The Spirit of the Ghosts – Don’t Let it Fade

By Peter Eichhorn

Credit: Hauke G. Thüring


The witching hour is more than just midnight. After all, around the witching hour many of us would love to hang out at our country’s bars again, consume spirits and enjoy their dedicated hospitality to the full. However – this is not allowed.


Now everyone prepares their own cocktails with melancholic nostalgia, observing the current situation with worry while looking to the future with hopeful optimism. These mixed feelings are also exuded by the images of the “Geisterbars” (ghost bars) project, initiated by Munich-based photographer, filmmaker and globetrotter Jochen Hirschfeld. He is a household name in the bar community. Under the alias “Van Hagen” he has married the atmospheric world of bar culture with his idiosyncratic signature visuals.  

With his images he triggers memories of places, and as a cocktail lover and barfly he also always jogs our taste memories. With an “Aloha” on his lips, his proven Tiki style and a smoking pipe he is known and loved for his style-assured hallmarks.  

Hirschfeld also misses the barfly lifestyle walking past the empty bars and deserted restaurant forecourts in his hometown of Munich.  

The otherwise so vibrant world of delicious drinks and cheerful socialising had become like a ghost town.  

This sight gave rise to this photo project called “Geisterbar” and the slogan “I want to be a host, not a ghost.”


And inspired by Oscar Wilde’s famous words “to do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual” the photographer started his project. 

Credit: Jochen Hirschfeld

Credit: Jochen Hirschfeld

Hirschfeld reports: “With a view to helping the good spirits of hospitality and raising people’s awareness for them, I have been working on a two-piece photo project. The photos capture a critical moment of fragility. For many landlords their very existence is at stake. They are making great sacrifices and doing their bit for the community. Many are born fighters and don’t complain. So they should not be ignored and their memory should not be allowed to fade. Echoing the play on words in support of the art scene “Ohne K.uns.t wird’s still!” (life will be quiet without us/art) our lives will also become lonelier without these places of hospitality and the human beings welcoming us there. We have to breathe new life into these ghosts. Photographers from other cities are most welcome to join this ‘open source’ project.”

The special aesthetics of these images never fail to touch the observer. Especially when they know these “ghosts” personally and understand how they and the bar family feel. However, Jochen Hirschfeld does not stop at the visuals and goes on to explain: “The pandemic has hit the bar community particularly hard. Even though bars have shown such exemplary compliance without grumbling. The second part of the project is about supporting your favourite bar in concrete, financial terms. Direct and without any red tape. The basic idea: Our ghosts are currently still not granted access to the earthly human world yet but they can still enchant our sparse pandemic life with their skilled alchemy. I have given some thought to how bars could generate revenue beyond take-away cocktails – and how I can help them. Then I got the idea of personalised cocktail creations. Tailor-made to suit personal preferences, be it on the basis of a favourite spirit, a classic movie or a poem.”

A drink like this, staged and publicised on social media by Hirschfeld or one of his photographer colleagues who have joined the fray so far, costs EUR 500. 

Credit: Barroom TwentyTwenty

The project is currently seeing steady growth. Hirschfeld rejoices: “The whole thing has its price and value. After all, we want to make an impact and the bar receives the complete sum. In return you get something money can’t buy. The organisers have now proudly announced that the magical number of 100 ghost drinks is within reach. Having supported the bar community not only with beautiful visuals and a little distraction from our everyday routine but also with a tangible five-digit sum gives us a great feeling and incentivises us to drive this project further, also over the coming weeks and months.”

At the end of the day, however, Jochen Hirschfeld also hopes for the sector’s comeback: “In the final analysis there is the hope that new life will soon be breathed into the ghosts and that bars will be allowed to open their doors again. Until then we would like to draw attention to as many bars as possible and hope to prompt the creation of even more ghost drinks.”