"The world can be a beautiful place. Show it." (retro 3/12)

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

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The Journal-team looks back at 2021 - so does Misch Pautsch. The past twelve months have been exciting, challenging and enriching, and they also mark our first digital birthday. To celebrate the occasion, each team member has chosen the piece whose research or production had the biggest impact on them in 2021.

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These phrases are the first on my small but growing list of guidelines I try to follow, in my work and personal life. For the most part, I believe it. But it couldn't be in more stark contrast to what we witness in the media world. If it bleeds, it leads. Fear, hate, boobs and the weather report. The life of a journalist is a life in search of the "scoop". Of the extraordinary, the different, the new. This can usually be found in the bad things. In corruption, in struggle, abuse, and in the suffering of others.

Two interviews this year taught me perspective. War photographer Ursula Meissner has documented life and conflict in Afghanistan for over 30 years. Filmmaker Adel Khan Farooq has followed the life of an IS recruiter for over two years. I have deep respect for both of them. Their work is inspiring. And more than once, the thought has stung deeply that I'm reporting on people who are actually on the front lines themselves. "Real" journalists showing the world "out there", echoing here in a muffled way. The world seems so far away, and Luxembourg so small and uneventful.

"That it touches you to check in with one of the people affected months later to see how they're doing and get as an answer: 'not good'."

Until suddenly, however, the sky collapsed. No one died in Luxembourg during the flood of the century, which will probably not remain one for long. By a hair's breadth. But lives were destroyed. And this moment, which I had secretly been looking forward to for years, this moment "when something happens", felt awful. This was before the interviews, when people like Ursula and Adel were not flesh and blood to me, but pixels on a screen. When I knew their work, but not them. If I had talked to them earlier, I would have thrown my camera bag in the car with less enthusiasm to be "on the front lines" – but with more sense of duty. Then I would have known what it was like to talk to people who knew loss. That while a camera is a good shield, the pictures follow you home. That it touches you to check in with one of the people affected months later to see how they're doing and get as an answer: "not good". I don't want to imagine how it feels when there is no answer. Adel and Ursula know.

Journalism here in Luxembourg is often cuddly. Rarely do we appreciate the positives things, even more rarely do we highlight them. We have to look for corruption and abuse because it doesn't happen in broad daylight, as it does in so many other places. Disasters shock here because they are unusual. We have the luxury of talking about war secondhand. People can be brought into focus because they are not just statistics. And we have the time to learn from those who have seen more than we have. Adel approached his counterpart with "respect and without judgment". And has thus made images that no one else would get. Ursula has "always photographed the inhuman what she saw in such a way that it was connected with the beautiful". What better lessons could one add to a small but growing list?