Portraits…

… and a look at where I’m now.

2017 is almost half over, so this might be a good moment to reflect on how the year has been so far in terms of photography. To put it bluntly: I think I’ve had better years. The year started out strong with a trip to Morocco which provided plenty of photo opportunities, and I came back with a good number of images with which I was more than satisfied. But back in Berlin’s ‘grey season’, that long miserable sunless season into which autumn, winter and spring have nowadays morphed, things started to look bleak. Blame it on the weather, blame it on extended stress at work, or on just a general lack of energy, but I found it near impossible to take decent photos, especially street photos. I found it hard to get excited, neither about people nor light nor context. If on occasion I did  shoot some photos, the results were less than stellar and this discouraged me even more. Add to that that I felt increasingly uncomfortable accosting people and asking their permission to photograph them, something which I had overcome easy enough in previous years in order to pursue what I like best in street photography, i.e. street portraiture. I’ve only recently started doing this again, on a recent trip to London and lately also back here in Berlin.

DSCF7915Now I know I’m not the first photographer to hit a low and to feel uninspired, and I know it will pass. Anyway, this blog post is not about me wallowing in self pity. It’s really about the parts that did work.

As street photography left me uninspired, I retreated into a comfort zone of sorts by turning to the portraiture of friends and acquaintances. Now, portrait photography was something I wanted to get into more anyway, so it didn’t necessarily feel like a retreat but a step forward. I took part in a portrait workshop which not only let me work with a model but also with other people who were comfortable in having their picture taken and from which I stepped away with good results. The work shop was about portrait photography in available light, and I have another workshop lined up for portraiture in artificial light. 

Normally I wait with the ‘best of’ series until the end of the year. But I figured I could motivate myself by actually taking a look at what I achieved rather than moping about what I didn’t. So I put together this set with a selection of the portraits that I have taken so far this year. They include photos from the workshop, portraits of my friends and a couple of street portraits as well. All were shot on Fuji X-Series cameras, notably my new X-T20, it’s predecessor the X-T10, and the faithful old X-E2 which I keep around. Enjoy.

Links:

Portraits 2017

Portraits 2016

more people photographs

(Note: this is an updated version of an entry posted earlier)

Walli

This nice man named Walli was just getting ready to go skating in Berlin’s Gleisdreieck Parc when I asked if I could take his photo. He readily agreed. Afterwards he asked what I would do with the pic, and I told him I’d post it to my web site. I then showed him my web site, and he was cool with it. I wish there were more cool people like that in Berlin.

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20 with 56mmR1.2 lens.

Mario Testino – Undressed

(Mario Testino Undressed exhibition at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin)

I should start by saying that I’m not a big fan of Helmut Newton’s nudes – for me there is something unsettling about the sensationalist, voyeuristic way in which Newton stages his (all female) models. Having said that, I was happy to see the Helmut Newton Foundation here in Berlin host the works of Mario Testino, a friend of Helmut Newton’s, who approaches nude photography in a totally different manner – but more on that later; first a word on the exhibition itself.

The show is entitled Undressed, and its set-up has been created specifically for this site. The photos have been blown up larger than life and glued directly on the walls, almost covering every inch of wall space available. So basically one wanders through a maze of nude figures. The effect is mesmerising, and a game changer: you’re not peering (peeping?) at details in tiny to poster-sized images, instead the images and their content are right in your face. Quite a bold step for an installation of nudes which literally hide nothing.


Now back to Pestino’s work itself. The show is billed as examining the boundaries between fashion, eroticism and art. The fashion part itself is almost non-existant. Instead, the photos represent models (both famous and unknown) in both formal and informal settings. Some are staged (and look that way), while others (and for me the best) have a candid vibe about them. There is a playfulness about the images and the way that the models are presented which makes the nudity seem casual, almost irrelevant – in other words, lacking the voyeuristic aspect of Newton’s nudes. Testino also features models across the gender spectrum: female, male, and androgynous. While some images highlight the maleness or femaleness of the respective models, this is put into perspective by juxtaposition to those images which mix up and question the gender norms.


Undressed is on until November 2017. It is accompanied by a publication of the same name by the renowned Taschen publisher.

On a side note, the museum currently also features a temporary exhibition of Helmut Newton photos (apart from the permanent exhibition), entitled ‘Unseen’, most of which stem from portrait and fashion shootings which Newton undertook for various publications. This show I also enjoyed a lot.

