As we look at the 40th anniversary of the Great Blizzard that crippled northern Europe and brought both Germanys to a complete standstill, one factor that should not be left out is the role of photography. Prior to the storm, the only way to get a clear picture of the storm was from the ground. There is an advantage and a disadvantage to that. The advantage is one can get a close-up of the places that are snowed in. Whether it is a house that is covered with meter-high drifts, as seen in many examples in villages in Schleswig-Holstein, or getting a sniper view of an iced-in bay as seen in the picture above, taken by Georg Gasch, one can get an at-level view to see the damages up close. The disadvantage of such an approach is the problems of obstruction of view by unwanted objects and in this case, the cold weather. But furthermore, it misses the big picture, meaning one needs a good bird’s eye view in order to see how bad it really was.
Enter Kai Greiser.
Working for the Spiegel magazine based in Hamburg, Greiser was appointed to take the camera and film the scenes from this wild storm, which was tauted as the worst of all time when it happened in 1978/79. Together with the TV crew from German public television ZDF, Greiser took off in a helicopter and took a trip north to Schleswig-Holstein. His mission was to get a bird’s eye view of the snow disaster in the region. What he got in the end was more than what he had bargained for. Because of him and his crew, he saved many lives of those who were stranded in cars drifted in meter deep snow. Because of him and his crew, he got the best picture for the front cover of Spiegel magazine (as seen in the first picture of the gallery), which later appeared in other books on the history of Schleswig-Holstein. Because of him and his crew, his photos, combined with the filming we got a round-look at what the great Blizzard left us from a bird’s eye view. We would have many more ariel photos, but Greiser pioneered it with a series on the great disaster.
There is a video with him narrating about his experience, which can be found here:
An article on his experience, albeit in German, can be found here. And the collection of the créme de la créme can be found here. The first picture in the gallery was the one that entered the cover page of Spiegel.