About your local photographerI grew up in Vienna, in Heiligenstadt, near the Danube and the Danube Canal. Until the 70s, the Danube & Danube Canal were largely unspoilt, actually still untamed; the ideal playground for children who want to discover the world. There was plenty to discover; the spectrum ranged from the banal to the exciting, such as war relics or ancient steam trains on sidings.
At this time, my curiosity was stimulated, together with the willingness to take risks and to enter uncharted territory.
My parents were divorced, and I grew up with my grandmother. My mother had chosen a life in the circus.
She wanted me to get a proper education and therefore entrusted me to the care of my grandmother, but I always spent the school holidays with her. So as a child, I got to know “the whole wide world”. That always was pure adventure too: foreign countries, foreign languages; a different location every few days. A small world of its own that constantly moves through the big wide world.
This time shaped my ability to access and become aware of both "the big picture" and my own position in it.
I had a rather unusual “hobby”: astronomy.
One night, the 3 belt stars of Orion piqued my interest, and my passion for astronomy was born. I quickly read most children’s books on the subject; at the age of 9 or 10, I started to read specialist textbooks while other kids were still playing marbles.
Much of it I had to read repeatedly until I understood it; but I quickly reached such a high level that a scholarship was promised as my knowledge and understanding at my age stunned everybody. Well meant, but absolutely frightening for me, however. From an interest grew an obligation; I wanted to be allowed to learn, not to be forced to learn.
I learnt two things about myself: even a very complicated and complex subject can be learned if one has the will and the interest. II will not let myself be forced, however.
During 1987/88 I worked as a driver for an organization providing aid to refugees. Some people and families of the Jewish faith were allowed, at that time, to leave the former USSR under certain conditions. Several thousands came to Austria at that time, almost unnoticed by the general public, and after staying for about 2 month, traveled on to their countries of destination.
That was an extremely interesting time and I gained a very deep insight in life in the former USSR, and on refugees, their circumstances and motivations for escape.
In 1988 the travel route was changed from Austria to Finland and also this stage of my life came to an end.
This was a very trying time in which I learned how little one needed to have in order to be happy, how little one had to do to help others find happiness. It also was a time when I learned the importance of being able to differentiate. Not every "refugee" was a fugitive, some used it only for their own benefit and to the detriment of others.
So I was looking for a new job and opened a commercial fuel business. A physically strenuous, but promising undertaking.
My fuel business was abruptly brought to an end by a leisure-time accident. I crashed through a glass door and cut my right forearm right up to the bone; tendons, nerves, muscles … everything severed. This was followed by 3 operations and 1.5 years therapy.
How bad it really was to my right hand, I learned only at the very end of the treatment while I was gratefully thanking my surgeon for his outstanding performance:
He explained to me how bad my hand had actually been, and said if he had not found an iron will in me, he would have had to amputate. My first words to him, after waking up from the general anesthesia (11 hours OP) were: “Let them do whatever they think is necessary, but I want to cut my Schnitzel myself and drive my car again!”“. I apparently said this in a very convincing way.
In the therapy came my time with the circus came in handy. II started to juggle again to learn coordination, agility and reflexes by means of visual perception and to train from memory. My therapist was always amazed that I could “perceive” and carry out everything with one hand without any sensation and with impaired mobility.
Today the movement is almost as before, but still lacks any sensation. I can semi-reliably use only what I can see.
The therapy made me aware of how much our past influences the present and consequently the future. Without my previous life experience, the consequences of an accident would probably have been very different.
What now? Which job could I do with my left hand? Although My right hand was still there, I could not (yet) do much with it,
so as I had a passion for driving, and spoke 3 languages fluently, had always been interested in history and have no problem in dealing with people, I became a tour guide in Prague, Budapest and Salzburg.
I had the opportunity to meet many interesting people; from simple workers to government officials of other countries; from artists to managers of global corporations. And some very tempting offers were made by these contacts, but I had to reject them all.
Ever since my childhood, the freedom to decide for myself and not being accountable to anybody was stronger than the most tempting offer.
After a few years my many trips took their toll, and my wife wanted to see me more often. The opportunity arose to start in a bottle cap company office. They needed someone who spoke Italian. A few months later I became Manager and directed the work in Vienna.
From this period dates also my nickname “free spirit” (Freigeist). One evening I was talking with the owner and we had again different views on a problem-solving for the parent company; he laughed and said “I know you’re the free spirit of our company“.
I found this to be a very apt description of my person, so I kept it as a trademark.
The subsequent change of ownership left our parent company almost-bankrupt and as a result also ended this period of my life rather abruptly. The new owner closed the factory in Vienna; we all became unemployed.
Life is like sailing the ocean in a nutshell; sometimes one is at the top of the wave, and soon afterwards you´re at the bottom again.
n the “prime of my life” (40), with a lot of experience,foreign languages, location-independent, flexible, … it couldn’t be that hard to find an adequate job yet again. That’s what I thought, anyway. Then came the disappointment: “Overqualified” – probably the stupidest rejection grounds in the world. You may be underpaid, but never overqualified!
I queried some of the rejections, since the vacancies seemed to fit my profile exactly. Conclusion: too old (the age range was moving between 28 and 35).
Since apparently only the options “welfare state” or “self-employed”, remained for me, the decision was easy. I founded “Kalasek Flaschenverschlüsse” (“Kalasek bottle caps”). I knew the trade, I knew a lot of customers and many producers. The only problem: I had waited too long; I should have taken over my former company right away. So the undertaking did not kick off as successfully as I had hoped it would.
Later, my photography and film business was added (to compensate for the quiet times in the bottle-top trade) and subsequently also Schnitt- und Werbetechnik (cutting and advertising technology).
Never give up. Recognize and take chances; do not just rely on others and pick out your own way through life´s opportunities. Act responsibly yourself, but also towards business partners and friends. Remain fair and open, but also draw borderlines in order to keep moving forward. That shaped my life today.