FRITZ PÖLKING PRIZE 2022

Winner: Jan Leßmann, GDT - Germany

Jan Leßmann, born 1993 in Bochum, a creative, curious, humorous, positive, emotional, spontaneous, trusting, sensitive, often ironic, kind, visual person from the east coast of Germany walks through nature with all his senses.

As a professional photographer, author and co-founder of the company zeitweise he often creates abstract images that make single elements stand out from the great chaos.His photography is driven by the wish to place images in a larger context and use his visions for a changing society.

He gathered theoretical knowledge when studying landscape ecology and nature conservation, now he shares his knowledge in images and stories in order to support social and ecological change through his emotional visual language.

Jan Leßmann

Project: Lockdown Heron

It is quiet at night. The district of Greifswald in North Germany has just exceeded the rolling average of 200 Covid cases. Deserted streets, a 15 kilometre movement restriction and a curfew determine every day life. An uneasy heavy atmosphere hangs over the city. It had been snowingall night and the streets remain covered by snow. My work environment is as quiet as never before. I go outside and leave the first foot prints in the fresh snow. The blackness of the night swallows up the snowflakes on the horizon and refracts in the yellow glow of the street lamps. Only fifty metres away from my doorstep my nocturnal friendsits on a small staircase by the harbour bank. Unnoticed by others, he looks at me with wide eyes, recognizes me and in the next moment, thrushes his beak into the water. A grey heron that has adapted to life in the city, hunts for fish unaffected by pandemics and restrictions at Greifswald harbour. I visit this bird on countless nights, his patience carries me through the night and I lose any sense for time and space. Photography on the doorstep is invaluable for me these days. The impossibility to travelleads to focussing on the immediate environment, and allows me to immerse myself completely in the heron's nocturnal life. I share the thrill with every single catch, I know where the heron hunts for bass and his favourite spot for whitefish. Sharpening his beak on an old rope, he seems to be quite content. The harbour basin is full of small fish, there are rudds, roaches and small bass everywhere, and the overabundance makes it hard for the heron to concentrate on a single fish.
I circle around the heron repeatedly with my silent camera, looking for street lamps whose light would reveal the heron at the dark harbour. Sometimes its only the silhouette of his beak, sometimes I hear his harsh caw. My housemates have known him for more than 10 years and tell stories of a heron that would sit waiting in front of the door on their return from the pub. So probably this heron knows a thing or two about Greifswald's nightlife. He will have wondered why the winter of 2021 was so quiet.

Jan Leßmann | Hafenidylle | Harbour idyll

Harbour idyll

There is a light drizzle and the heron sits at his favourite spot.Well hidden and waiting for passing fish.The bird is completely indifferent to cars, pedestrians and cyclists crossing the bridge.

Jan Leßmann | Im Himmel | In heaven

In heaven

In winter, the fish of the river gather in the warm harbour basin providing the heron with ample food -an eldorado for any grey heron.By turning the picture, the fish become the sky, i.e. grey heron heaven.

Jan Leßmann | Fischfang | Fishing

Fishing

For hours the heron does not move an inch from its perch.Suddenly,the bird shoots forward andin the next moment has a small fish in its beak. This movement was visualised with a long exposure time.

Jan Leßmann | Rotauge | Roach

Roach

In the light of street lamps,the heron has specialized in rudds and roaches.Quite difficult to hold on to the slippery fish.Time and again they manage to escape at the last moment.

Jan Leßmann | Detail | detail

Detail

Only on closer inspection do the beautiful feathers of the heron catch the eye. For hours the bird engages in properly preening his feathers.

Jan Leßmann | Schneesturm | snow storm

Snow storm

It's only in winter that the heron turns up at the harbour.Harbours are often slightly warmer and remain ice-free in some place when the rivers freeze over.Perfect conditions for the cunning hunter.By using a flash,the snowflakeswere captured in the picture.

Jan Leßmann | Im Scheinwerferlicht | In the spotlight

In the spotlight

In complete darkness it is often difficult to locate the heron around the harbour.Sometimes the headlights of passing cars give away his presence.For a brief moment the secret star of the harbour is illuminated.