The road to happiness is bumpy, but I built myself a rocket and am now aiming for the lucky star!
I gave up my waiting spot in the ‘how can I make it happen?’ help desk line.
Since 2011 I’ve been busy with studying, internships in advertising agencies and in the film set production sector. I traveled a lot through European cities and soaked myself with culture in Berlin. Developed my portfolio every waking second.
I went through heaven and hell, a lot of times. For years I felt like I can’t accomplish anything and like I can’t belong to anyone (creatively speaking). Until I stumbled upon the right mentors to establish my visual voice.
Point is: you can make it, if you start to believe in yourself.
Here’s how I did it.
Alone with Berlin: my personal life was all mud and dirt for nearly four years.
It is easy to say: don’t let yourself be guided through fear if you want to have a great life. But that is the advice I would have given myself 2011, when I moved with a friend from my hometown in Bavaria to Berlin for university. I did not know how to ‘use’ this crazy city for myself or to find spots I like staying in. I got stuck in a toxic flat-share, before I learned that I am a highly sensitive introvert and cannot spend 24/7 with a person in the same flat.
I was too afraid to talk to people, to explore and got stuck in a toxic relationship as well – for years. Until he ghosted me forever. (And yes, I am better off WITH this experience than without).
On the professsional side, for years I stumbled through darkness, as I pushed myself through university and all the workshops, tutorials, lessons. Mostly in the area of communication design (Layout, Editorial design, advertising, print, the whole 101).
None of the things in university I learned helped my creativity or photography, that was always something I spilled out randomly on my own. I’ve read a lot on my own, experimented in my room, deep in the night. Creating images was the only time I felt save and competent (back then).
If I hadn’t had my loving, strong and respectful friends who constantly pushed me, I would have been lost at this point. Sharing trust, honesty and acceptance with them on all steps of the road was crucial. Somehow, although the way felt so long and unmanageable, I still kept on creepin’.
I started to slowly get rid of toxic elements. Mainly, because I was pushed to do so.
As you can guess, I had a lot to figure out and there was a lot to mend, grow, prepare for a better life. I guess that is what it means to grow your character.
I know now that it is a human behaviour that one waits until it can’t get any worse. In my case, I was at the end of the long-lasting toxic relationship I did not seem to get out of back then. It was apocalyptic and took nearly a year until I recovered somehow but it was the best thing that he could have done (to leave). Now I know, as a HSP I tend to built super-strong relationships with people naturally, those that run deep. But I learned to not to depend on these people (those are two different things! So now deep relationships are a perk for me.).
Also, my university pushed me 2014 to take on an internship (which at this point I felt like I wasn’t ready for any of this ‘job crap’). I aimed for a 2D / retouching agency for post production. As I handled photoshop now for years and wanted to learn it in depth, it was ok. It was a small step out of the shell and although I felt ‘unprofessional’ at this point, these 4 months gave me a new perspective on some things I can do, want to do and do NOT want to do.
For example, it pushed my professional post process over the edge, I know now many tricks and how to work effective photoshop magic. What I don’t want: end up too deep in a 8h every-day job sitting on a desk and work exclusively for capitalist purposes. I NEED more freedom and creativity in everyday life.
Slowly lifted my feet to jump: New experiments and a new take on my university career.
Shortly before the internship phase I met my current life-partner (and as you can guess, it changed a lot). Over the next months and years I slowly gained trust, confidence in actually-having-healthy-relationships-with-healty-people-if-I-try-myrself-to-be-healthy. I understood I couldn’t be so wrong with everything and it might be still okay to follow my heart.
This realization was a bummer for me.
In this last semester before my graduation project I went full speed, with new energy. For the first time, I was really eager to get everything I can out of this facility, talk to every professor and teacher that I think he’d be helpful for me.
I started to reconnect with the world.
A world full of possibilities, if I dare to take them!
I learned a lot in my classes (editorial design, theory of space, media psychology), as well as James Higginson’s “experimental photography” class, which pushed my creativity to its limits. He gave me an understanding of all the abilities I have, instead of focusing all my disabilities (creatively and personally). Every week we are pushed to come up with a creative experiment that was slightly out of the comfort zone. I learned finally that many of my previous decisions were driven by fear and that fear is the only limit I truly have. Everything else can be worked out.
With James, I took a leap on set design and pushed my miniature landscapes a lot further. I researched tons of information on art direction and production design… and it became clear to me: A cinematic approach, set design, production design and art direction are my next level. I am not just a photographer, I am a helplessly passionate world-builder.
This completely new understanding of my professional profile was the missing puzzle piece. With my personal / mental development over the last year(s), I was ready for a completely new era.
I found my faith again (thanks to professional mentors) and confidence with (new and old) friends I made during this thrilling time.
On film sets: Try something completely new and expand experience-levels!
Off to a distant shore! I reached out to Potsdam-Babelsberg film production studios and got a trainee internship as production design assistant at the film university there.
These months gave me not only the chance to explore system and function of film sets in general, but many possibilities to work in different departments (as the productions were more free than comissioned TV/big film productions). Apart from set dressing, painting and carpenting I got to create 2D graphics, technical drawings, built set models. I learned the (written and spoken) rules of departments and got also to be 1st head of production design assistance at this point.
In these six months I helped (and learned to adapt fast to) a lot of different projects: vintage attics, futuristic/ apocalyptic restaurants, italian hotel rooms, oriental balconies… so many worlds.
It is an unspeakable magically feeling once you step through the studio door and end up in another world. This is surreal.
While soaking up sheer millions of experiences I soon understood what I can do best: Conceptual production design, model building, creating textures, set dressing and research.
It was a thrilling feeling to be finally part of something bigger – a perk that is often out of reach as a one-man-show-photographer or ‘self reliant designer’. I had a place, I had the chance to show my abilities. Even after all the crazy “film set magic” fell away (in sweat and tiredness after long work days), I knew that this has to be a part of my future life.
Work hard and celebrate life! I understood self-worth more and shot firework into the sky along the way.
After this internship 2016 I was finally ready for what I feared for many years: the graduation (and the huge graduation project). And for the ‘professional life’ that comes afterwards. And all the scary things that will happen to me in the future. And the wonderful things.
For years I’ve been clueless of my skills, dreams, needs and goals – but all of this has changed.
I knew from this point on where I want to go: be a creative mind roaming this beautiful world, enriching it with ideas and skills. Work with wonderful people along the way, as a photographer, set designer and art director. Give people happiness with the things I can create. It will be my gift to them.
Reflect and learn to live with your fears. You’ll be the best version of yourself.
I’ve had a lot of dirt in my shoes. Truth is: we all have our weight to carry, whatever it might be.
And as a creative, the personal and professional development goes often hand in hand.
It took a lot of psychological pain, bad experiences, tears and sweat – and wonderful friends, faith and passion. Failed relationships, fears and all the seemingly ‘unnecessary’ experiences and lessons (may it be boring technique classes or mistakes I made!) – they all pay off in the end.
Every little step, error and experience makes us stronger and less unsure of what we are and want.
We will always grow and learn on the way. Find yourself great friends that stick and care – and find yourself supporters and mentors to build you up professionally. Share the love, support others – and yourself.
Believe in yourself and the rest will follow.
And in the end we all become shiny, golden gods that enlighten each other’s world.