Paul Kranzler was recently dispatched by Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin to photograph a unique tale of obsessive determination. For the last 50 years, Michael Altmann has been digging into the side of an Austrian mountainside with a singular sense of purpose: to just dig deeper.
Altmann’s hobby started simply enough. He wanted to carve out a storage area for cooling beers. But he didn’t stop after reaching a depth of a few hundred centimeters—the resulting tunnel is now over 180 meters long. At 77 years old, Altmann has adapted his approach over the decades to meet any challenge: eventually giving up swinging a pickax for the efficiency of explosives and cobbling together a homemade boring machine. A recent double hip surgery would seem to signal the completion of his work. And while Altmann did indeed stop digging, he’s now covering the walls with a swirling constellation of paintings.
Paul's photos were published in the May 3rd edition of the magazine and they document more than just the gleaming rough-hewn textures of the tunnel walls. In the underground’s faintly golden light, Altmann’s eyes shine with the possibility and creativity needed to sustain 50 years of single-minded devotion. It’s more than a life’s work on display; this is love.
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