Interesting GEO Assignement

Bildschirmfoto 2014-12-18 um 12.05.35I was recently assigned to do a very unusual job for GEO magazine – half assistent half photographer. The job was to photograph schools that are using innovative tools in their teaching. One example being a so called SteveJobs School in Amsterdam. Every student there has an Ipad on which they do their tasks individually. It was completely different to the kind of school i went to. The story can be read in GEO germany’s current issue.

The whole operation involved american photographer Gail Albert Halaban, a lot of technology and myself. The idea was for Gail to take photos in Europe without leaving her desk in New York City. This is how it worked: I went to the schools, set up a camera, lighting and two computers. I connected one of the computers to my camera and allowed Gail to take control over this computer with a program called LogMeIn. This way she could release the shutter of the camera in CaptureOne. The other computer was used to communicate via Skype. Once everything was running, Gail was able to talk to me and the students, capture images and look at them instantly, „almost“ as if she was there.
The editors asked me to shoot some pictures myself if had the time. I had little but was happy to see that one of my pictures ended up as the opening spread for the story.
I wouldn’t say that this is the most effective way to take pictures, but it was nevertheless very interseting to see what is possible using modern technology these days.
Another good thing was that Florian was assigned to do a making of video of the Amsterdam shoot. This resulted in a nice little Kollektiv25 get together with Julius in Amsterdam. The video is unfortunately only available for clients that buy the Ipad version of the magazine, therefore i can’t link it here…

»Darko & Scum« published in Zeit Campus

Caterina Lobenstein and me have published a story about Darko & Scum from Yangon, Burma. It’s a story about friendship, about music and about growing up in a dictatorship. You can find an online version of the the story (in german language only) here.

The music of Darko’s band „Side Effect“ can be found on MySpace or – even better – be purchased on Itunes.

Scum’s Facebook page is this one.






Friday-Project: Yangon Street

People were saying that before the »change« it was difficult to get in touch with locals in Yangon because many people were afraid to be seen talking to foreigners. I haven’t been there during those times however. The first time I went was during the by-elections in april 2012. Taxis would be full of stickers of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and many people seemed full of hope for a better future. I felt the place was vibrating, something was in the air.
The NLD won 43 out of 45 vacant seats and Aung San Suu Kyi entered the parliament.
Reforms started after that but it is a slow process and the military and their crownies still control many relevant sectors. During my second trip about half a year later many people said they were unsatisfied with the progress of the reform process.
I have had many interesting conversations with locals there. Many people are well educated and would want to talk to me about the finacial crisis in europe for example (a field I couldn’t tell them much about). I’d see people sitting in tea shops reading books, something I hadn’t seen in neighbouring Laos at all.
Yangon is a harbour city there are many former or still active seafarers that have been around the world. Many had been to my hometown Hamburg and their eyes would widen when remembering the »Reeperbahn« (a famous redlight district).

A young boy sucks his thumb in an elevator at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

A young boy sucks his thumb in an elevator at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

View of an appartement building in downtown.

View of an appartement building in downtown.

Young NLD supporters are seen in front of NLD's Yangon headquarters.

Young NLD supporters are seen in front of NLD’s Yangon headquarters.

A railway running through a poor neighbourhood in eastern Yangon.

A railway running through a poor neighbourhood in eastern Yangon.

Youths are jamming on the streets in downtown Yangon.

Youths are jamming on the streets in downtown Yangon.

View of the Shwedagon Pagoda during a heavy monsoon downpour.

View of the Shwedagon Pagoda during a heavy monsoon downpour.

A young boy is feeding seagulls at the Yangon river.

A young boy is feeding seagulls at the Yangon river.

An employee of the Yangon railway station is taking a nap in his office.

An employee of the Yangon railway station is taking a nap in his office.

A woman is seen begging with her children on a stairway in downtown Yangon.

A woman is seen begging with her children on a stairway in downtown Yangon.

View of an appartement buildinng in downtown Yangon.

View of an appartement buildinng in downtown Yangon.

