photo series: Ode to Offenbach
Every time I heard about the city of Offenbach in my early youth it did not mean anything good. Drivers with the license letters OF were known for their incompetence, their unpredictability in traffic. Because most made their first and only experiences with Offenbach citizens in traffic, people from there were not deemed too smart.
Offenbach has for a long time been regarded as Frankfurt’s ugly little sister. While the banking metropolis’ economy is booming, Offenbach’s industrial heydays as one of the most important leather producing cities in Germany have almost been forgotten. Unemployment and public debt is high compared to other German cities and municipalities. Because Offenbach has the highest rate of citizens with foreign roots in all of Germany. Die-hards say that the cultural diversity confronts the city with a lot of social conflict. But Offenbach is not a hellhole as people might claim who have rarely or never set foot into it.
Recently many young people and families make that conclusion. They move to Offenbach in increasing numbers due to high rents in Frankfurt. They enjoy Offenbach’s rough charm which the city owes to its cultural diversity and the lack of public money. Offenbach’s appearance does not mean though that people there do not get along with each other or that certain places have to be avoided for safety reasons. It does not happen very often that people in Offenbach get robbed, shot or stabbed. Most violence here is linked to family feuds. Public life does not suffer because of this.
“Why the hell would you move to Offenbach?”, are most of those asked who decide to live there, only to ask themselves a little later why anyone would want to leave Offenbach. Those who prefer Offenbach to other places appreciate its cultural diversity and that one barely hears a word of German being spoken on its streets. They appreciate that Offenbachers call themselves Offenbachers before they call themselves Germans, Turks or Arabs. But as much as the city opens up to the world, the more it lets its people be, look and think like they want to.
Offenbach does not dictate any fashion codex. It does not need any hip stores and bars to improve its reputation. Offenbach does not need to pretend to be likeable. Not like Frankfurt whose inner city has become the epitome of arbitrariness and who has been getting rid of its original citizens and flair by bowing to real estate usury und franchise. I fear that Offenbach is or will be threatened by those developments too sooner or later.
Thus my pictures are not supposed to draw a social portrait of Offenbach. I try to capture the face of the city which still resembles the one I was once afraid of but which I learned to appreciate. After one year of being an Offenbacher I learned that appearances are deceptive. This city is still swarming with absurdities and peculiarities. But that does not make it a bad place. To me this city has an educational effect. Not many other places in Germany confronts you with the challenges of multicultural coexistence as much as Offenbach does. At the same the mood in this city makes its people open up to each other and become more tolerant.
My pictures are supposed to show Offenbach’s incomparable character and to motivate people to make a visit to this eccentric city. My work is an ode to Offenbach which hopefully remains the same city for many years to come.