One of a kind…


The other week, my best friend saved two handfuls of sparrows from being killed. All it took was a few phone calls, a bit of patience on a Friday afternoon, and the will to cut through some red tape, while some building site workers were »simply doing their job«.

Their job was to plaster up a red brick wall that is/was home to at least five families of sparrows. Good for the wall, good for saving energy, not so good for the birds.

No big deal, you may say. Birds come and go.

It’s a big deal if the sparrows are breeding and some have just started to feed their young ones.

What amazed me most was not the site proprietor who pretended not to know about the regulations, but the construction workers who said: »What birds?«, when my friend explained to them what they were doing. All the time, the parent sparrows were fluttering around their heads.

There is much in that story, and I do not want to keep you; you probably have a business to attend to or a talk to prepare or a family to look after.

But it seems to me we are usually so involved with our tasks and jobs or our presentation at hand that we miss the small things, the sparrows, in what we do. The smile on the face of the lady in the blue jumper. The question in the eyes of the gentlemen to the right. The sudden silence that says: Could you explain that, please?

And so we continue and go on and keep talking. We cover up our red brick walls, because that is our job. Never realizing what chances and opportunities we have just buried alive. We are so afraid of letting go. Of giving up control. Of putting down the presentation tool and taking a good long look at what is really going on around us.

My students are a willing lot when it comes to interpreting photographs. They know what I am after and keep looking for small hints and different layers of meanings. The above image (without the subtitles) usually gets: Be different. Begin differently. Step out of line.

What they never, ever see: is that the one stepping out of line (or dancing out of line, as we say in German), is the female.

Sometimes, it is so easy to miss the obvious.

But then again, you probably have to know what you are looking for to find it: in images, and birds, and people, and in red brick walls.