Friday-Project: Flip-Flop Ocean

We are living in a world full of plastic. Plastic surrounds us everywhere and if not properly disposed it poses a threat to our environment. A lot of our plastic eventually ends up in the ocean. Millions of tons float around our waters and birds, fish and reptiles mistake it for food, eat it and die a slow death. Hundreds of thousands of animals are estimated to die because of plastic every year. There are places in the ocean that contain six times more plastic than plancton.

I spend a little time on an island in Indonesia recently and the amount of plastic pollution on the beaches and in the water is enormous. Flip-Flops seem to float especially well and do therefore end up on beaches in high numbers. On a stretch of beach only a few hundred meters long there were hundreds of them. Many were boring „normal“ flip-flops but some looked interesting either due to their design or to the amount of time they’ve been in the water. So i decided to collect a good number with the help of my (plastic) bag.
Here are some of them:

Friday-Project: Christchurch Earthquake – 2 years later

Traveling to Christchurch, New Zealand recently, i was surprised to see in what bad shape the city still is almost two years after the february 2011 earthquake. The magnitude 6.3 quake killed 185 people and resulted in the 3rd largest insurance claim worldwide. The central area was most heavily affected and over 80% of all buildings in this so called „Red Zone“ can’t be fixed but must be taken down. It is said to be another 10 years before the city will be rebuild. I had not previously been to an earthquake desaster area and seeing how slow the rebuilding process is, especially since New Zealand is a first world country, made me think of what such a desaster must really mean for places like Haiti or Pakistan.

The remains of a downtown Building.

A worker hanging from the Pacific Tower overlooks downtown Christchurch.

View of a destroyed downtown appartement building.

Workers are transforming a former building to small rubble.

A man walks his dog past a heavily damaged house in a residential area.

Damaged thomb stones on a graveyard.

Friday-Project: Everything for the Summit

Just days before I left Laos, the 9th ASEM Summit took place in Vientiane. More than 30 heads of government took part in the event and slept on land grabbed from a farming community in central Vientiane. The europeans remained quiet and missed a big chance to speak out against the growing problem of land grabbing in Laos.

Together with a friend I covered the event. An english version of the text will follow soon. The names of most people have been changed to ensure they’re safe from government persecution.

Photos: Lucas Wahl, Text: Sibut

A sandstorm is hitting the construction site of the ASEM villas. The Don Chan palace hotel in the background was constructed to host visitors of the 2009 SEA Games but is already in need of renovation.

Don Chan residents are saving worthy materials from the remains of their home as it is being destroyed to make place for the ASEM construction site.

A young Don Chan resident is watching the destruction of her home which is removed to make place for the ASEM construction site.

An overview of Don Chan Island with the ASEM villas and the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel in the back. 500 farmers were evicted from their fertile island to make way for the infrastructure project. The communist government of Laos said the development was necessary to be able to succesfully host the ASEM summit 2012.

A lao military police is blocking reporting on a protest against the Xayaburi dam in Laos. Thai protesters were using the occasion of the ASEM Summit to get attention from international media covering the 9th ASEM summit taking place in Vientiane. Even accredited Journalists were blocked from any form of reporting. Laos ranks 165th on the freedom of the press index of reporters without borders.

German minister of foreign affairs, Guido Westerwelle, is reading a paper in his private ASEM Villa. 100 families were evicted from their land to give space for the 50 Villas heads of state were using during their visit to Vientiane.

Resettled villagers from Don Chan Island are seen on the construction site of their new home 26 km from Vientiane. They never finished the new house since the promised compensation money was only partially given to them.

A view of the resettlement village for former Don Chan inhabitants. The new village is located 26 km out of town and many inhabitants have lost their jobs due to the resettlement.

A resettled villager from Don Chan island that does not want to be indentified (she fears to be harassed by the government) poses for a portrait in her new home. She claims that she never received compensation money as promised.

Alles für den Gipfel

Die etwa 30 Staats- und Regierungschefs, die zum Asien-Europa-Treffen (ASEM) am 5. und 6. November nach Vientiane kamen, nächtigten auf einem Stück Land, von dem etwa 500 Bauern eigens vertrieben worden waren. Die Europäer verhielten sich dabei erschreckend still – und verpassten damit eine große Chance, sich gegen das grassierende Land Grabbing in Laos einzusetzen.

