Germans Don’t Jaywalk

September 25, 2012 | Misc. Photos

I’m currently in Cologne, Germany speaking at Photokina. Fuji brought me out to speak about the X cameras that I’m so dang in love with. I haven’t really hit the floor just yet but I saw a freaking helicopter parked in one corner of the trade show. You know. A helicopter. Might as well. What this trade show needs is more helicopters.

I’ve been on the road for two months and it’s been a hell of a good time bouncing around this lovely planet of ours. I’ve had the pleasure and honor to meet a number of truly passionate and talented people. I’ve had some soul searching late night talks over bad food and good wine. I’ve seen some things that have me so inspired to create new work that I’m paralyzed not knowing what I should do first. I flew ATL – DTW – AMS – CGN and my bag went ATL – DTW – ATL. That was awesome.

I had this one brilliant moment of peace and clarity in Montana. It was dusk. Doug Ness and I were listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. That really is one of the greatest American albums of all time. That clarity visited me for the ten minute drive from our shooting location back to town. 10 minutes to soak it in. 10 minutes in two months. Something just ain’t right with that.

My mind is mush. Absolute mush. Slap a Quaker Oatmeal sticker on my head and call it a day. I’m behind on personal deadlines for projects. I have to get to the dentist. I need a haircut. I have videos to shoot. I have more and more blog entries to write. I need to do some laundry. I need to go ride bikes with my kids. I need to go and get away by myself for a few monthsdays, hours. My promo mailers are late… again. I see a book in my head that I want to create. I can close my eyes and I can see it. I see the photographs. It’s truly unfortunate that I haven’t shot a lot of those images yet. But I see it. I see a book. A portfolio book. Something uniquely me. Something that doesn’t look like a bowl of oatmeal.

Deep breaths.

Saw something of note in the central train station in Cologne. It was a display of the work of the recent World Press Photo winners. The collection of work was breath taking. I also stood back from it and watched how many people stopped and looked. Even people who seemed to be busily on their way to something stopped. Photography is still powerful. It also reminded me that not everybody is a photographer. Not just any ol’ person with a DSLR could shoot the photos that were hanging in this public “gallery”.

Germans don’t jaywalk. They wait for the walk signal. It’s remarkable to behold. Americans walk in their bike lanes and get yelled at. Not that I have personal experience with this. Well, ok, I do. So that’s a bike lane. Got it. I’ll try to remember. Looks a lot like a sidewalk.

Hope you all are doing well. I’ll be catching my breath in November and December. I have a few posts to go out before then. I’m still working on my tumblr Q&A blog. Getting close to hitting my 1,000th post over there.

Photography, as it would seem, is alive and well. It’s a crazy ride but what else in life that’s worth doing isn’t a crazy ride?




  • Pedro said on September 25, 2012

    Photokina is a lot to suck in. Germany is also a lot to suck in; we lived there in 2010 and it was a life changing experience. Germans don’t jaywalk. Germans don’t walk on bike lanes. Germans don’t bike on sidewalks. Germans don’t..

    Just take a deep breath, take it all in and get inspired.

    Welcome back, Zack. We’ve missed you.

  • Kyle said on September 25, 2012


    You are just insanely epic. I dunno what that means but yeah. Your work always inspires me. Thanks for taking time to write on your crazy travels. Hoping I’ll be at that level someday!

  • Michael said on September 25, 2012

    Hahaha. I noticed this very thing! I still hurried across the street anyway, though. Felt very rebellious. I’m wondering whether they have extremely stricts or not.

    I definitely walked in their bike lanes as well. So strange that they’re on the sidewalk rather than on the road. Didn’t get yelled at though — just kept hearing the sound of bike bells behind me.

  • Leif Hurst said on September 25, 2012

    I believe you coined the phrase… “I’m drowning in success.”

    It still applies I see.

    When is the last time you unplugged for a few days to “sharpen your saw” so to speak? I’m amazed out how much clarity I can reengage with after a few days of nothing.

  • brec said on September 25, 2012

    Germans have rules so you don’t get sued AFTER you’ve done something. Breaking rules is a good thing say photographers. Pick what you like. I prefer publicly enjoying a beer in a beer garden over covering my beverage so no one knows. Have a beer, take a break, relax.

