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Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.

Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.

Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.

Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.

Princess Marianne, 2001


Princess Marianne Fürstin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, or Manni, as she usually prefers to be called, is an extraordinary woman. At eighty-two, she is still slim and elegant, with an impressive mane of natural silver-gray hair that she has always styled herself. She is thrifty and self-reliant, but many of her friends are the wealthiest, most colorful, and creative figures on two continents. She is a respected pillar of Salzburg’s summer society, yet everywhere she goes she brings her camera with which, for fifty years, she has taken photographs full of mischief, sensuality, and spontaneity.
Manni is blessed with boundless energy and an effervescent personality that would seem to be the result of having lived a charmed life. But she has also overcome adversity. She has been marked by the devastation of World War II and its aftermath. Later, she bore the weight of raising five children alone when her husband died suddenly in the early ’60s. Manni was just forty-three.
Before I traveled to Salzburg to talk with her, I asked a variety of Europeans what they knew about Manni. Some of the young people I spoke to considered her only a haughty aristocrat. But another perspective came from a distinguished European scholar who delightedly relayed how, previous to her marriage, Manni had been involved with a Hungarian avant-garde poet who fled to the Soviet Union before the War.
Over the last five decades, Manni has created a personal history of European high society through her photographs of the people she has known. Although she chronicles the jet set, Manni’s pictures shouldn’t be compared to those of a paparazzi. She is too much a part of the scene, and her photos are just too good. Manni’s subjects range from her five children, their children, and their children’s children, to famed musicians, heads of state, titans of industry, and just about everyone else who has made their mark in the world.
On the day of our interview, Manni arrived to pick me up slightly late, but very apologetic. We sped off in her little Ford station wagon, which she handled with an astonishing agility. It struck me that I was going to be speaking with a much more multi-faceted person than I had imagined.
As we traversed the Austrian countryside just outside Salzburg, she explained that to understand her life, I would have to see Glanegg, the castle where she grew up. As we entered the pastoral estate, which was inherited by Manni’s brother, we passed into a realm of almost storybook beauty. Beech trees lined either side of the kilometer-long road that curled up to the hilltop castle and its outbuildings. In Austria, what is called a castle is often actually a baroque chateau. But Glanegg really is a castle — a thick-walled vertical keep that was only later modified with large windows in a nineteenth-century style. The main structure had been built by her distant forebears in 900 A.D.
Manni recounted that she had left Glanegg in 1942 to marry a German royal, Prince Ludwig Fürst zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. “I was twenty-two when I married Udi, which was considered late. You can imagine how sad I was to leave when I finally moved to Sayn. My childhood had been heaven. We all had so much fun.” She stopped the car in the small courtyard before the front entrance of the stone tower, which is nowadays painted a warm yellow. Geraniums in window boxes and a rich green border of leafy shrubs gave the setting a cozy feeling. It was easy to picture Manni and her eight younger sisters and her brother having the run of the place in the 1920s and ’30s — not suspecting the cataclysmic events that would soon destroy much of Europe.
As her forthright nature demands, Manni did not shy away from the topic when I asked her about the War. On the contrary, she was anxious to discuss those desperate years. Two of Manni’s uncles were sent to Dachau for resisting the Nazi regime. Udi was drafted into the German army, while she was left with their two young children in Salzburg. Manni spent the last several years of the conflict knowing only that her husband was missing in action — as it turned out, he had survived and been held as a prisoner of war in England.
After Udi and Manni were reunited in Salzburg in 1946, they decided to attempt to make their way back to Sayn. But, Manni told me, “first we had to go to a camp for displaced persons, a sort of quarantine. I left the children in Salzburg with my parents, and Udi and I took a freight train to West Germany. It was the middle of winter and bitterly cold, but a friend had given us a small coal stove to keep us warm. It saved us. We thought the journey would only take a couple of days, but it took ten.”
Upon their arrival in Sayn, they found that Udi’s family seat had been blown up by retreating German soldiers. “I tell you, the only thing that mattered to me at that point was life, and I was just happy to be there with my husband, and to know my two children were safe.”
Manni and Udi were given a room by a local priest. The stove was the couple’s only source of heat during a winter in which scores of people froze to death in the defeated countries of northern Europe. “I remember once I walked home along the railroad tracks in the snow and found fourteen briquets of coal. Oh, they seemed like gold. Tears came when I saw them. It took me quite a while to pile them up and carry them, as the snow was quite deep. When my husband came home and saw the coal, it was like Christmas.”
The war reduced the Rhineland to an almost primitive state. Most of the basic necessities of life were difficult to come by, whether one was a farmer or a titled aristocrat. In fact, Manni and Udi spent the next few years growing vegetables and flowers and selling them in local markets. But as time passed, their lives returned to normal. Manni took up her childhood hobby of photography again.
Manni’s photo book, Mamarazza, published by Steidl in 2000, is a filmic view of the past fifty years of Manni’s expansive life. Her pictures document everything from family Easter egg hunts, to royal weddings, to spirited late night parties, to the auto races that have always fascinated her.
As we approached her little country lodge in Fuschl, Manni told me about another incident which spoke eloquently of the complexity of World War II’s effects and the depth of her character. On her first visit to New York after the War, Manni was staying at the Plaza Hotel with her husband. It was the ’50s, and such luxuries were again possible to this well-born young couple. Late one afternoon, after some shopping, Manni got into a cab and asked to be taken to the Plaza. “I didn’t quite realize until we’d been moving for a few minutes that we weren’t headed toward the Plaza, so I said again, ‘The Plaza Hotel, please.’ No answer. We drove up Third Avenue — up, up, up. All the while I was asking him to stop. Up, up we went. Finally he stopped. By then it was dark, of course. We had pulled up in front of a burned-out building in Harlem. And then he suddenly said in German, with a Jewish accent, ‘I can hear where you’re from. And now I will tell you in German how the Nazis murdered thirty-two members of my family.’ So he started to talk about it, and I didn’t know what he might do to me, because it was the first time that the poor man had heard the terrible German language again after all he had gone through. Then for some unknown reason, I got out of the back seat and sat down next to him in front. I had to see his face. And I started to cry. After about an hour of hearing his story, I began to talk about the war, and how it felt from my side. We lay in each other’s arms crying, and then he took me home.”
Her story was painful, but powerful. After spending the afternoon with Manni in Fuschl, I could easily envision the rapport she must have had with that cab driver years ago. There is a generosity of spirit that comes through in everything Manni does, from her photography, to her famous summer luncheons, to her absolute devotion to her large, extended family. When you’re with Manni, you feel like family. Not a bad trick for a Princess.

MARIANNE:  Yes, because we were alive, we had made it. I remember in the evenings, after our work was done, my husband would clean out our little three-wheel truck that we used to carry soil and wood. We would change into evening dress, which we made out of carpets or whatever, and drive the twenty minutes to Bonn, the capitol.  Many of our friends were diplomats, and we’d have a great time.  And then Udi and I would drive back and start to work again at six o'clock in the morning.

PETER: Things have changed so much since then. What do you think about Europe today, as opposed to in 1950?
MARIANNE: People have changed for the worse in a way. After the war, as I said, life was so important.  If you invited someone over and had a big loaf of bread and oh, maybe homemade marmalade, it was a feast.  But we all got spoiled. We have become self-centered and money-minded over time.

PETER: It’s the same in the States.
MARIANNE: That's why I'm so happy to be here in Fuschl. I’m glad that I’ve been able to show my children that money doesn't count, having a big house doesn't matter. I remember the first few times I invited people here, my children would protest. They’d say, “Our house is too small. You can’t invite the president or the king here, we have no stuff.” And I said, "Now, listen children, they come because they like me.  They don't come because there are fifty waiters and fancy catering. We do goulash, venison, and spaetzle and that's it."

PETER: I know you’ve had some amazing visitors here. Is it true that Anwar Sadat and his wife visited around the time of the Camp David Accords?
MARIANNE: That was in '78. I was weeding in my garden and I had my little radio next to me.  The news came on and said, "President Sadat and his wife just arrived at Schloss Fuschl,” which is the hotel just down the hill from me. I thought, "Oh, the poor man.  He will only meet the stupid Mayor of Salzburg and all these official people.  He should meet down-to-earth people like me — real Austrians."  So I went to the kitchen and I wrote a letter to his wife, in which I said something about myself and where I live.  Then I said, "I would be delighted and honored if you and your husband, the president, would come and pay me a visit.  If you look out of your window, you can just see my little property and my house."  I drove over in my rubber boots and handed the letter to the first policeman I saw, and asked him to take it to Madame Sadat. I went back to weeding and I thought, "Oh well, I'll never hear."  Suddenly the telephone rang, and I could see the person on the other end talking to me through his window in the hotel. He was bowing. He said, "We just received your letter. Madame Sadat and the president will be delighted to pay you a visit tomorrow morning." 

