documentary photographer
based in Munich, Germany
+49 (0)152 28728008

Lockdown. The doors are locked, the person is locked in. The room, the house, the flat becomes a shelter from foreign aerosols, the laptop in night mode becomes a window. In the past, people were protected from the outside world by bunkers, a little earlier by castles, and even earlier by caves. According to Jürgen Grimm, professor of communication sciences at the University of Vienna, it was precisely in these crisis situations that humans learned the ability to engage in inner dialogue, to fantasise, to create art, in short: they learned to deal with themselves and their thoughts. Grimm calls this achievement of the brain "cave competence".

As Generation X,Y,Z (we have lost track of this by now), caves are actually only associated with the creations made of cushions, blankets, broomsticks and table corners that appeared splendid to children's eyes, which could be erected anywhere in a short time and offered space for play, fun and retreat. The best, sometimes most annoying, thing about it: with a kick of the foot, the thing, its boundary to the outside world, was easily brought down.

If the boundaries can no longer be easily torn down, a cave quickly becomes a cage, a prison, a space to which one is bound. In a developmental phase that many say is primarily about testing one's own or society's limits, things can quickly get tight. A global pandemic, it is fair to say, gives birth to few winners. The biggest losers, apart from the children, are probably adolescents and young adults, students, apprentices and high school students. Their reality takes place in barren shared rooms or referenced children's rooms, staring for days at the screen where overtaxed professors are left alone with the hurdles of the nonsense called online teaching. You only know a lecture hall, a refectory or the famous student parties from hearsay or from old and, in the case of the parties, blurred memories from your first semesters. All that remains of the "study" experience is a residue that one would not want to remember later as a priority anyway. Most people lost their motivation somewhere between the second and third lockdown, but still: "It must always go on". That's what Peter Hein, former frontman of the Fehlfarben, now singer of Family Five, sings. It could just as well be the pandemic plan of the Ministry of Education. Keep going, you have time, time to learn, to study, time to find each other and by the way: when will you actually finish? Keep going, we can talk about sense and nonsense later. Keep going, those who fall by the wayside were probably too lazy, too stupid, too lazy.

But they do exist, the glimmers of hope, rarer than before, but they are still there. This photo series tells us about these moments. They show strong, independent people, often portrayed in their pandemic cave rooms, their penetrating looks remain perceptible, even through the computer screen. Some were hit harder, others found their way more quickly.

Lucky are those who can share their caveman existence with other cavemen, even if it's only the normally rather annoying flatmates with whom one now cooks twice a week. Those who can trade cave walls for a few hours for the at least pseudo-green natural world of an allotment garden plot can consider themselves lucky. Those who can hold on to someone so as not to slip away from reality can count themselves lucky. (german version)

Essay von Niklas Keller

03/09/2020 „In order to slow down the dynamics, we have to reduce the possibilities of the virus to spread in everyday contact between people. And for this we need every single citizen who is ready to adapt his everyday life ”Jens Spahn, Federal Minister for Health

03/11/2020 WHO classifies the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic
03/13/2020 schools and daycares close
03/16/2020 shops close
03/21/2020 restaurants close

03/22/2020 first lockdown: the apartment may no longer be left without a valid reason and contact with people outside the household should be avoided

„Temporary condition imposed by government agencies in which people should stay in their homes and refrain from or limit activities outside the home that involve public contact“
03/18/2020 “What we need now is a new normal for a long time.” Olaf Scholz, Federal Minister of Finance
04/01/2020 contact restrictions throughout Germany will be extended
04/20/2020 shops are allowed to reopen
05/06/2020 the federal and state governments agree on easing
09/29/2020 upper limits for celebrations will be set

03/18/2020 „The situation is serious. Take it seriously too.“ Angela Merkel

04/01/2020 contact restrictions throughout Germany will be extended
04/20/2020 shops are allowed to reopen
05/06/2020 the federal and state governments agree on easing
09/29/2020 upper limits for celebrations will be set

03/22/2020 „As a society and as families, we will find other ways of standing by. There are already many creative forms that defies the virus and its social consequences.“ Angela Merkel

10/28/2020 meetings only allowed with two households
11/16/2020 appeal to the citizens to keep contacts to a minimum
11/25/2020 lockdown will be extended until December 20th
12/01/2020 stricter contact rules: a maximum of five people from
two households are allowed to meet

04/14/20 “There will be cautious first steps - back to a new normal” Jens Spahn, Federal Minister for Health

12/02/2020 lockdown will be extended again
12/13/2020 the federal and state governments decide for a hard lockdown
12/21/2020 Biontech vaccine is approved
01/05/2020 lockdown will be extended, contact restrictions will be tightened

04/30/2020 „You can no longer live out the different roles in your own personality so well in social isolation. You are thrown back on yourself.“

„Being outside is usually a catalyst, now everything happens inside,
energy and frustration build up.“ Silvia Schneider, psychologist
01/19/2020 due to concerns about coronavirus mutants,
the lockdown will be extended and tightened again
02/11/2020 lockdown will be extended again
03/22/2020 the „emergency brake“ will be tightened
05/27/2020 „Touch is a biochemical glue.“ Martin Grunwald, psychologist

02/05/2021 „The virus is not tired yet - on the contrary: It has just received a boost.“ Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute