Your photo­graphs reflect your soul — how I have reco­g­nised it

“The most important thing about photo­graphy is who you are, and I can go into more depth about the psycho­logy of this pheno­menon, but there is no way you can take a photo without putting your own stamp on it. Every time you press the shutter it’s based on who you are, that’s what sets you apart from ever­yone else. My style is that I shoot from the heart, straight to the heart.” — Joe Buissink

First of all, this blog post will probably be the most personal one yet. It begins with a stroke of fate in our still young family, as I always thought, some­thing like this will not hit us. About how I sought solace in photo­graphy and how, after a few weeks of self-reflec­tion and looking at my photos from this diffi­cult time, I realised that our photo­graphs undoub­tedly reflect our souls.


Sony a7III
Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS
Sony FE 100–400 mm GM

Alone in the forest | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 65 mm, f/8, 0.8 sec, ISO 800

What happened?

It all started in mid-October. Our daughter was incre­asingly plagued by cons­ti­pa­tion and stomach pains. Some­thing we had never known from her. We had not changed anything on the nutri­tional side either. The doctors saw no reason for a closer exami­na­tion and left it at an enema. When she refused to go more and more often at the begin­ning of November, we became more and more worried. The doctors told us that this could be a phase. However, as the cons­ti­pa­tion increased over the next few days and she wanted to walk less and less and spent large parts of her day on the sofa in a resting posi­tion, we went to the paed­ia­tri­cian and also to the emer­gency room of the children’s hospital. The tenor was the same ever­y­where. Cons­ti­pa­tion. Enema. “When you have really bad cons­ti­pa­tion, you don’t want to walk any more”, and so on.

Equi­li­brium | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 105 mm, f/8, 1/5 sec, ISO 400

Overst­ret­ched paed­ia­tri­cians and emer­gency rooms — no help in sight

The emer­gency rooms and paed­ia­tri­cians at that time were over­c­rowded with children who had the RS virus. Over­worked paed­ia­tri­cians and we are annoyed with some­thing as banal as cons­ti­pa­tion and stomach aches. But it couldn’t go on like this. We saw that our daughter was suffe­ring more and more. So we kept at it. Paed­ia­tri­cian again. We insisted on ultra­sound or blood test. After 3 hours in the waiting room with a whining and crying child, we were told that no such exami­na­tion would be done today. She gets another enema and if it doesn’t get better, we should go to the emer­gency room of the children’s hospital. I was told that we should take her for a walk. I only asked if she had listened to me at all, my child hasn’t been walking for a few days. This state­ment didn’t elicit more than a shrug of the shoulders. So off to the emer­gency room. Maybe someone there will take time for our daughter.

No capa­city. Enema. Sent home again. 2 days later. The enemas always provide short-term relief and we thought maybe that was it. On Friday, our daughter didn’t take a step again. Emer­gency room again in the evening. Pain­kil­lers. Enema. But the first doctor said, if it’s not better by Monday, go to hospital and don’t let up, it could well be some­thing worse. We couldn’t even imagine how bad it could be.

Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 143 mm, f/5.6, 1/30 Sek., ISO 800

We sense evil

Our daughter spent most of the day just lying on the bed or the sofa. At the begin­ning of the next week, we went to the paed­ia­tric clinic again. To our own dismay, we noticed a bulge on the lower part of the spine just above the coccyx. Imme­dia­tely our daughter was examined with ultra­sound. Unknown mass, several cm. Then in the follo­wing days she had an MRI and a blood test. After 3 days in the clinic the diagnosis was made. Germ cell tumour. Probably a parti­cu­larly mali­gnant tumour of the yolk sac. She is to be operated on imme­dia­tely after the MRI.

After an initial discus­sion with the doctor in charge about what the next steps would be, my wife and I were asked to go to the inten­sive care unit at the children’s hospital. Some time passed and we had to wait outside the door. We could only console our tears at the diagnosis and the inner emptiness by hugging each other. The most diffi­cult hours, days, weeks, maybe even months of our lives passed. After what felt like hours, we were brought in.

Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 99 mm, f/5.6, 1/80 Sek., ISO 400

The diagnosis

In front of us, lying unco­vered on an exami­na­tion bed, arms and legs stret­ched out from her, was our daughter on her back. An ultra­sound of her lungs had just been taken. We could only see her briefly. Stroked her hair briefly. Touched her skin and whispered to her that ever­y­thing was going to be all right, even though we couldn’t believe it ourselves at the moment. We were taken to an adjoi­ning room where they empa­the­ti­cally tried to teach us how badly our daughter was actually doing. “We could not operate on your daughter’s tumour,” said the doctor present. The piece of dirt was too wrapped around the spine. We were shown the picture. From the rump up, the cancer wrapped around the spine. Had even broken a vertebra. The rectum and bladder outlet were squeezed off by it, hence the blockage. Altog­e­ther 13 cm long and several cm wide forward into the abdomen and back along the back. Quite a large tumour for such a small, not quite two-year-old body.