Und plötzlich ging alles ganz schnell.

Frau Lar und den anderen Bauern der fruchtbaren Halbinsel Don Chan im Herzen von Vientiane wurde gesagt, sie müssten weichen für ein wichtiges politisches Treffen. Sie bekamen ein paar Monate, um sich in einem ausgewiesenen Gebiet etwa 26 km außerhalb der Stadt ein neues Haus zu bauen und umzuziehen.

Dann kamen die Bagger.

Während die Bewohner noch ihre letzten Eigentümer zu retten versuchten, rissen die Baufahrzeuge schon alles ab. Wenige Monate später stehen an jener Stelle 50 von chinesisch-laotischen Investoren gebaute Villen für die Staats- und Regierungschefs des Asien-Europa-Treffens; und nebenan das gigantische Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel für die anderen Gipfel-Teilnehmer.

Frau Lar sitzt währenddessen in ihrem neuen Haus im Niemandsland und weiß nicht, was sie tun soll. Wie die meisten Anderen ist sie Landwirtin, doch auf der roten Lehmerde wächst nichts. Ihren Zusatz-Job als Hausangestellte in Vientiane musste sie auch aufgeben. Zu weit waren die Wege, zu teuer der Transport.

Sie fragt, »warum mussten wir hier rausziehen, warum kann dieses Treffen nicht hier draußen stattfinden? Die Politiker gehen doch nach zwei Tagen eh wieder nach Hause.«

Diese Frage stellen sich die anderen Bewohner des Dorfs auch. Zwar haben sie Angst mit Ausländern zu reden – es wurde ihnen ausdrücklich verboten – doch einige sprechen aus Verzweiflung trotzdem.

Sie beschweren sich über deutlich weniger Land und Kompensation als versprochen. Viele Häuser stünden nur als Gerippe, weil das Geld nicht mal für diese gereicht habe. Es gäbe keinen Tempel und keine Schule. Und nie habe mal jemand mit ihnen gesprochen, was sie denn eigentlich bräuchten, um trotz Umsiedlung gut leben zu können.

In der Tat gleicht der Ort einer Geisterstadt. Von laotischer Lebensfreude und Miteinander ist nichts zu spüren. Das gesellschaftliche Leben scheint still zu stehen. Und Alles liegt unter rotem Staub.

Für diesen sind die vielen Lastwagen verantwortlich, die Baumaterial für eine 110-Hektar große Chinesisch-geführte Sonderwirtschaftszone ranschaffen, den Vita-Park.

Der Betreiber sagt, die Regierung habe ihnen versichert, dass Investoren auch dort, 26 km außerhalb der Stadt, ausreichend Arbeitskräfte finden würden. Es scheint kein Zufall zu sein, dass die letzten drei umgesiedelten Dörfer aus Vientiane allesamt in diese abgelegene Gegend verlegt wurden.

Die ersten Fabriken sind bereits fertig. Sie zahlen $65 im Monat für 10 Stunden Arbeit am Tag, 7 Tage die Woche. Solche Bedingungen sind selbst nach laotischen Standards inakzeptabel.

Das ist die traurige Realität von Land Grabbing in Laos; Investitionen in große Ländereien, die praktisch ausschließlich den Investoren und korrupten Offiziellen dienen und die Interessen der betroffenen Bevölkerung völlig unberücksichtigt lassen.

Etwa 18% aller Dörfer und Tausende Menschen im Land hätten solche Formen von Vertreibung bereits erfahren müssen, schätzt die Organisation Global Witness. Weil Land Grabbing aber so schwer zu identifizieren ist, könnte der tatsächliche Umfang deutlich höher liegen.

Die Regierung selbst nimmt an, dass bis 2011 etwa 5.000.000 Hektar – oder 21% der gesamten Landesfläche – als Konzessionen an Investoren gegangen sind. Einige 10.000 Menschen in Laos sind nach einer Studie von SOGES auf Grund von solchen und anderen Maßnahmen umgesiedelt worden.

Vor diesem Hintergrund geht eine Entwicklungorganisation mit Projekten vor Ort so weit zu sagen: »Laos wird zunehmend zu einem Land von internen Vertriebenen.«

Und wie stehen die europäischen ASEM-Partner zu land grabbing im Land und den Umständen, unter denen der ASEM-Gipfel stattfand?

