“For many years I have been accompanying young people with mental and physical disabilities during their holidays”, explains the photographer Lysann Buschbeck. In her new book Der frühe Vogel fieigt translated as “the early bird takes flight”, the Leipzig-based photographer explores the idea of heterotopia.
She describes the term as “showing the possibilities that can emerge in a space where standard notions of bodies and society are void.” In the book’s text, the poetic photographer along with Kathrin Schömer, lyrically expresses the term through the analogy of a bird. Their writing explores how “everything could be totally different”, asserting how “the aim of the bird is not to catch worm, it is the experience of flight.” This retelling of a common proverb encapsulates Lysann’s work which offers an alternative version of events to the expected status quo.
In essence, Lysann translates this idea of a heterotopia through her photography by telling another side of the story beyond the young people’s disabilities. She refers to Michel Foucault’s philosophy which describes a heterotopia as a “world within a world”. Her photography captures the young people’s reality, which is just as valid and full of creative wonders as those without disabilities. “At first I took pictures of these vacations for them, so they would have a memory of the holiday back home,” she tells It’s Nice That. Yet, over time, and as the photographer’s work developed, Lysann realised she is “enthusiastic about how different people can communicate their surroundings.” Ultimately, it’s as introspective a process as it is investigative; “I notice how my own concepts of ‘normality’ continue to expand”; considering other ways of being that lie outside the mainstream canon of experience.
“In all my work, I try not to exclude social and cultural levels from each other, but rather see them as a way to enrich each other,” Lysann continues. Among the many fulfilling memories of the holidays, there are “key stories that stand out for the fact that reality has holes”. In one of these stories, Lysann recalls: “Once we were all sitting in a cafe when the waiter came to take the order. It appeared that one of the young people ordered a list of names, hobbies and favourite animals of the cafe shop staff. Unfortunately, our waiter did not have time for that.”
In another noteworthy memory, the photographer recollects: “One evening, one of the young people came to us when everyone else was already in bed. He knocked on the door with tears in his eyes. He had seen the neighbours cat and was sure that she absolutely had to get food. With his pocket money, he wanted to buy the cat food, and I told him we could go to the shop the next morning. He hugged me and said: ‘Thank you, you have calmed my life’.”
The book The Early Bird Flies was compiled over a period of approximately 12 years. While Lysann’s artistic practice also encompasses video art, she exemplarily utilises the art of photography to “cement” a relationship between herself and the viewer. She adds, “I like to use books because it brings things closer together. It goes through the hands, fits into pockets and allows intimacy.” The creation of these volumes that encapsulate long periods of time, in turn, ensure each individual picture shows “a movement towards something.”
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