How much calcium? How much fruit? They use all ingredients from the garden they planted themselves and when it’s time to mix that smoothie, the mixer is powered from a bicycle they pedal themselves.” It may sound provincial but they’re not just learning lessons from a book, they’re learning life skills that translate to much larger aspects of life. They’re also bringing a little modernity to a city that’s a bit slower than many with which we’re familiar. Sayulita now has a citywide recycling program they didn’t before, introduced to them by the school. And a community center is in the works, coming soon to continue the outreach into this small town community.
“When we first started the school, the project was completely funded by me, my husband and our best friends. We had no money behind it besides our personal interests and we had no idea how big it was going to become. It’s so much harder than we thought and we work really hard on fundraising because 50% of our students are on full scholarships.”
Yet the German-born photographer’s worldly lifestyle is what really compelled them to move there in the first place. “I met my husband 21 years ago. He was this South African surfer living in Miami and I was hooked. We fell in love and moved to New York. We lived there for 12 years and traveled the world together. We got married in Mexico and bought our land 15 years ago, dreaming of a time when we would move there and open a little bed & breakfast.”
When their first son was two, they finally did it. They picked up and moved to Sayulita, opening a small 2-bedroom rental on their property with chef and concierge service when it’s rented. They’re surrounded by nature and demographic differences; they’re self sufficient part of a community that has the togetherness spirit she found when living in Tribeca during 9/11.
“We had just returned to New York the night before and hadn’t even unpacked. When the attacks happened, we had to run out of our house with nothing. I had no wallet, no ID, no money. We were just six blocks from the towers and couldn’t get back into our house for nearly eight weeks.”
“But I had a Polaroid SX70 camera in the car and amongst all the terribleness there was this beautiful red, white and blue everywhere. Me not being American, it was the first time I really understood what it meant and I just kept taking pictures for weeks. I went to every fire station, every police station, I went to Ground Zero over and over again and I just walked the streets of New York.”
From there, she partnered with her friend and longtime client, Tommy Hilfiger, to publish her first book, Our New York. The book, sold in his stores and sold out within weeks, was her photographic ode to New York and America ? an American flag can be seen in every image. All the money went to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, the purpose of which is to provide educational and welfare assistance to the children who lost one or both parents by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
A year later, she published her second book, See The World Beautiful, and it’s more than a title, it’s truly the way she sees the world, through her life and through her lens. She’s been shooting what she thinks is beautiful since she was nine. “I took my father’s camera and just started taking pictures of what I saw and what I thought was beautiful. When I was 11, he bought me my own camera and I never looked back.”
At 14 she knew she wanted shoot fashion. “I picked up a German Vogue, looked at the pages and said, “This is what I want to do. I want to be in Vogue.” At 16 she had her first apprenticeship and at 21 she shot her first solo job. From then on, it was just her behind the lens. At 22 she moved to Paris and lived there for five years. As a freelance photographer she’s able to live anywhere and travel to all her jobs. She can travel to studio or to an exotic location. So whether it be New York, Paris, London or Mexico, she can make anywhere her home base. And she becomes part of the culture anywhere she goes. Her free sprit and authenticity resonate with people around the world and quickly make her a local around the world.
“I only see beautiful things. I could never document war. I just don’t have that in me. I’ve never had an interest in documenting things that aren’t beautiful. Someone else can do that. Me, I saw the world beautiful.”