Links: 

– The Helmut Newton Foundation 
Undressed
by Mario Testino, published by Taschen

Watching the Watchers at Versailles

Despite having been to Paris numerous times, I never got around to visiting the castle of Versailles. So on my recent trip to Paris a couple of weeks ago, I decided to remedy this. I don’t know if this was a bad idea in general, or just bad timing, but I waited in line for two hours and twenty minutes to get into the castle. The place was packed of course, especially since whole tourist groups are led through there and clog up the rooms. While under normal circumstances, Versailles might be well worth a visit for both the history and the richness of the décor and art on display, but as the place was overcrowded, I got very little joy out of it. What joy I did get resulted from observing the people, many of whom seem to get their joy out of seeing the castle through their smart phones and tablets. Here is a selection:

London Street Photos (Part 2, Colour)

More street photography from London, this time in bright Velvia colours. Taken in and around Camden Market in North London, and Brick Lane in the East End. Both these places attract street photographers, I saw quite a few out and about. Most seem to use zoom lenses (some of them obscenenely huge). I myself prefer prime lenses, here I used the 35mm. For some reason I don’t like zooming in on people – I feel like a Peeping Tom doing that. But maybe that’s just me? Did I watch too many bad movies?

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20 with 35mmR1.4 lens. 
 



London Street Photos (Part 1, Black and White)

It’s been a while… here are some new street portraits and street photographs from a sunny day in London. There is nothing like travelling to get the creative juices flowing. That, and decent weather, i.e. light. 

All images shot with a Fujifilm X-T20 camera and the 35mmR1.4 lens. Colour photographs to follow…

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Portraits

This weekend I took part in an “available light” portrait workshop. This was actually my first time working with a professional model, and I found it quite a joy to work with someone completely at ease in front of the camera, someone who knows how to look and how to pose. The model is the girl depicted in the pics below, the other folks shown were other participants.

I used my Fujifilm X-T20 with the 56mm1.2 lens, making great use of the lens’ large aperture.

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Testing the New Fujifilm X-T20

I have worked with Fujifilm’s X-T10 camera for the past year and a half, and loved it as its unobtrusive size and shape is exactly what I was looking for my street photography, while the choice of available Fujinon lenses provides the versatility to undertake other kinds of photography, namely portrait and urban/architecture. A couple of weeks ago I decided to upgrade to Fujifilm’s new X-T20 camera, mostly for three reasons: the greater resolution, the new black and white Acros film simulation and the touch-screen.

I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to try the camera, but I did take it for a couple of test runs around Berlin and asked a few friends to pose. The new camera does not disappoint, on the contrary. Everything I loved about the X-T10 is still there, of course: the retro look and feel, the small size and weight, the handy dials, the colour rendering and the overall image quality, and the simplicity of the menu.

These are the major points which I noticed:

  • I would argue that the new sensor and the resolution increase alone are worth the price. The photos look incredibly sharp.
  • The Acros film simulation isn’t new, Fujifilm premiered it last year with its Pro X-Series models. Users of those models have been raving about it, and I can see why: it is very film-like and convincing, and does indeed produce great results.
  • Not so convincing: the touch-screen. Nice for flipping through the camera roll, not so nice if like me you prefer to use the viewfinder to shoot: I found myself changing the focus point with, literally, the tip of my nose when looking through the view finder. I subsequently turned the feature of for shooting. Also, for some reason, the touch-screen lets you focus everywhere except in the centre of the image. Missing is the ability to use touch to scroll through the menus.
  • Nice improvements to the camera’s user expencience: a new customisable menu, the removal of the video button (replaced by a programmable function button), touch-screen functionality to flip through the camera roll and to zoom in and out.
  • One item I regret: on the X-T10, eye detection could be turned on and off by simply pressing a function button. The X-T20 offers more options for eye detection, and thus one needs to scroll through a sub-menu in order to change the settings, which takes more time.
  • Not tested: the camera offers an array of options for auto-focus of subjects in motion. I have not had a chance to test this yet. The same goes for pixel mapping as well as the enhanced video capabilities.

In summary, I’m quite happy to have made the upgrade and I can’t wait to take the camera for more test runs.

Find below a sample of the test results.

Quasimono. Lens: 35mmF2.0. Acros film simulation.
Kool Kasai. Lens: 56mmF1.4. Acros film simulation.
Berlin From Above. Lens: 35mmF2. Acros film simulation.
Mario. Lens: 35mmF2.0. Velvia film simulation.
Urban Sunset. Lens: 27mmF2.8. Velvia film simulation.
Urban Sunset. Lens: 27mmF2.8. Classic Chrome film simulation.
Raver Dude. Lens: 27mmF2.8. Velvia film simulation.