Hamburg, portrait of a colourful city
Our flag might be stripes of red, yellow, black, but our city is painted in every other shade in between
Photography by Amira Issmail
Words by Alicia Schneider
Maybe you’ve arrived here by boat. Maybe you journeyed across a bridge, in a small bus crammed with too many others like you. Maybe you only have a small backpack of your belongings with you, and maybe you don’t know the language. That’s alright – not everyone here does. In fact you might even hear Turkish in the supermarket, Polish on the train, Dari on the football field, and if you listen closely, you might be able to make out some German in the café.
… you might even hear Turkish in the supermarket, Polish on the train, Dari on the football field, and if you listen closely, you might be able to make out some German in the café.
Maybe the colours here are different than the ones you know from back home. Yes, our flag might be stripes of red, yellow, black, but our city is painted in every other shade in between. Maybe at home you associated red with the colour of fear or loss, but here red is a wig on a man in tights on the corner of a street, a jacket worn to stand out of the already lively crowd, of cargo ships coming and going from the harbor. Here the colours live on old brick buildings covered in hues of springtime, on the sultry eyes and bold lips of a woman dressed up just to go for a stroll, on a Sunday afternoon in the park filled with vibrant people, laughing and lounging against the rich painted backdrop of the sky and grass. And just wait until dusk, when the lights glitter in the reflection of the port and the colours of the day become the shades of the city at night.Where you’re from, you might have known everyone in your town. Perhaps at home the daily usual faces comforted you, but here you’ll find that no two are alike. It sometimes seems like no one is really from this city. Everyone you speak to has come from somewhere else; maybe they were passing through and decided to stay, maybe they came from far away in search of some place to replant their roots. For many this city was but a pin on a map that turned into a new starting point. Though it seems that no one is from here, we all belong here. Even the kids with the long unkempt hair and chained pants, the old mustachioed tattooed men wearing their scowls like a badge, the foreign women dancing to the beat of their own music, they all belong to the city as much as the trees and the roads and the rain. Once you’ve been here long enough, you too will learn that the only way you can recognize this place is through it’s unfamiliarity.
Everyone you speak to has come from somewhere else; maybe they were passing through and decided to stay, maybe they came from far away in search of some place to replant their roots.
And maybe you even think that between all the languages and colours and unfamiliar familiar faces, that there’s no room left for you, but you’d be wrong. Our city always makes room for more. Maybe you believe that in years from now, once things have settled and the world has changed, that you might go back to where you came from, but this city knows better. She has her own dreams and plans for you, so unload whatever baggage you came with and leave it behind, you’re here now. Welcome to Hamburg. Welcome home.
Photography: Amira Issmail
Amira Issmail is an artist and street photographer. Born in the North of Germany, she lived in Tokyo before moving to Hamburg, where she is well-known for her vivid portraits, a captivating reflection of that city‘s society. Her buzzwords are: social contacts, fun, art, rebellion, adrenaline, passion, freedom and self-expression. Amira can be reached at email@example.com and her Facebook page or on Linkedin.
Alicia Schneider earned her BA in English and Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal where she currently lives. She is a social media guru, a cat enthusiast and an anglophile. She aspires to travel the world and write about it, one country at a time. Feel free to stalk her on her LinkedIn or Instagram pages.