A moment of calm: Quiet moments at the Leipzig book fair 2013

by juliakeil


Around the same time, every March, the Leipzig hotels get booked out with national and international authors, publishers and members of the public which stream to the 4 day, second largest book fair in Germany, in order to either publicize their works, their brand, their identity or simply just to explore and share literature and the many forms it takes.  The Leipzig Book Fair this March 2013, visited by over 168,000 people, was quite the hustle and bustle of books, publishers, personalities, creatives, comics, music,  medias and mangas. The crowds as well as the books ranged from new to old. It was a mix of fantasy meets reality, of show and tell, of discussion and review.

It was my first ever visit to this eclectic event and at first I found the experience rather overwhelming. The minute I stepped into the great glass halls of the fair complex with the sunlight, powered by the stark white snows reflection, streaming through from all sides of the building, I felt uneasy. My head felt loud and over-crowded with the many sounds swooping past my ears and the countless images flashing themselves in front of my eyes, teasing me to try and catch them. With my camera in hand, I didn’t know where to start. All I wanted to do…was breathe.

The place was filled with colorful people, often quite young, dressed in their personal comic book character interpretation with all sorts of flesh baring, pig-tail wearing, make up spread like butter, carefully thought out costumes.  Even though this might have seemed like a photographers rainbow parade paradise, with each character eager, no, almost hungry to pose, I couldn’t help put feel slightly put off by the whole showiness of it all. It was like a “look at me, look at me” ego pool with each ego desperate to be stroked and eyes that were so aware of any lens pointed in their direction that they would immediately, without batting an eyelid, snap into their chosen pose and portray themselves how they wanted to be perceived. As a photographer, I almost felt powerless to the gaze of these subjects, and cringed after the few occasions I pointed my camera at some, trying to capture an unconscious intrigue and would be met with rapid eyes and bodies automatically contorting into something else.  It became a power struggle and I was desperate to regain my gaze and detach myself from the crowds.

As I made my way through the five halls, each enclosing a different theme, I realized that what I was seeking were moments of calm, of spaces which let me breathe and people which tried to retreat and find their silence amongst all the noise, just like I was.  Perhaps this calm is what I seek when I read. Quiet. Peace. Silence. That may be why at first I felt so confused and over stimulated by everything, because the environment was not what I would normally associate with reading. To me reading is an opening of yourself where you lay yourself bare and let another persons words paint your surfaces and decorate your interior. It is something extremely intimate and the beauty of this is that you can have this intimacy in public spaces, even in large crowds.

So it is possible. To retreat amongst a crowd and find a space for you to breathe, read or simply gather yourself and your thoughts, to stop. I noticed this happening all around me and eventually I did it too. After a few days, I managed to find my inner calm with my environment and with the books I let tickle my finger tips. Shortly after I did, I looked up and the fair was over, the great revolving doors shut once again, until next year.

The following are a few moments of calm I observed during my visit to the Leipzig Book Fair.