A writer's view
by Donald Niedekker
A boy is looking at you from behind a scratched window on the subway, lost in the railway's magic, day-dreamer. Behind a barrier, all action has stopped. A dog seems to guard the surf or will guide you overseas. Tourists play hide-and-seek behind the stones, tombstones of the Berlin Holocaust-monument.
Just a couple of photos by Harold Naaijer. Do they have something in common? The artist's eye, the artist's hand? They should, it's an unwritten art law: you must have your own style, something authentic, something by which your work is directly recognizable as made by you. Even those who rebelled against this law ended up as celebrated artists with their own, unique oeuvre.
A couple in love is sitting on a stone wall near the Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Evening falls over Marseille at the foot of the hill. A similar couple in love is sitting on the Noordereiland at the Maas in Rotterdam. The city is in total commotion because of the murder of a loved and hated politician who lived there, because of the unexpected European success of football-team Feyenoord, but the boy and the girl are sitting at the river as if they'll always be there and their love is eternal.
Man is vulnerable. His youth slips through his fingers, loves pass by, his hair is growing thin, he wakes up from the dream of a just world, the wished-for prosperity doesn't come, fortune evaporates, friendships fade into nothing.
And yet... and yet, it has to be like this, like in a Saint Vitus dance, three steps forward, two backwards, and three forward again, as our meandering through the Knossos labyrinth.
Giving up a dream is a small death. Sooner or later we all wake up from a dream. The one of our childhood or an endless summer, the romantic dream of revolution, equality, brotherhood, all the loves we are pushed out of, the drunken boat must sometime get ashore. But we go on, we get together what is left and make the best of it. Whether we stay home, play piano on our lower lip and feed the aquarium fish or whether we wander away, we are pilgrims. We go from one disenchantment to another.
And yet ... How would we manage without these disenchantments? Without the defeats in the last minute, the missed trains, the letter that didn't come, or did come, the packet-boat at the horizon?
You'd want to be that day-dreaming boy again to be fully absorbed in a ride with the Berlin S-Bahn or the Northern Line in Liverpool, but you know that if you were that boy, you'd just wish to be older as soon as possible, freed from the grown-ups with their boring questions and Sunday talk. As an Algerian migrant you can sit on the quay in the old port of Marseille every Saturday evening, dreaming about your youth on the other side of the Mediterranean - the warm sand, your bare feet, the salt, the sun, the waves. But how, when there, you would long to be where you are now, sitting on a quay in that magical city in La France.
Call it melancholy about what passes by and must be lost. Call it the willingness or joy to see a miracle in the smallest thing, the whole miracle of creation, yes, also in a barrier at a bankrupt factory. Is that enough for a style, an eye of your own?
The girls in Harold Naaijer’s photos – their beauty doesn't seem to last long; one spring, maybe, one love, one night, a sigh. And then the hue is gone, that early golden green of nature. But they play the game of flirting and seducing in a blissful ignorance, in the illusion that eternity is theirs. How not to become melancholic at that sight? At the same time, you know how dreadful life would be, a nightmare of dullness, if decay wouldn’t set in.
So we keep loving these harlequins whose tricks keep failing. It's the refusal to regard life cynically or with sarcasm, although satire isn't strange to us, for that we see too much bragging, conceited characters who try to give their tripping an air of success, too much mediocrity in the pride of its cardboard lustre. And for that we know - or we think we do, and that makes us even more ridiculous - our own secret dreams and pretensions too well. So humor, sometimes even mordant, is familiar to us, but in the end we keep hoping, every day again, for a small miracle, for the moment of wonder.
How beautiful is life passing by.
Harold Naaijer's photos testify to this continuous attempt to stay open, also after waking up from the umpteenth dream, for the beauty that reveals itself in a flash of pure belief.
And then click!
Pécs, 15th of March 2009