  • Brian said on September 25, 2012

    Whew. Hope you get some time to settle. I feel like I know the whole ‘no time to breathe’ story pretty well.

    Anyways – hope you and Meg are well.

    Beers on me if you ever make it to Arkansas this year.


  • Bill said on September 25, 2012

    Get some rest Zach and all the creativity you need will be there! But love your family first!! All the best!

  • Daly said on September 25, 2012

    Your comment about jaywalking made me laugh, my girlfriend is German and has been living with me in the UK (where we have no jaywalking type of law) for less than a year, I’m only just getting her used to my crossing at random.

    She told me that getting caught jaywalking can result in you getting points taken off your driving license, you start with 12 points and lose 3 for most things, run out of points and you get banned from driving and have to take a test again which costs €€€. Yes, even if you have been a perfect driver but just an impatient pedestrian.

  • Rob said on September 25, 2012

    Spent a fair bit of time in Germany…. I have a personal theory. If you drive on the autobahn you will notice the slower drivers will not pull out when your going a lot faster in the next lane over….. I believe it’s a natural selection type process – the ones that do have that tendency are dead :-) It carries over to walking e.t.c. since they are the survivors. Well… it’s a theory okay :-o )

  • David and Jess said on September 25, 2012

    Dude you are everywhere!! Thanks for being an inspiration to so many other photographers. Like Bill said “Get some rest man”. :-)

  • Marco said on September 25, 2012

    I live in UK…I work with Germans…my boss is actually German…I’m Italian…what a mess :)
    I missed your posts!
    Take care

  • Dario said on September 25, 2012

    Welcome to Europe.
    Germany is nice. If you ever come to Italy drop a call.
    Wine waiting for you.

  • don said on September 25, 2012

    Welcome back. We missed ya!

    Inhale. Hold for 2 count. Exhale. Repeat.

  • Harold said on September 26, 2012

    All that rushing around has to take a toll on body and mind. These posts and the “ask” blog really speak to people because of your willingness to share and the candid comments. No varnish, shorter than a Marine haircut bits of truth and insights. So sometimes it’s like getting a bucket list item checked off to turn a photographic corner and move on down the road. Lot of us are not pros but we get a lot of insight just the same. Sometimes it’s something simple; like in your transform video where you say “…so Im working on my photography” I think that fits a lot of us. Stay healthy.

  • Hernan Zenteno said on September 26, 2012

    Hi Zack. I continued to follow your comments in music too. I think photographers are very freaky about music. I would like to know about the album you mentioned what are the themes you like more. The two I like a lot are Adam Raised A Cain and Something in the night. Would like to know more of your comments of music too. By the way, many thanks for let me know in Argentine The Decemberists.

  • John Driggers said on September 26, 2012

    Funny how the jaywalking comments predominate.

    I was born in Panama, grew up in the US (left coast), lived in Germany and Asia, and now call Adelaide, Australia home. I don’t find it funny that Germans tend to okay traffic laws. When I lived there I found it both pleasant and safer to drive. It demonstrates a sense of community and mutual respect for others that the folks who wander across streets like mindless cattle don’t seem to get.

    Here in Adelaide, jaywalking is endemic and the jaywalkers are aggressive or completely oblivious to traffic. They paralyse traffic in the central business district.

    Perhaps the best indicator of how bad it is here is the public safety campaign that warns drivers to watch out for drunken pedestrians. I thought it was a joke at first, but there are loads of public service announcements, rear-of-bus poster ads, and billboards warning about “drink walkers” (yeah, they say drink drivers here too, instead of drunk drivers, all the while complaining that immigrants don’t speak English well enough).

    It shall remain a puzzle for me why some people think the basic traffic laws are only for others, but that they have some special permission to ignore them when they see fit and feel, at some level, contempt for those that respect these simple conventions.


  • Wolfgang Lonien said on September 26, 2012

    Hi Zack – good to see some content again here.

    I’m German, and no we usually don’t jaywalk. It’s because of the kids, who watch adults and just do the same.

