The other day I had a lengthly discussion with my spiritual teacher Michael about love. He kept on saying that a life without love is a meaningless life and that love is all that counts.

That means that anything we do without love is meaningless. Anything we do for somebody else, anything we create, we build and achieve has no meaning at all if there is no love. It makes me think back to the day I met Michael the first time and he asked me, “Why is there no love in your live?” I realize now why I was so unhappy back then.

A while ago I subscribed to W Magazine. For a long time I’ve been considering it one of the best fashion magazines out there. I recently received the massive September issue. Within three minuets I had seen all 340 pages. It is filled with fantastic, professional  and interesting images shot by some of the best fashion photographers in the world. But to  me their work is empty, there is only perfection but no love.

I shot a portrait of my grandfather many years ago. It was shot in the fall of 2000 and he was 91 years old. I still consider it the best portrait I ever shot.

Technically it is not a perfect image. It was shot with a $ 30.00 Holgar plastic camera. These cameras are known for their poor quality, lens distortions and light leaks.

But I knew that I had captured something special in this image even though I was not sure what it was. Was it the face of an old man that had lived through two world wars, had seen the first cars and the mighty Zeppelins? Was it his country house in the background where I spent countless days as a child playing in the sandbox, sitting on the swing, lying in the hammock and later in life grilling sausages, playing cards and drinking beer?

Or was it the composition, that it was shot in black and white or even the fact that I used a plastic camera that distorted the image and had light leaks? I could not grasp it.

A few days ago my friend Marco came by and I showed him the image. He said, “there is love in it.”

After all these years I finally got it. I don’t know what love it was. Was it his love for the place, his love for me, my love for him or a combination of all of the above. But there is love in this image and this is what makes it special.

The question I have now is if in a photograph we capture love physically. Is there a certain expression in a face that we associate with love or is there another dimension to photography? Is there something non physical that is attached to it? Is there a photograph and then the energy that was present when the image was taken?

I also have been thinking about Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and what he said in his book “I am that” a lot. His answer to the question,“What is real?” was, “Everything that has a beginning and has an end is not real.”

Could this be the answer? My grandfather died 2001 but I captured something that was beyond him, me or the place. Something that feels today as real and as alive as it was nine years ago.

Could it be that love is the only thing that is real?

“Love” Reiffenberg/Fraenkische Schweitz/Germany/ My Grandfather Albert Erbse/Fall 2000


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