PETER: What were they like?

MARIANNE: Unfortunately, half an hour after they arrived, the telephone rang. It turned out that the president had to go back to the Schloss Fuschl immediately because the Israeli diplomat who he was to meet with had arrived early. But Madame Sadat stayed here all day long. What a charming lady.  She was interested in everything — "Now, where did you have that chair made?" and “How do you cook?" and “How do you educate your children about religion?"  Everything.

PETER:  How did your summer luncheons start?
MARIANNE: I don't remember.  I do it because I just love meeting people. Everyone interests me.

PETER: What impressed me about being here last year was that there were many different types of guests — opera singers, artists, politicians, your old friends and their children.
MARIANNE:  And Thomas, the farmer from around the way who makes the best goat cheese. I adore him.

PETER: And Margaret Thatcher came to one of your parties as well?
MARIANNE: Oh yes, I met her one morning nearby in Saint Gilgen. I said, "I live right over the hill and I have a little shooting lodge. I’m having a luncheon today, and I would be delighted if you could come." She thanked me, but said it was impossible because of her schedule. Then as an afterthought, I said, "How sad — I believe Sean Connery will be coming." She said, “You mean James Bond?”

PETER: What British Prime Minister wouldn’t want to meet 007?
MARIANNE: I drove back home, where I already had thirty guests waiting for me! Eventually, this black limousine pulled up and Mrs. Thatcher’s bodyguards swarmed out into the woods — they were everywhere. She had a great time, of course.

PETER: Manni, the desire to photograph every day, or over so many years, is very much the impulse of an artist.  Do you know why you’ve been drawn to it?
MARIANNE:  I want to keep the memory of a certain face, an expression, a lovely landscape. Also, after my husband died, the thing I missed most was being able to say to him,  "Darling, look. How interesting." Maybe that's why I started to focus on taking pictures — so I could share them with my children and friends.
PETER:  You’ve met so many people who’ve played roles in changing history. King Juan Carlos of Spain is another. If you were to choose a word to describe him, what would it be?
MARIANNE: Maybe that he's so human.  He's down to earth. 

PETER:  A Spanish friend once told me a story about the time a friend of his got a flat tire in the countryside in Spain. A man rode up on a motorcycle, and stopped to help him change the tire. It took this guy a few minutes to realize that it was the king! 
MARIANNE:  That's typical. I still remember my first professional appointment photographing him.

PETER:  Was this when you were working for Bunte, the German magazine?
MARIANNE:  Yes. They asked if I would like to go to Spain and photograph the king and queen. I didn't want to tell them that I knew Juan Carlos and his wife Sofia from all sorts of weddings and events.  So the magazine went ahead and organized the trip to Madrid. I was so ignorant — I thought I would be the only member of the press there, because my editor had said, "You have an appointment on Tuesday at five o'clock." I went to the palace and there were fifty photographers and five television crews!  We were all squeezed together waiting for the king and queen. And I was in the back row because I was one of the tallest.

PETER: So it was just a photo opportunity.
MARIANNE: Then the king and queen arrived and were formally introduced. Suddenly Juan Carlos looked up and said, "Manni, what are you doing here?" I went to the front and curtsied — with all my cameras dangling — and told him that I was on assignment. He called over to the queen and said, "Sofi, come see, Manni is a professional!"  It was so amusing.

PETER:  I bet you got some great shots after all.
MARIANNE:  Yes, Juan Carlos whispered to me to stay until after the others had gone — and then come in and have tea and take some pictures. Of course, you shoot the best photos when people are completely at ease.

PETER: That sense of informality comes through in all your work. I’m thinking of your photo of Maria Callas in the water. It’s a great picture and a unique document.
MARIANNE:  Well, she was snorkeling.

PETER:  With her dog on her back?
MARIANNE: Right. I was staying on Count Theo Rossi’s beautiful boat off Skorpios. Rossi was a great friend of Aristotle Onassis, so Ari and Maria would come over to swim with us. For days and days I kept asking Maria if she would sing for us, but she refused. Then one day, she came and sat next to me, with her little dog in her lap, and said, "Did you know that Djedda can sing?" She insisted that the dog could sing!