Compli­ca­tions & Metastases

“There were also compli­ca­tions with extu­ba­tion on the first attempt, but we will try again later”, the doctor continued soberly, “She did not start breathing again on her own”. We couldn’t believe it, burst into tears. Our child, perfectly healthy since day one. We never had to take her to the paed­ia­tri­cian, except for the normal stan­dard check-ups, and now this. My wife’s reac­tion was more than human: “Oh God, what if she doesn’t start breathing on her own again”. “We have many worries,” the doctor replied, “but that’s not one of them. Her circu­la­tion will be fine, we are sure of that”. A bigger worry is the meta­stases we disco­vered in the lungs. Quite large ones, some of which carry the risk of trig­ge­ring a pulmo­nary embo­lism. “We are still scan­ning the liver and kidney and other organs with the ultra­sound to see if the tumour has metasta­sised further,” the doctor said. A scan of the head should follow in the next few days.

Frosty autumn leaves | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 190 mm, f/14, 1/3 sec, ISO 100

Zero hour

Out of reflex I said, “Do you have any more bad news or is that it?” A slight smirk from the doctor at my reac­tion, coupled with a slight shake of the head. After each diagno­stic step, we know more. That is the current status. He can’t rule out the possi­bi­lity of more such news coming our way. At the moment, however, there are only two options. No chemo, which would lead to the death of our child within the next few days. Or chemo, he thinks the chances of cure are good. Fast-growing, aggres­sive tumours often respond just as strongly to chemo. “We would already start the first chemo here in the ICU tonight,” he said. “Yes please, as soon as possible,” we replied, “do whatever it takes to help our daughter.” “We will do that,” the doctor said.

Mystery of Dark­ness | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 67 mm, f/8, 0.5 sec, ISO 800

This and all other shots of this post you can request under “Prints” as an art print for your wall at home directly from me. 

How did I process all these horror stories?

Only one hour after our conver­sa­tion, our daughter was successfully extu­bated and even reacted to our presence. The first relief. At 7 pm, the first chemo started. From then on, things went steadily upwards. Always with small setbacks, that’s clear. For example, she had also caught the RS virus from the paed­ia­tri­cian. And that in her critical condi­tion. This gave us a few weeks in an isola­tion room. But nevert­heless, her condi­tion got better from day to day, from week to week. The tumour lost its momentum through the chemo and slowly began to shrink.

A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved

As there were still Corona condi­tions in the hospi­tals, I went back home the first evening. Our cats had to be taken care of. The night at home was quieter than usual, darker than usual. The omni­pre­sent emptiness almost crushed one. It was impos­sible to think clearly. I quickly realised that I had to talk about it. So I talked to family and friends about our fate. Whoever asked got answers. There is no point in hiding ever­y­thing or parts of it and surren­de­ring to one’s fate alone. My wife and I soon realised that and these chan­nels of commu­ni­ca­tion were really worth their weight in gold. We were given comfort and courage and knew we could rely on so many people, many of whom we had not even considered. The support was really incre­dible. I would like to encou­rage anyone with a similar fate to talk about it. With family, friends, neigh­bours, club colle­agues. You can’t guess from which direc­tion you will get support, but some­thing like this hardly leaves anyone cold and every conver­sa­tion, every hug, every encou­ra­ge­ment gives strength.

Meta­phy­sical Twilight | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 97 mm, f/8, 1/4 sec, ISO 800

Get away from it all and rech­arge your batte­ries through photography

In the first few days, one somehow func­tioned. Ever­y­thing neces­sary was done as if by remote control. But we could not yet sort out the thoughts in our heads. We learned what was coming from other parents and nurses, but what that meant, and also how we had to assess our daughter and her illness, all that was so diffi­cult to put toge­ther in our heads. After a few days in hospital, I needed to get some distance, I thought, and took advan­tage of a foggy winter morning to go out into the forest, to a nearby lake. Photograph.