    Hope you enjoyed your stay. I used to live in Cologne for about 35 years or so, and it’s a beautiful place, especially for musicians, photographers, and lots of other artists. Compared to other cities, it’s a bit like “little Italy”. Take care, and get home to your family well.


  • Ed said on September 26, 2012

    Take it easy Zack, nobody here wants to see a post about how you fell ill working too much. I know it’s the American way and all but your too precious haha.

  • Patrik Lindgren said on September 26, 2012

    I know that feeling, well not all of it, but i definately know that feeling. The day has to few hours it seems.
    What to do, what to do? Sometimes the steam has to get out somehow, and then some.

    Work, logistics, family, house and what not. In my life it seems to be prioritized in that specific order just about now and well for quite some time now. I don´t want that. I got a three year old son and a soon to be four months old baby girl.
    Sleep is a luxury. Hometime is a luxury.

    Luckily for me, as for you, is that i got a fantastic and very understanding family.
    Question is if this is gonna last, i don´t know.
    I´m considering things and wondering about the alternatives.

    We´ll see what the future has to offer.

    This is my way of letting of some sort of steam and telling you that i hear what you are saying.


  • Martin said on September 26, 2012

    Hey Zack,
    was great to see you at Photokina. I’m very excited to see what’s coming up next at your blog. Hope you’re able to take a rest and recharge your soul batteries.
    @Rob: That’s a great theory! :D
    Take care!

  • OddNina said on September 26, 2012

    Haha I started laughing at the jaywalking thing. You’re perfectly right! We don’t! I can’t tell why, but I spice up my walk home from work, by jaywalking at least once ;)

  • torsten winkler said on September 26, 2012

    we krauts are crazy people, aren’t we? :D
    we learn in kindergarten how to cross a road without getting run over. maybe it’s the same like “rednecks” learn not to play with rattle snakes … my kraut genes tell me, that jaywalking kills children who wan’t to be like me. i think there are a lot of german drivers who would hit you, even if they saw you, just because they are right and you should not jaywalk.
    so … why see the red light as your enemie, stealing time from you? it’s your friend, giving you a little break to relax in your rushed day and it keeps you safer. :)

  • Paul Neuhaus said on September 26, 2012

    I’m actually from Cologne. Have been living here since I was born.

    I jaywalk on a daily basis. I don’t have time to wait for green lights. Not everyone does it, but I’m not alone.
    And if there are no traffic lights at all, you’re of course allowed to cross the street.

    You don’t loose points, you get points, so you start with 0. How many you get depends on what you did. In most cases 1-3 points per incident (going too fast, crossing red light, etc.). And if you collected too many, you can get your drivers license taken away. But most points will be erased after 2 years.
    You can get points without driving a car, e.g. crossing a red light with your bicycle, but you will not get points for jaywalking as a pedestrian. The fine usually is 5 or 10 euros. If you get caught. No, I have never.

  • Nate Parker said on September 26, 2012

    You’re wicked awesome Zackman! That’s all I got for today-

  • Christopher said on September 26, 2012

    “Talk about a dream, try to make it real.
    You wake up in the night, with a fear so real.
    You spend your life waiting for a moment, that just don’t come.
    Well, don’t waste your time waiting. . .”

  • Paul said on September 26, 2012

    It was great to meet yourself and Meg in person at Photokina (I was with my friend who was sharing the mints!).

    I hope you get some spare time to relax and process all of the thoughts going on in your head. I don’t even know what your thinking about but I’m looking forward to seeing some of it as/when you work on it.

  • Wilfried Feder said on September 26, 2012

    dont know much about Cologne, but germans even more dont jaywalk in Munich. Cops here are dead serious. Escaping on a bicycle is fun though.
    wish i had met you. oh well, better meet you in Munich, buy you one real beer.

  • Wilfried Feder said on September 26, 2012

    ooh and i like you even more, as a springsteen fan!!!

  • Matt said on September 26, 2012

    Hi Zack,

    It was great to see and meet you in Germany. I watched your talk and had the opportunity to have a chat with you a little bit, something that was on my to do list for the second year of my photographic journey. Box now ticked :-) . I found your talk very interesting and motivational, and I took a couple of key points from it to take into my own photographic world.