PETER: That’s pretty strange.
MARIANNE: Then suddenly I felt Maria singing next to me — not an aria, just for a few seconds — but with such strength that I nearly fell over. And poor little Djedda started yowling because her eardrums had nearly burst. Maria said, "You see, Djedda can sing." [laughs] She was amazing.

PETER: You’ve also taken great pictures of car races over the years. How did you get interested in that world?
MARIANNE: Sayn is very close to the Nürburgring, which is a famous German track.  And Udi was always interested in car races, like any man would be. So we’d go and take the children along.

PETER: That era of car racing was very glamorous.
MARIANNE:  It was fantastic.  We used to go to Monte Carlo, and I’d take photographs. But these days you’re not allowed to go anywhere near the action — I can see it better on television.

PETER:  Do you have a favorite place in Europe beside your home in Fuschl?
MARIANNE: Well, I love Venice in the off-season. But every time I come back from a journey, I’m very thankful for this paradise — it was my father who gave me this property.

PETER: Throughout your life I imagine you've seen people in your circle go through all sorts of upheavals, like divorces, scandals, and other personal difficulties. Some people of your stature automatically react with moral disapproval. But you yourself seem very tolerant.
MARIANNE: My philosophy is to try to understand other people’s decisions. In those situations, what can I say?  I can't blame her, I can't blame him.  I try to be nice to both. I would never say, "It's terrible what you did." I can't do that.  You never know all the details. It's just sad.

PETER: That’s real wisdom. I want to ask you how your book came about. It seems like a massive undertaking. There are hundreds of photographs.
MARIANNE: When I turned eighty, I thought it would be a good moment to come out with a book. I had been talking with several publishers in Munich, but their ideas were completely stupid. Then I called Karl Lagerfeld, who is a friend of mine. He's a very good photographer. So I asked him where he publishes his books. He said, "What a question! With Steidl."  I had never heard the name in my life. Then, thank god, Karl offered to speak to Mr. Steidl for me, because it usually takes him a year and a half to begin a project, even if he likes your photos. 

PETER: He does excellent books.
MARIANNE: So the very next day I was in Munich in my apartment, and got a phone call.  "Hello, Steidl here.  I have something to do in Munich tomorrow."  Of course that wasn’t true. “I could come to see you.” I said all right, and the following day he arrived and we drove down to Fuschl. I left him in the basement where I keep the photo albums and went off to press some shirts. I was sure he would say something like, "It's quite nice but it's not what I’m looking for.” After an hour or so he told me he wanted to do the book right away. So I stayed here from October to Christmas —

PETER: — it must have been so much work.
MARIANNE: I sat at the kitchen table for two months, going through three hundred albums, fifty years, page by page, and putting stickers on the photos I wanted to use. I hadn’t looked at the albums since I put the pictures in.

PETER:  You had never looked at them?
MARIANNE: It was completely new to me.  Before Christmas, the albums were packed off to Göttingen, in Northern Germany, which is where Steidl is headquartered.

PETER: Were you involved in production too?
MARIANNE: Oh yes, I went to Göttingen and worked with two assistants to put the book together. The very first day, I said to Mr. Steidl, "Now, it's one o'clock. I'm leaving.  I want to eat spaghetti and drink a glass of wine.  I'll come back in half an hour."  He looked at me and said, "You will stay here like all the others. We can't work if everybody runs off eating." So we ate in the office. Every day it was Fuschl bacon, black bread, and sharpen your pencil.  We were not allowed to leave before eleven o'clock at night, because Steidl himself works until midnight.

PETER: Manni, you have so much energy. You never seem to back away from a challenge. 
MARIANNE: The day is too short for me, because of my curiosity. When I wake up, I always think, “Who will I meet?  What will I hear?” 

PETER: You have said that one of the most important things you learned from your husband was not to be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know.
MARIANNE: Yes, it’s so important.  I'm terribly strict with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about this. If I see two cousins at a gathering just talking to each other, I always say, "Will you please go and talk to those people over there.” I’m always telling them to mix with the people across the room, to be the one who approaches. I tell them, "People are so interesting.  Open your ears and listen.”  


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