In the mountains in the middle of nowhere, a full hour’s walk from the nearest village, I met a man, 80 years old, living alone. His name was Stanko.
He was kind and invited me into the house. The house was more than 200 years old. I was shocked when I saw the inside and could not believe somebody could live like this in Europe in the 21st century.
The walls were yellow, green and black. There was barely any furniture, just a few pots here and there, an old clock that did not work and some photos taken many decades ago on the wall. The windows were small. What little light they afforded served only to emphasize the house’s sparse contents.
It is a sad story. I learned that he had eleven children, but nobody would take care of him. His wife died long ago. He had little money and would spend all on cigarettes and wine. Yet living alone like this in the country made him happy. He had some land and sheep. I was visiting him frequently and we become friends.
The winter was very harsh. Lacking a heater and unable to light a fire, he died of cold. I felt a deep sorrow when I learned that he had died. I still remember his eyes. They were like mirrors. Through them you could see the pain suffered by so many. His portraits really move me. Yet they show how life must have been for many even a century ago. To me, Stanko seemed to embody all old and poor people. When one sees these images, many questions arise. One day, we will become old. Who knows how will we die. Alone? Poor? Sick? What is the point of living?
My friend, the old man, died. One of his sons inherited the house. He has started to preserve his old home. Photographing Stanko and listening to his stories was a great experience for me. It forced me to intensively think about what matters in life. The collection is also a sociological study. It invites the viewer to think about it.
About Herman Čater
Herman Čater, retired profesor of English language and English literature, paraglider and shiatsu teacher, was born in Celje, Slovenia in 1941. He is one of the best and most successful Slovene photographers in present time. His father had already introduced him to the world of photography. He started as a landscape photographer, but his series of an old man presented his most successful photographs. A number of Slovene and international awards gave him possibilities to exhibit in some world galleries. He had a number of solo exhibitions in Slovenia, Italy, Austria, USA, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Sibiria, Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sovakia and Uruguay. Photographic Association of Slovenia gave him a title of Master of Photography in 2008 and International Federation for Art Photography gave him EFIAP in 2010 and in 2012 Master FIAP.
In 1985 he got a virus and was paralyzed. When he came out of coma he was not able to breathe, speak, eat and move his upper body. His recovery lasted ten years. He wrote a book about his recovery DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR DREAM. Now he can travel, ski, fly a paraglider. He published several photo book ( Sibiria, Monograph of Jajce, Bosnian town, The Photographer, The touch of the light, Skye light… The book Stanko got eight international awards. He is member of Fotoklub Maribor. He is also a mentor for young photographers, he lectures photography, and organizes photo workshops in Slovenia and abroad. He is a member of juries in Slovenia and in other countries [The president of Photographic Association of Slovenia- Ivo Borko] [Official Website]