    Photokina was mind blowing, I loved the images on the Fuji booth, I can’t believe what can be created with the x100 and x-pro1. I found the show a huge mass of information and shinny things, but I found myself searching for the gems in between all the gear. I have totally lost interest in gear at the moment. I am a Nikon user and I walked straight passed Nikon, and only stopped at Canon’s booth because they were showing an awesome video of guys playing a kind of soccer game on push bikes. I have actually sold some of my kit and have taken myself back to focus on creating. I have images and project floating around in my head all the time, it is time to get them out.

    Leica’s hall was awesome, now that is some pricey kit. I must have spent a good few hours walking around the galleries looking at the images there. I will admit as new dad I got very chocked up seeing the kids in the war photography.

    I get the opportunity to visit Germany several times a month with work, and I am going to take the opportunity to explore the cities I got to with my camera. Germany is certainly an interesting country.


  • Martin said on September 27, 2012

    I yearn for another issue of DEDPXL!

  • blsuedeshu said on September 27, 2012

    Hey Zack,
    Tell the fine folks at Fuji that because of your reviews of the X-100 and the X-PRO 1, I just purchased the latter. A hobbyist since my dad explained exposure to me (way back in the day of ASA), I was looking for a rangefinder camera that offered traditional controls with great images without the price of admission of a Leica. While pulling the Fuji thread and happening on your hands-on review, I was sold. Light, not too menu intensive, and tactile clicky detents and I was in. This is a camera I can really get my face behind! Also, I dig your work and commentary.

    Regards and thanks!

  • Laura said on September 27, 2012

    I took a chance to see if there was something new on your blog and there is. Thanks for this. It was just what I needed today. Just a reminder that life is what it is. Welcome back.

  • Fred said on September 28, 2012

    Germans will also stop at a crosswalk that has no associated stoplight or stop sign if they see you standing there prepared to cross.

    They’ll also drive down the autobahn at 200 km/h.

    Their beer is good.

    Their food is good.

    What’s not to like?

  • Jake said on September 28, 2012

    Great blog entry; I love how your soul found what it need to see… you’re on your path. Now I’ve never much cared for oatmeal (an understatement) so I hope you can at least achieve the consistency of Jello.

    Just picking up my sDSL aagin after not really using an SLR for more than a decade even though I bought a dSLR a few years back… my little pocket camera though eventually road with me every day, and I think I’m ready to take a second look at photography just for fun. I’m even thinking about how nice a Fuji X-E1 might be as my new everyday companion.

    Also it was because of you I found DigitalRev, a really great production, it will be very cool if I run into them one day, but not quite as cool as if I were to run into you (not literally since you’ll be using the crosswalks).

    Best Regards.

    ps… do forget to go bike riding with the kids.

  • Draganche said on October 1, 2012

    Greating from Serbia! That’s all I can say.
    Love you post!

  • Richard said on October 2, 2012

    Ah, Mister Arias!

    I’ve been expecting you.

    Well actually I havn’t been; in fact I been bouncing back to your blog as if tied with bungee cord waiting for a new post. Very glad you made the time to bring us up to date.

    Oh and the French (or at least Parisians) seem to wait to be told when to cross the road – sorry, street.

    It’s interesting as a Brit over here in Paris to cross an empty Avenue and feel all the eyes on you.

    But they could be hoping I get run over by a speeding car.

    Great post as always – try not to leave it so long next time!

  • Eric said on October 2, 2012

    Sounds like you need an assistant (pick me! pick me!).

    Photography is indeed alive and well, it’s just more difficult to find the work that speaks to you out of the constant feed of “work”.

    Peace to you.

  • Peter said on October 5, 2012

    common, Germans do jaywalk. I am from Germany and I’m doing that on a daily basis. OK, maybe not as much as it seems americans used to. An american colleague once made fun of me, because I didn’t want to jaywalk, but it was just because it didn’t look safe.
    To bad I haven’t met you in Colgone, I would have been overexcited (maybe it’s better for you that I didn’t see you there – you would write smth like “crazy German followed me for 3h”)

  • Moshe said on October 6, 2012

    We all need to extract some clarity from this oatmeal soup.

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