split up, so now he is traveling the country by himself, hitchhiking from one place to another. We spent the evening together walking around the streets of Portland. “For every star you can’t see in the sky, you have a light in the skyline of the city.” Eventually we joined the birthdayparty of the Red & Back Cafe, a worker-owned cooperative restaurant, community space and anarchist hotspot in Southeast Portland. It was a great atmosphere with protest songs being sung and stories form the cafe’s past thirteen years being told. We decided to meet again the next day to discuss hitchhiking down the coast. I reached out to Kirk again so he could join us the next day. Kirk and I ended up waiting for Nestor this time, who eventually didn’t show up.
Kirk has blond curly hair and somewhat of a surfer’s look with his skateboard. He served five years in the army working as technician in the Marines Corps. At the beginning of 2012 he fulfilled his duty and after spending some time at home he went to Hawaii, away from the civilization. He lived in a tree-house and worked on a organic fruit and vegetable farm for one year. He had a lot of time for himself, figuring out who he is and what he wants. Some time ago he came back to the mainland and started traveling. “Quite a change” he told me. “To see the streets full of people rushing from one place to another. Nothing compared to Hawaii where everything is slow and laid back. It will take me some time to get my head around this society’s issues and problems.” He wants to travel all around the world helping others, teaching what he knows, spend his entire life traveling. We decided to hitchhike together the next day, but for that I needed a sleeping bag. It would take us some time to get to San Francisco traveling this way, about four days, estimated Nestor the day before, so I’d better get one for the cold nights outside. We split up, me looking for a bag, him gathering his stuff. Kirk wanted to call me later on so we can make a plan for the next day and start our journey. Instead I got a text a few hours later saying that he’s already on his way, on an offered ride to Eugene. Alright, luckily Nestor wrote me that the plan is still on from his side and we can meet in the morning to get going. Well, meeting is fine but where exactly? and when? I didn’t get an answer until too late the next day, so I traded my sleeping bag for a train ticked and I’m on my way to the Bay Area.
Two weeks passed now on my journey through the US, two weeks that I mainly spent in Anchorage, Alaska. I could gather quite some material, but it’s a chaos of thoughts and ideas I cannot arrange yet. My next stop will be Seattle, arriving October 4.
Social movements all around the world have drawn attention to the fact that it is time to overcome the market-oriented capitalist system, which suppresses the majority of the world’s population, only to secure the well-being of a few. Governments no longer act in the name of the people but according the dictatorship of money; they are not able to lead out of the ongoing crisis. Therefore it is time for the people to take back the power, take responsibility and reshape society. Numerous initiatives are already in full swing: unemployed workers take over abandoned land to grow food, laid-off workers take over their factory to keep the production up and artists keep opera houses and theaters alive, since the governments cut back cultural budgets. These actions are going on all around the world. These are the events and initiatives I want to explore and document.
© Photographs by Paul Stein, Ed Gaillard, Creative Commons
My project started 2012 in Romania, where I documented the protests on the University Square in Bucharest. You can watch the film clips on Vimeo or YouTube. The aim of my documentary journey is to shed light on social changes all around the world and reveal piece by piece the shape and structure of a possible future society: Which of today’s practices, born out of the initiatives of people who care about each other and about their community will be an established part of tomorrow’s everyday life? How will tomorrow’s society look like?
I will start my three-month journey across North America mid-September in Anchorage, Alaska.
Catalin Ionete, whom I interviewed 2012 in Romania, migrated to the US due to a job offer. I will accompany him and explore everyday life in Alaska before moving on. Catalin was critical about the Romanian protests and claimed that they would have no long-term impact to improve living conditions in Romania. That’s why he left the country to find a better life in Alaska. But since the US is facing a great depression itself, I want to see how his life is over there, one year after he left his home country. Has his living standard improved compared to the situation in Romania? What are his thoughts about Romania and the 2012 protests today? I also want to meet Alaska Natives and Locals to see how life in Alaska differs compared to the rest of the US.
My route is not yet definite, but I will probably move on to Vancouver. From there, my journey will bring me to the Great Lake Region and the so called “Rust Belt”, with major cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto. I want to gather the stories of the people living in this region and visualize the end of the industrial era. In cities such as Detroit, the decaying industrial facilities and abandoned land give way to urban farms and inner-city green space.
© Photographs by Яick Harris & Select-Av, Creative Commons
My journey will end mid-December in New York. More details will follow, I’ll keep updating along the way. I am open for any suggestions, topics and places to explore as well as for everybody to join on the way, if you happen to be somewhere around.
Thank you for your support!
Where To Go on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/societyintoart/