Five Questions for... Sabine Hellmann

As part of our regular series of mini-interviews on the blog we are talking to the editors and contributors to Elsewhere about what place means to them. Today we welcome the photographer and filmmaker Sabine Hellmann, whose images from the Nambuma Trading Post you can find in the digital-only Elsewhere No. 00 we created for our crowdfunding campaign...

What does home mean to you?

Home for me is a place that I feel comfortable in and that evokes certain sentiments and a strong sense of belonging that is hard to describe. Having moved to Scotland seven years ago, I have accumulated a few ‘homes’ in my heart over the years. Berlin will always be my ‘where I come from’ - home; Wismar is a special home for all those years of studying and partying; Kusamala, the permaculture centre in Malawi creates that sort of overwhelming home-feeling each time I arrive and the comfort of knowing a place and it’s people; and Scotland, after all, is my current home, where the smell of breweries, Lothian bus exhaust fumes and the sea breeze create that sense of belonging and comfort… well, maybe not the exhaust fumes. Home is after all where the heart is and my heart is quite compartmentalised in that regard.

Where is your favourite place?

There are so many of those special places. One that stands out in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands is Glen Affric and that one particular tiny island in the loch, where you have to cross some wobble shiny stones in order to reach its wee beach. Sitting by the campfire, watching the clouds pounding through the glen creating misty rainbows all around and still having a sheltered bay surrounded by ancient pine trees, birch boletuses and blueberry bushes - that’s the place!

What is beyond your front door?

I live in the heart of Edinburgh, and Calton Hill with its semi finished ‘Greek’ temples sits basically across the road. I can see tiny people walking on the hill from my window and now and then I rush out the door and up the steep path to catch the sunset and hear the numbed noises of a busy town from high above, overlooking the Firth of Forth, wee islands spiked with WW2 bunkers, the hills that are dotted around the city and a plethora of rooftops - a magic place on my doorstep.

What place would you most like to visit?

Oh there are so many places I find fascinating and worth exploring. Nearly every corner on this planet has stunning landscapes, amazing cultural sights or natural bounty. It’s not just about the place for me, but also the people and their daily ongoings! Spending time with a community is so much more valuable than merely visiting a place. Meeting the people that shaped a part of a landscape is fascinating - even more so, if those people haven’t been exposed to capitalism and exploitative economies. Spending time with a tribe in India made me realise how we have lost our connection to nature in our modern societies and I hope to be able to spend time with such inspiring communities again in the future.

What are you watching right now?

Well, still fresh in my mind is the documentary Virunga I saw a few days ago. A place so tragic, beautiful and charged, it is hard to believe how humans can be so cruel to each other and to their planet. That film encapsulates so much about our human condition, set in a stunning mountain rainforest in the Congo, pounded by horrific conflicts. To see those fighting for the survival of the last mountain gorillas, for their national park and against corporate interests and their own government.. it’s one of those heartbreaking yet uplifting insights into a place that is so hard to imagine. Life changing!

Sabine is a German-born, Scotland-based creative freelancer, who got stuck in the beautiful city of Edinburgh after completing her MFA in documentary directing. Her interest in filmmaking and sustainability landed her a job as a participatory video facilitator in a Scottish Government funded permaculture project based in Malawi, in south-east Africa. Sabine’s areas of work include graphic design, photography and creative storytelling, and of course making use of any opportunity to explore new landscapes and cultures.