Peter Reiche is choosing which city his family should move continents to in an unconventional way.
To help determine whether he and his family should move to Seattle or Vancouver, he’s shooting portraits of residents of each city as a way to learn about the people and place.
“I hope to get an image from that and how people are living, where they live and their personal style of living and what they love with the place where they are,” he said. “Maybe it’s a little possibility for me to imagine our lives there.”
Reiche posted ads under “artists” on Craigslist to draw volunteers.
When he spoke to the Courier on March 7, his first day in Seattle, Reiche had only attracted two volunteers there. He was planning to approach people who do interesting work to capture their stories.
“In the United States and Canada, it comes very easy to talk to people,” he said. “They’re more easy speaking than in Germany. People are a little bit closed up and it takes a long, long time to trust you and tell you something about them.”
He’ll shoot in Metro Vancouver March 16 to 24 and so far has two subjects lined up, a friend’s brother who moved from Berlin to Vancouver five years ago, and a man from Britannia Heritage Shipyard in Richmond.
Reiche has worked as an architect, graphic artist and voice actor and runs his own political satire and rock ’n’ roll radio show in Berlin. His wife, Babette, works as a graphic artist for newspapers. They launched their quest to move to North America nearly 10 years ago because of the dearth of jobs in Germany and Europe.
The Reiches attempted to secure green cards to the United States for years.
“[Canada] wasn’t our first choice because nearly everybody that wants to go to the North American continent was going to Canada,” he said. “But then we [took] a closer look and totally fell in love with Vancouver.”
They were impressed by the proximity of urban life to nature when they visited two years ago, when Reiche shot images of the Britannia shipyard.
“We are from Berlin… It’s all that big city life and drunk people all through the night… it’s more of a party thing,” he said. “We’re born there but it’s not our town. Sometimes people are born in the wrong place and that was us.”
The 47-year-old has been trying to make personal connections in Vancouver to find work so he and his family could move here.
He perceives Vancouver as being “a little bit more free in culture,” a place with a more open, alternative scene where personal initiative can make things happen.
In the meantime, he and Babette secured green cards for the U.S. last year. To be close to Vancouver, they may end up in Seattle with their 18-year-old son.
Reiche is offering portrait sessions to Vancouverites in exchange for a cup of coffee.
While he’s snapping photos, he’ll also be shooting questions at his subjects and the city.
“I’m a little bit shy,” he said, although loquacious with the Courier. “For me, the camera is a tool to handle people, sometimes to learn more of them by taking a picture than to talk to them. It breaks the ice for me and it’s a way to learn about people.”
Subjects will receive digital copies of photos, which the self-taught photographer hopes to share online or in an exhibit in Berlin, Seattle or Vancouver.
“I hope that it will make our decision a little bit easier,” he said.