Erst im Februar 2012 hat sich der deutsche Entwicklungsminister, Dirk Niebel, während seines Aufenthaltes in Laos gegen das Problem stark gemacht. Und nun hat sein Kabinettskollege, Guido Westerwelle, beim Asien-Europe-Treffen in einer Villa genächtigt, die nur durch einen land grab hatte entstehen können.

Aber die europäischen Partner sehen das anders.

Sie halten das Umsiedlungsprojekt für ASEM für das wahrscheinlich transparenteste und am besten gemanagte im gesamten Land, und gehen davon aus, dass alles im Einklang mit den relevanten Gesetzen abgelaufen ist. Zweimal haben sie das Dorf zudem selbst besucht, ihr Ergebnis: die neuen Häuser sahen gut aus, die Bewohner waren zufrieden.

Leider waren die Europäer in ihrer Rolle als Diplomaten und in Begleitung von hochrangigen Regierungsoffiziellen in das Dorf gefahren. Wer da glaubt, er habe im autoritären Ein-Parteien-Staat Laos Einblicke bekommen, wie es den Menschen wirklich geht, der will zu keinem ehrlichen Ergebnis kommen.

Für den ASEM-Gipfel schauten die Europäer weg.

Friday-Project: Airports

The Friday-Project is the new Friday-Portrait at The game has changed though: Each Friday one of us is going to show a small project of a self chosen topic. Be it portraiture, reportage, fashion, landscape or whatever else. There are no restrictions and no limits, but enough room for creativity and fun for us to have.

I am starting this week with a little series of iphone pictures taken on airports over the past year. I have been travelling quite a bit and during the long hours of waiting i’d oftenly wander around snapping a few shots here and there. Using a phone is great because people hardly notice that you are taking a picture at all.

I find that there is almost always something interesting going on at airports. There are a whole lot of veeery boring things going on there as well of course. Anyways, one time something happened i’d never seen before and i DO NOT have pictures from. It went like this: My girlfriend and me were flying into Kunming in China. So we come down to the immigration counter and suddenly about three camera men and five photographers appear behind the immigration ladies and start taking pictures of us and filming the whole process. They later stopped us at the security checks using us as photo models and showing off their fancy security stuff. It turned out to be the opening day of their new airport they had just built. The thing is immense – Kunming is a city about twice the size of Berlin, yet it was impossible to either get any money there nor was it easy to get a taxi, it was a complete chaos. But i’ll long remember my 15 minutes of fame i got out there in Kunming, being the first westerner to arrive at their Airport.

Well, pictures now:

On the bus to the plane. Bangkok, Thailand

Domestic terminal. Vientiane, Laos

Ashtray. Helsinki, Finnland.

Waiting for departure. Bangkok, Thailand.

Smoking room. Kunming, China.

Transit. Dubai, UAE.

Friday-Portrait: The Final Countdown

We’re sorry that it’s been a little slow on this blog lately. We were a bit busy with some preparations for the Lumix Festival in Hannover, the Euro-Cup and summer vacations. But our batteries are fully charged now and we’re ready to go!
It has now almost been one year since we’ve started the Friday-Portrait project. In fact there is three fridays left. Three more pictures before we will start editing and putting together something exciting. To get back on track we will try an idea that „Sebastian Nix“ submitted through facebook: Today we will all shoot a portrait where ever we are at the same time. That means: 11 am NYC time, 5 pm in Germany and 10 pm in Asia.
There is also a new vote up on facebook that will be open till Friday, go for it!

We’re already thinking of something new that will happen here after the friday portrait is finished. We’ll let you know!


Bangkok Flood

I just came back from Bangkok where i covered the flood for german newspaper FAZ with their correspondend Jochen Buchsteiner. It were to become three pretty wet days. When i was flying in i could see large areas outside of bangkok under water. Bangkok itself is protected by large dykes and a system of canals and underground drainage pipes. The problem this weekend was that the highest tides of the month were coming up the Chao Phraya river as well. Water was basically trying to push into the city from two sides. It was a strange situation as life seemed to go on pretty much normal in most of the center. On the other side areas in the north had experienced flooding for weeks and there was no way the water could run off. Thousands of people had already left the city. There was reports of water and food shortages. The Don Mueang airport had to close and was used as a refugee camp for flood victims. Hundreds of volunteers helped with the distribution of water, foodstuffs and medicine in centers around the city. And prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was put under a lot of pressure from the opposition and media about her crisis management.

On the second day i was wading around the airport when suddenly there was no more ground and i found myself in a water hole with water up over my had. All my gear broke but luckily the CF cards survived. Aela Callan of Al Jazeera was so kind to lend me a camera so that i could continue to work.

The biggest thread seems to be over now and in Bangkok the worst case scenario did not take place. But it is still the worst flooding in Thailand since more than 50 years. And people in more remote areas continue to suffer as their homelands have been flooded for weeks now.

Check out more images here!

End of Buddhist Lent

Recently the end of Buddhist Lent was celebrated in Laos. Buddhist Lent is a three month period in which monks retreat and many locals quit drinking and smoking. It’s end marks the end of the rainy season as well. At night, it was clebrated with people sending beautifully illuminated ‘boats’ made of banana stems or banana leaves decorated with candles and flowers down the mekong. These are said to pay respect to the Buddha and to thank the mother of rivers for providing water for our lives. Some believe that the lai heua fai procession is an act to pay respect to nagas that lives in the rivers, while others send the lighted boats down the river to ask for blessing and to float bad luck of the past year away enabling the good luck to flow in.

Just another reason a collectiv makes sense

Since we’ve founded Kollektiv25 we’re very happy with the way things are going.
Just recently it showed to us again, that it also makes a lot of sense economically.
It started with a call from »Yuno«. Yuno is the youngster version of Stern magazine. It is made for kids in the age from 10-15. They called up Julius, asking if he could do a job near Hannover. Julius couldn’t do it because he was in Amsterdam. He could recommend Manz though because he was back in Hannover by then. So Manz was able to help them out with photographing a school newspaper. After that they must have checked this website and found out that i’m currently in Laos. They asked me to come up with some ideas about a picture showing children on their way to school. Since Laos is the most heavily bombed country on earth, I proposed a picture with kids passing by a fence made out of bomb shells. They wanted it. That means that Manz and I both got jobs because Julius wasn’t available. Without this collectiv, what would have happened? Most probably the editors at Yuno would have just called somebody else after talking to Julius. The chances that it were Manz and later me would have been rather small.
So, connect yourself! It’s not only a good thing, it fills your frigdes too!

Lucas now based in Asia

Two weeks ago I’ve moved to Vientiane, the capital of Laos together with my girlfriend. I’ll be staying here for quite a while now. The past weeks have been a rush. We had to get rid of our appartment in Frankfurt, write tons of mails, say goodbye to friends and so on. Once we got here, organizing went on. But it’s a much nicer kind of orga now. We’ve already found a nice place to live and even internet is working.

The people living in Vientiane complain about their city becoming noisy, dirty and hectic but compaired to other cities around Asia, Vientiane really feels more like a village. I must admit though that I’ve seen a traffic jam once.
And just to sit outside on my terrace writing these lines while listening to cicadas and watching geckos munching moskitos feels mighty good.

My neighbourhood is mostly local and the people are kind. The trees are packed with ripe mangos and people share them together with sticky rice over some beerlao. There are so many invitations for dinners from the neighbours that it’s gonna be a tough time to eat all that food;-)

I’m gonna work on personal projects here and I am available for assignments. I can easily reach places in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma. And Thailand is just across the river. So if you need something to get done in Southeast Asia, just let me know.

Statue of King Anouvong, last ruler of the Lan Xang (million elephants) empire, situated on the Mekong riverbank in Vientiane.Statue of King Anouvong, last ruler of the Lan Xang (million elephants) empire, situated on the Mekong riverbank in Vientiane.

Portrait of a young monk in his monastery, Vientiane.
Portrait of a young monk in his monastery, Vientiane.

Family walking on a sandbar on the Mekong river in front of Vientiane.Family walking on a sandbar on the Mekong river in front of Vientiane.

