When I decided to study Fine Art in England, people asked me “Do you want to become an artist? Surely you can’t make a living out of that?” I was never really sure what to answer to those questions, as I hadn’t made my mind up about where I wanted those studies to take me afterwards, but I did know that my heart and soul were committed and I never regretted it for one minute.
It is now exactly five years this month that I first walked through the door of the akg-images office here in London and met the brilliant Ute Krebs. Many of you will know her and many more got to know her when she transferred to the akg head office in my hometown of Berlin in 2008. I had just completed my Fine Art degree and was new to the great labyrinth of London. Ute and I talked about the possibilities of work experience here in the archive and I was excited to be offered the opportunity, which greatly helped me to settle in London as well as the working world. One of the main subjects of our first conversation was our mutual love for the great German Romanticist Caspar David Friedrich. This was the perfect icebreaker and a wonderful discussion to have, as I had just completed my BA thesis on the contemporary aspects of Friedrich’s work. A place where someone shares a love for Friedrich must be a good place I thought, so I stayed. And what a brilliant five years it has been!
How do I sum up a time so rich in variety? This work has allowed me to combine many of my passions, which I have enjoyed tremendously. I grew up a daughter of an art librarian and an art book publisher, a granddaughter of a historian and photographer and a niece of two editors. This meant that my love for books and reading developed from a very early age and only deepened as I got older. There are many perks to the work of a Picture Researcher, but the opportunity to indulge in my passions for languages, the arts and history on a daily basis has to be the best part of it. I didn’t know it then, but choosing this profession soon began to feel as if I was learning an art form. The briefs we receive on a daily basis are so varied – not just in their subject matters, but also with regards to the time frames in which they have to be delivered – that the work never got boring. Every day we find new material in this seemingly never-ending treasure trove that is akg-images. The monthly newsletters always give a great impression about the tremendous depth and breadth of type of material we supply to publishers, TV companies, historians, advertising and design clients.
I would like to thank our clients for always intriguing me with the diversity of their queries. From the unusual (such as a title on the cultural history of the eel), to the more emotive briefs (1940s women who look like they could be spies in an atmospheric night setting), to the downright impossible (photographs, not paintings, of the Virgin Mary, yes the Virgin Mary or Adolf Hitler at the Nuremberg Trials in the late 1940s). The visual history of the world is reflected in this great collection and I’m grateful to have been part of it for the last 5 years, working on briefs that were as varied as the archive itself.
When I think back of my first conversation with Ute about Caspar David Friedrich, it now seems fitting that I will be joining the National Gallery for my new role later this month. The National Gallery is the only museum in the UK that holds a work by Friedrich in their collection. I can’t recount the number of times I have visited the small Winter Landscape (c.1811) in room 42 over the last ten years; it is like an old friend to me and feels like a little piece of home away from home. In a world that only seems to be getting faster the more time-saving devices and strategies are invented, having a place of calm and familiarity like this is not just important, but a necessity.
I look forward to spending some more time with my Friedrich in the months to come, as I’m leaving akg-images this week with one eye crying the other laughing. The best leaving present I received is the friends I have made in the last 5 years, as I had the chance to get to know and work with some of the loveliest people in the picture research business.
Thank you for everything David, Angelika, Julia, Stella, Cecilia, Stephanie, Christine and Anne.