License: Creative Commons - Attribution-No Derivatives Author: Fred Mancosu
See, when you walk out of a Starbucks in Zurich, alone, looking a bit lost and carrying a camera, people instantly come to the conclusion that you must be an American expat on his first day. This means, you’re probably quite keen to indulge in a conversation with locals who will gladly prove their mostly outstanding English skills to you. When it then becomes obvious that you’re accent is more of a Brit’ one, said locals will immediately deduce that you must be a nice chap, not because Americans aren’t nice, but because they would quite obviously not be “chaps”… more fellas or dudes or bros or… but I digress.
So what happened to me tonight is that I had a paper to write. I thus felt immediately compelled to do something different… of course. I picked up an iPad and went to the lake. If I’d got to write, I could as well do that on a boat, could I not? For no apparent reason I also brought a camera, more out of a habit than with a precise idea in mind. I then went on reading and writing on the boat until we arrived in the city, got into the closest Starbucks, ordered myself a coffee and went on working until the battery eventually died on my tablet.
A bit later, I left the coffee in the direction of Hechtplatz, a square next to the Limmat, in the middle of old town. On that square stands a theatre, a horrid building at first glance, just made out of cement and bricks with no decoration but a handful of tall Greekish columns in front of it. It has of course deliberately been designed this badly and is a high point of Zurich’s cultural life. Nonetheless, it looks like nothing much and that’s what Mike, the man in the shot pointed out to me. I was about to take a rather bad and boring shot, when he came up to me. He told me that whatever I was going for there would be rubbish and that the place had so much more to offer. Turns out, Mike lives there and has spent the greater part of his life in the couple of alleys that make up Niederdorf. He sure had a story to tell and as I seemed willing to listen, it evolved into us sitting down at the table of a closed restaurant and him telling the tale of his life. It was no easy life apparently and it has left him a marked man. However, it also gave him a unique perspective on life and a greater knowledge of the city than any tour guide could dream of.
After a while, it occurred to me that Mike is just as much a part of Hechtplatz as the Theater. He is a man of great culture, knowledgeable in many fields and fluent in four languages. And yet, all that is buried under an exterior that has seemingly been left untouched by the cities hunger for classy posh lifestyle. Mike is an old school Zurich original and as such, I was very keen to have his portrait be part of my ever-growing series on Zurich.
It is then, really astounding what comes out of just listening to people sometimes.