Do you want to get to know someone really well but don’t have much time to learn everything about them? In my experience, the quickest way to find out what someone is like is by travelling somewhere with them, preferably abroad. You get to see how that person reacts in stressful, unknown surroundings, usually having had little or no sleep. Throw in some jetlag and perhaps an unfamiliar language and you’ll see that person at their most honest.
Obviously, the downside of this is that that person also has the opportunity to experience you at your very worst. Thankfully, in the thirteen years that I have worked for akg-images, I have been very lucky in my travelling companions whenever I went had to travel abroad for business.
My first business trip with akg was to visit our head office in Berlin in June 2003 for training on our (then new) content management system and searchable website. My first travelling companion was Ute Krebs. Ute and I went on to be frequent sidekicks on business trips over the years, including a memorable long weekend in Boston that was extended to two weeks thanks to an uncooperative Icelandic volcano. That first Berlin trip taught me that, although Ute and I differ in many ways, our priorities for travelling are very similar: aisle seats on planes, offbeat accommodation and the address of the bar that does the best Manhattan in whichever city we visited. (I am not sure anywhere in the world does them better than the Noho Star on Bleecker and Lafayette, but I am still looking.)
When searching through our vintage photographs for images to accompany this article, I was struck by how many photos showed lone travellers; it was more difficult than I had expected to find pictures of couples or groups checking into hotels, carrying luggage or checking train times. I realise that there are plenty of intrepid globetrotters happy to roam the world alone, but I much prefer to share the experience with one other person, not only because it makes you feel more secure in your decisions – “I think this is the right train, can you check the board and make sure?” – but also because the memories are more intense when there is someone else there helping you make them.
In June 2015 I went on my final business trip for akg-images with Angelika Pirkl, both of us representing the London office at the Cepic conference in Warsaw. Angelika is also an excellent person to travel with: she understands the importance of punctuality at airports, posing for ‘amusing’ photographs, and the best buffet breakfasts. (The Polonia Palace offers three types of honey, various unidentified cheeses and shots of vodka.)
It feels somehow fitting that my first akg business trip was taken with Ute, who was my predecessor as Managing Director in the London office, and my final one was with Angelika, who will be my successor as Managing Director and will, I have no doubt, be awesome. I have a photograph of me taken by Ute during that Berlin trip twelve years ago, so I asked Angelika to take a corresponding photo of me outside the Cepic conference hotel in June. In the years between those photos, I have had the great luck to work with wonderful colleagues, clients, photographers and artists, and I thank each and every one of them for being part of that experience. I leave akg-images at the end of August 2015 with joyous, shared memories of working at akg-images, and look forward to making new ones.
You can view the complete selection of vintage photographs inspired by the theme of ‘Travelling Companions’ over on the akg-images website.