This morning was incre­dibly good for me perso­nally. For pretty much exactly 2 hours all worries were, I wouldn’t say disap­peared, but at least far away. While photo­gra­phing, I became part of nature, concen­t­ra­ting on it and on taking pictures. The thoughts in my head sorted them­selves out and I felt better afterwards.

Echoes | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 91 mm, f/8, 0,5 Sek., ISO 800

Family life on the cancer ward

During the next few weeks when our daughter was in hospital, my wife and I took turns to be with her. Our family life virtually took place in the onco­logy depart­ment. We told each other the news from our surroun­dings, updated each other on our daughter’s progress, handed over tasks we hadn’t managed at home before chan­ging in the evening. The nights were hard. Little or very poor sleep. With one ear constantly on alert to see what was going on with our daughter. The nights at home were all the more restful when we noticed that things were slowly impro­ving and the adre­na­line wiped away the exhaustion.

Some mornings I went out into nature with my camera. These hours did me incre­dible good. The time in nature did me good. I rech­arged my batte­ries for the next nights in the clinic.

Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 24 mm, f/11, 1 Sek., ISO 800

What I noticed when looking at my pictures

Parti­cu­larly in the dark, barren season, when I usually went outdoors for photo­graphy mainly when it was snowing, I took a liking to dreary, some­times even gloomy photo­graphs. I had no problem captu­ring the oppres­sive mood of nature and editing them in such a way that the photos reflected the emptiness, silence and oppres­sive burden I felt. All the photos in this blog post were taken between December ’22 and March ’23. A time when so many worries plagued us and a great uncer­tainty haunted us. And they all reflect, to a great extent, the state of my soul. In a way that I would not have thought possible before.

Ever­y­thing expe­ri­enced influences the person we are — and our photography

In every photo that I have taken, in every decision that I have made in the selec­tion and in every step of the proces­sing on the computer, not only rational, tech­nical conside­ra­tions have gone into it, but also emotional conclu­sions to a parti­cu­larly high degree. And although in the past I would certainly have said a time or two that I didn’t like such photo­graphs because they were too dark, too gloomy, too dreary, today I have to say that I consider these photo­graphs to be beau­tiful and parti­cu­larly meaningful. They are not just a captured moment in nature, but an expres­sion of my inner life, of my feelings.

Silent Monster | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 34 mm, f/11, 0.6 sec, ISO 400

You don’t take photo­graphs with a camera, you take them with  Heart and soul

Although I have been taking photo­graphs for a number of years and have always been aware of this, or rather have always convinced myself that this was the case — “the photo­grapher takes the photo, not the camera” — it has now become clear to me for the first time in this diffi­cult time. So in every photo­graph there is a moment of this world frozen in space and time, but always also a large part of the photographer’s own self.

Espe­ci­ally at a time when one hears and reads a lot on the internet about AI (arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence) and thus also AI-gene­rated images, inclu­ding land­scapes that look decep­tively real, this reali­sa­tion is doubly salu­tary. No AI in the world can gene­rate this part of a photo­graph. Only the artist himself can contri­bute his soul and his heart.

Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 247 mm, f/11, 0,4 Sek., ISO 800


Photo­graphy was like an outlet for me. For you, that outlet can be a comple­tely diffe­rent acti­vity. For example, writing a diary, pain­ting, dancing, singing, making music or some­thing comple­tely diffe­rent. The important thing is to find your outlet to release pres­sure and find yourself. Photo­graphy helped me a lot during this diffi­cult time and beyond. It helped me to gain distance, to rech­arge my batte­ries, to look more clearly, to get back the joy of life. Just as the joy of life in our daughter came back bit by bit.

Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 327 mm, f/11, 1/200 Sek., ISO 400

After a rapid 4 months, we had completed all the chemos. Our daughter had her zest for life back. Walking is still diffi­cult for her today, as the tumour had also squeezed the nerves of her right foot, but that should only be a ques­tion of time. A final opera­tion to remove the coccyx toge­ther with the tumour finally closed this chapter. The patho­logy depart­ment also gave the reassu­ring signal that our daughter is now cancer-free again.

I think in the future we will cele­brate this day, 11 April 2023, like a second birthday for our daughter. The day she beat cancer. We are infi­ni­tely grateful for the great support from all sides and in a very special way also for the current state of cancer rese­arch, the nurses, doctors and nurse prac­ti­tio­ners who did ever­y­thing they could to help our daughter get well again. There was never a day when, thanks to them, we stopped belie­ving in the cure or lost heart. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Opti­mism | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 158 mm, f/5, 1/320 sec, ISO 100

Subscribe to my newsletter

Keep up to date with my work via email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *