KPG: Olaf, you're unique in being a photographer who is very successful in the West, but was born in the East and began his career there. Tell me your story.
OM: East Germany was like a little apartment, and people in East Germany thought it was the biggest apartment in the world. There are not many big artists in such a little country, and this was so because it had a system that was against individuals.
For the old generation, the old regime was very good for the theatre and those like Bertholt Brecht, the actors of the Bertholt Brecht Theatre, Gerd Hauptmann in literature. For the new generation developing at the time of the falling of the Wall, things were not so interesting.
The best generation is the one where the artists are now thirty years old, thirty-one, thirty-two. We have something of the character of the old East Germany, but we are young enough to think differently in this new era of reunification. We have the best things of the East, and the best of the West.
KPG: How old were you when the wall came down, and how did that feel to you?
OM: Twenty-seven. It felt like nothing much, life was still normal, no shock, nothing. A half-year after the Wall fell was my first trip to the West. All the other people jumped in their cars and said "I must make for the West at once".
I live in my own little world, and my little world is a big world. The people in eastern Germany think slowly. Life goes not so quickly, the people have time, and think you must make your work a lifetime profession, and believe that what you do today you can do again tomorrow. They say: "Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe ja nach morgen".
NHW: It was originally a German saying: "what you can do today, don't put off until tomorrow", but they changed it around in East Germany to the opposite.
OM: There was a good and a bad side to life there.
KPG: The good side was?
OM: The people in East Germany were not so complicated in the head, not so confused. I could find many models for free, because they simply enjoyed the work and the pleasure of doing it, for idealism. They thought not of money, but those times are over now.
I worked for seven years with my old models, but now because my old work is published in magazines, they think I am rich. They want to get rich quick! From my re-publication fees each time I pay out 30-percent to my old models.
Working like that was in the past, in East Germany, and now I make big money and do big projects in the west. My western clients want to give me much work, fly me all over, and they consider being busy to be very good. But the eastern Germans say, "oh, poor boy, how can you live like that, working so much?"
| Interview page 2 | Introduction | Title page | Photographs |