Young man watching dawn at the Mekong.Young man watching dawn at the Mekong.

Young women knee down in front of a statue of King Anouvong lighting candles as a sacrificial offering.Young women knee down in front of a statue of King Anouvong lighting candles as a sacrificial offering.

Gecko: the moskito haters best friend.Gecko: the moskito haters best friend.

Halloween 2010 NYC

Two weeks ago Halloween took place in NYC. I spent some time roaming the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn capturing scenes going on in the city. People go pretty mad in this Event but it’s something quite enjoyable.

bread ’n butter II

Here is another job, I did for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Just recently I shot the former Miss Barbie of Germany (from ten years ago). Well I didn’t even know such a title existed but there I am in the flat of this women in Wiesbaden. She had to redo her make up a couple of times because she felt uncomfortable and was afraid she might look bad in the pictures. She put a lot of effort into the way she looks (including plastic surgery which had gone a little bit wrong on some parts of her body). She appeared to me as a rather sad personality still trying to make money out of her succes from the past. It wasn’t easy to photograph her because she’d just look into the camera the whole time trying to do these sort of society event smiles. After about one and a half hours I left her place and these are the results… well let me know what you think.

bread ’n butter

This shall be the beginning of a little series of blog entries I’m gonna make from here on. I decided to post some of the little jobs I’m currently doing for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). It’s bread ’n butter in a way but not necessarily boring. You get to know quite some people from time to time.

Last week I photographed Thilo Sarrazin for Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. The man was the number one news topic in Germany last week. He published a book in which one of his most provocative thesis‘ is that migrants of muslim descent would have a genentic pool limiting their intelligence. And since they have a higher birth rate would be a threat to the intelligence of the entire german population. This is scientifically proven wrong but getting him a lot of attention from the german media. The man is certainly very smart and I personally think that most of his provocation is nothing but a very clever media campaign. His book is already sold out in some parts of germany. So he is making a lot of money out of the whole thing.
The meeting took place in a small café in Frankfurt. The writer and Thilo Sarrazin sat in the dark back corner of the room with mr. Sarrazin facing the wall. I was promised about 20 minutes for the shooting but after about ten he called his driver to pick him up. He seemed to be very tired after the week he had had. At the time his political party was trying to kick him out and a few days later he also lost his job as a member of the executive board of the german Bundesbank. His face remained expressionless in almost every shot.

Exhibition of Lucas‘ Kathmandu story in Neuenkirchen

My story Kathmandu – City of Kings is gonna be exhibited at Springhornhof in Neuenkirchen. After the story won the VGH-Fotopreis 2009, this is the 4th time it’s exhibited in rather small towns. Previous shows took place in towns like Wedemark and Osterode. Whoever feels like having a small trip to the countryside is warmly welcome to the Vernissage on the 24th of august 18:00. I’m sure drinks and snacks will be provided 😉

New story now online

Along the wall is a photographic essay about people living on and next to the ancient city wall in Istanbul. Lucas tried to capture situations only a few kilometers but seemingly a lot further away from the world famous beauties of Istanbul.

To see the whole story click here…

Lucas publishes story on romanian gypsies in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

In the beginning of january I travelled to Romania for the german newspaper »Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung«. My collegue Phillip Eppelsheim and I went there to cover another story, but we got a couple of extra days to look around. Maramures, the region where we have been, borders the Ukraine and is one of the poorest and most remote places in the EU. In the city of Viseu de Sus we found gipsy families collecting plastic bottles and metal at the cities dump. We were surprised to see that, because we didn’t know that this poverty is still existing in Europe. We spent two days with these people on the dump. Toxic gas was flowing in the air and one sank knee deep into the garbage. The gypsies get five euro cent per kilo of plastic bottles so they generate an income of about three euros per day. The harassment of gipsies is a common issue in Eastern Europe. The people working on the dump don’t get paid welfare even though they’re entitled to it and most of their children don’t go to school for long. People working on the dump don’t become that old. Almost everybody has liver problems from breathing toxic gases and the chances that one injures himself by grasping into glas, or even worse, injection needles from a nearby hospital, are pretty high.

It’s a bad situation that’s going on down there and it shouldn’t exist in the EU.