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The photographer Nady El-Tounsy began working on his Ein Tag im Leben von (A Day in the Life of) series after a chance encounter with a collector of refundable bottles and things. This experience incited him to follow a diversity of people during their daily lives – from firemen to celebrities. Dirk Nowitzki was one person the photographer was really keen on. In an interview, he speaks about the beginnings of his project, how close he really got to the pro basketball player – and how close he also got to being thrown out.

LFI: How did you manage to get to photograph people, whether celebrities or not, in their daily lives?
Nady El-Tounsy: Ein Tag im Leben von began somewhat by chance during Carnival season in Cologne. I noticed people going around collecting refundable items. I spoke to one of them quite spontaneously and he had no problem with my documenting his work with my camera – an M9 at the time. I really learnt a lot from Pietro on that day, and it led me to wanting to dive into the daily lives of more people. So from that moment on, I accompanied people whose work I could somehow relate to from my own daily life. While working on the series, I encountered many people who are really enthusiastic by what they do every day, giving the impression that they are following a calling rather than just a profession. It really impressed me deeply every time, and it also motivated me to find new protagonists for the series.

Was the work with Dirk Nowitzki different from those you'd work with previously within the framework of the series?
Getting there took somewhat longer than normal, and the first contact was also more difficult. I normally only follow my protagonists for one day. In Dirk's case – because of the long travel time and the convenience of two home games – I had two days. On location the whole thing was less personal. Dirk is present all over Dallas and everybody wants a piece of him. So you never get him just to yourself. There were always advisers, the trainer, fellow players or fans all around us.

Did this episode influence your approach for later reportages?
Not really, because in front of the camera every person is the same as far as I'm concerned. I don't care what they earn or what their status is. The nice thing about this freelance project is that I can decide myself who I want to follow or ask. In the same manner, the preparation of a person remains fundamentally the same – though on the day of the shoot things are always different and that's what makes it exciting.  

How would you describe a day with Dirk Nowitzki?
I spent many nights in front of the TV watching his games live. Even though he has already achieved so much, he's a very accessible and uncomplicated person, who doesn't take himself too seriously. So I was able to work unhindered and take part in virtually everything – whether during the first training session in the morning or during the warm-up before the game. During one of the quarters of the game against Portland, I had a seat under the basket directly next to the Mavericks' bench.

What was the most astounding moment while working on this reportage?
There wasn't any one particular moment – the thing that astounded me most was how much fun Dirk still has in what he does. It was already his 17th season with the same team. Even so, he laughed a lot, joked around and always came up with some saying or other. Virtually every door was open to me and I was able to move around freely in the hall. It was an absolute privilege and better than I had expected. It was only at the first game against the Warriors that I had to smuggle myself past a steward, and afterwards I was nearly thrown out of the hall. By that time I had already taken the pictures I was after.
Interview: Moritz Klingsporn

All the pictures on this page © Nady El-Tounsy
Equipment: Leica M240 with Summilux-M 1:1.4/24 and 50 Asph, Summicron-M 1:2/35 Asph
© Nady El-Tounsy

Nady El-Tounsy

...was born in Berlin in 1985 and, in fact, never wanted to be a photographer. He was already 23 when he bought his first camera using it to photograph sneakers. A year later, his hobby turned into a profession. Nowadays he mainly photographs reportages and wants to produce honest pictures that capture situations and emotions. He like images that made clear statements, that work without any captions. He has photographed with every generation of digital Leica M, from the M8 and M9, to the M240 and currently the M10.

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