This page is dedicated to the great American photographer Joe Finckmeister. A hero during the peak of his creativity in the late sixties/early seventies most of his work is lost. The few remaining fragments of his work are shown on this page. Unlike his life his work shows some stable elements: A clear, on first sight “neutral” view of the world, a caring love for people in general and a great demand for good drinks. Finckmeister was born on June 18, 1946 in Pyoenyang, Korea to the Danish nurse Patricia Woelffson and the American entrepreneur Heinz Finckmeister. While the type of business Finckmeister senior ran could never be independently verified, it seemed to involve many moves as the whole family never stayed in the same location for more than two years. As his father was away for most of the time, his mother did most of the education. His heavy Danish accent was legend in the press corps at his time. Joe Finckmeister was educated in the local schools of the various countries where his parents struggled for their living. From reports of colleagues it is known, that he had a warm recollection of his childhood, even for the three years “when father was away and my mom did not tell me where he was”. His 18th birthday saw him in Africa on the island of Zanzibar, shortly after the revolution.
Things changed at a rapid pace when the former government was toppled and the family had to escape. With all their property gone, the family went to the mother´s native country of Denmark. Joe Finckmeister became attached to Europe, a place he vaguely described as “the only home I have” to fellow photographers. It was in Denmark where he graduated from the Lut Afisk high school, already deeply involved in photography. Around this time he purchased his first Nikon from the earnings he made working the nightshift in the morgue of Copenhagen. Soon after this he got his first assignments for a local newspaper. After six month he could make a living out of it, soon he moved out of his parents home and shared a flat with his friends Pern Opetzson and Ongi Broem , fellow photographers from the Lut Afisk school. It was soon that he got bored from the type of pictures he had to shoot for the local paper.
The is when he applied for a job with THE AGENCY with kept him busy for the next fifteen years travelling the world. While the first years were hard for him, he later adjusted very well to the pace of an international wire service. His bosses in London at that time, Horst Feldmayer and Mike Fast, rough guys from the golden age of photojournalism, put him on a lot of assignments. Nikon F, F2, Tri X, or when the agency ran out of money at the end of the business year, Ilford HP 5 were his companions along with two heavy aluminium suitcases with a portable darkroom and a drum transmitter. Most of the work he had to do for THE AGENCY is lost, either the photos have gone missing or the prints/negatives were ruined after a few years by the high speed fixing process THE AGENCY required. Seen on the webpages are scans from some Kodachrome slides Finckmeister left behind in a cheesy Bangkok bar, before he took off for Uzbekistan, sent on a feature assignment by his heavy accented fellow countryman Horst Feldmayer: “ To uss ssome off-shore oil trillers ssere”. Desperate to earn some money Finckmeister bought a ticket to Uzbekistan and a map and called from a phone booth of the Bangkok airport his friend and adviser in maritime affairs the ship broker Jan Smid, he met while both were playing in the same tennis club. In Smid’s book “ Life is too short to waste it in slow cars” Smid gives a vivid report of Finckmeister’s message on his answering machine. “ Oooh, Jan? It is Joe! I am going to Uzbekistan, will improve my money situation, am all packed, actually I am at the airport. Left my suitcases in the “Hot Cat Club” Am a bit hung-over, purchased a wrong map, they’ve sent me to Uzbekistan for off shore drillers, but there is no fucking shore on the map, must be a wrong scale… Operator, what do you mean by credit card is not valid?? Jan, Jan?? “ This message from April 16, 1970 was the last real sign of life. It looks as if Finckmeister really boarded the plane, Amex also recorded the attempt to buy two bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label at the Uzbekistan airport. Only questions remain: What happened to him there? Why did he never try to contact an embassy, who was with him that night in the Hot Cat, why cancelled his landlord his apartment? Was he too hung-over to remember the fact, that Uzbekistan is double land-locked and the nearest shore is one thousand kilometers away? Why did they sent him there in the first place? As we are likely never to find out the answers, what remains are his photographs.

                                                                                                              Herb Proepson, curator of the Finckmeister heritage