Bernhard Schlafke: Paths to memory

I am not a photographer in the sense of the photographer’s job description. I got my first camera as a present when I was 12 years old. I’ve been collecting pictures ever since.

Images that build up in front of the inner eye.
Pictures were coming at me from the outside.



Way of remembrance

“Who knows to what extent our memories are really related to memorizing and how much they have to do with our imagination and our need for comfort.”

Gianrico Carofiglio in “A Night in Bari, Goldmann, 2010

“‘the hunchbacked little man.”

“Herrgudd Kreuzsakredi!” it sounded out loud from the bushes as I climbed the path up the mountain. I stopped, frightened.

With sharp scream tumbled headfirst a little guy in front of my feet. His shaggy hair hung in the haggard face, from which a conspicuously pointed nose protruded. The curved, slender body reached just above my knees. Surprised and frightened I stopped the air and looked in the direction where the little one pointed wildly gesturing with his hands and shouted, “‘s sacks! My sacks!”

He didn’t seem to notice me at all.

Suddenly, as if the sounds of the world had been switched off, only the slight rustle of the wind in the treetops could be heard and as I looked down the little guy had disappeared without a trace.

I stood alone in the woods. Breathed heavily. The ascent was steep.

When I was a boy with my father, when I walked the paths in “our forest,” he told me the stories his father had told him.

I went further along the path in thought listening to the silence.


Forest paths, narrow, adapting to the terrain, meandering along the mountain, open the possibility for the hiker to leave the given path and redefine his destination. From wild animals and human-foot into the ground stepped, paths lead over stick and stone, cross and across through the world, often risky upward striving or into the depth falling at the slope along. They cut through dark woods as well as light bushes, where the view into the distance roaming your feet invites you to linger.

The silence of the forest, away from the safe ways, opened the door of the senses.

Leap in Time


Behind the large rock at the bend in the road on the customs path to the castle of the Countstoner there sat an obese bearded old man in a brown, coarse linen skirt, which reached over his barely recognizable hip. From the shoulder downwards his massive stature spanned a leather carrying frame with a remarkable Baselard, a Swiss dagger, a wooden drinking bottle and a bulged leather bag hanging from his pelvic belt. A lansquenet hat with peacock feathers lay on the full wooden stool, at which point the old man, looking hard, sat, stretching his gauntlet boots into the path, with his right arm outstretched, blocking the way with a halberd pointing at me.

When I saw the three armed young men in the background, staring into the woods in silence, I was shocked by a violent blow.

Stumbling I staggered two or three steps, and when I stood upright again, I saw the castle ruins between the trees in the early morning light on the mountain in front of me.

I had set off early and knew that there was still a steep and challenging climb ahead of me.


When she called me, I was ready to go right away.

I put my folding knife and the right trouser pocket and my pocket knife in the left jacket pocket. The heavy walking shoes on my foot I took off with flying feet. In the beginning, the path climbed steadily, but then it meandered steeply into the valley on a hollow way. On this grey day, I moved further and further down, with dark clouds hanging low above me. Behind an uncanny long tunnel, which I crossed with a quick echoing step, thick fog surrounded me and bizarre figures stretched their arms at me for a short moment.

When I reached the plain, left the forest, she was already waiting for me.

I sat in the passenger seat of her car, hugged HER.

My jackknife pinched my thigh.

I hadn’t seen her in two years.

Photography and text: Bernhard Schlafke