Back To The Basics

My last blog entry was 9 months ago. In the real world, that’s a long time. In the digital age, that‘s an eternity. A digital generation may have come and gone, another digital revolution may have happened. I blinked and I missed it. And yet, the world is still here.

9 months may be long, or 9 months may be short. Time is malleable, it’s also subjective, it’s as much subject to change in the past as it is in the present and the future.

Being gone from social media for 9 months may spell death and disaster, oblivion at the very least. And yet, I am still here.

The world moved on, and I with it. A health-related time-out last summer gave me pause to reflect. About where I was in my life, about what is to come, at an age where I can probably count my remaining years on my fingers and toes.

Much of my life has been a tug-of-war between stability and roaming. Living in the same city, Berlin, for 25+ years, even living in the same flat for nigh on 20 years, and yet, born to run… and to always come back (to quote Bruce Springsteen – I guess there is a reason the website is called Always Arriving). Roaming the world in the short spaces of time that a regular job allows; the dichotomy of having a job that doesn’t give you the time you need for roaming, yet pays the bills to do so.

I resolved to work out some of the issues. Starting September I will be off work, and I’m currently planning for the future, starting with finding NGOs where I can do volunteer work for a while.

Much of my photography has equally been torn between opposite ends. Portrait photography, urban, travel; digital, instant, analog…. Photography-wise, I also decided it is time to focus. I took a good look at what I did over the last few years. What I enjoyed, and where my strengths lie. For almost twenty years I’ve been maintaining my web site, Always Arriving, a testimony to the tug-of-war between the disparate areas of photography I dabbled in over the years. Yet looking at the last few years, it’s also obvious that what I like, and what I think I do best, has steadfastly moved towards the forefront and the center of my work: portraiture. Where once I did street photography and travel photography, the focus shifted to street portraiture, whether at home in Berlin, or in the places I traveled to. Based on the more casual personal portraits I have been shooting since forever, I took an interest in more formal portrait work which I explored over the last couple of years, with several projects lined up for the immediate future.

As a result, I reorganised my web site. It finally includes a portfolio, with a series of galleries that reflect the work of mainly the last three years:

Pose

 As the title indicates, this set features the formal portraits.

Edge

This set showcases the Berlin based street portraits, highlighting an aspect which always intrigues me, which is capturing people who by their looks or their demeanour demonstrate their willingness to live away from the mainstream, to live at the edge of society. 


India / World

Street portraits from various trips, with a focus on India where I have been returning to regularly over the last six years; but also Morocco, Italy and other various European destinations.

Pride

Portraits (not candid shots) from Berlin’s Gay Pride events.

Up Close

Portraits of friends and people around me.

In the coming weeks, I will be talking a bit more about the different aspects reflected in the various collections. For now though, please have a look at the new Portfolio, and let me know what you think. All feedback is welcome.

You can also follow me on Instagram or Flickr to stay tuned to my most current work. Cheers.

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Portraits: Sandra

I finally got back to shooting portrait photography. As a first for me, I did a workshop for shooting in completely artificial lights (all my previous sessions always involved natural light to some measure), playing around with single or multiple light sources as well as flash and LED lightening as well as high key and low key settings, featuring this lovely model called Sandra.

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20 with 56mm1.2 lens.

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Exterior Night: Berlin

Winter is now truly behind us, so it is time to finish up an urban photography project which I undertook this winter. Taking advantage of the short day, or rather the long nights of Berlin’s winter season, I set out to shoot different aspects of night in the city. I tried to catch the glittering lights of the glass towers, the surreal effects of reflections within reflections when shooting from inside out, the stark, gritty and sometimes surreal sights of industrial sites, and more intimate views of empty, lit interiors, looking in from the outside.

Most of the photos were captured on my Fujifilm X-E2, which is the camera I tend to carry around with me every day. Some were shot on the X-T20, and a few using the iPhone X, whose capacity to shoot in low light is amazing and served the project well.

All this I gathered in a selection which I entitled Exterior Night: Berlin, which can now be found on my web site. Enjoy, and as always, feedback is welcome….

Best Of Portraits 2017

Looking back on 2017, I can tell that my photography moved in two directions: sideways and forwards. Sideways because I moved away from the main focus of the previous years which was candid street photography, and towards portrait photography, either in the form of street portraiture (i.e. capturing strangers on the street) or of capturing people around me.

I also felt that my photography moved forward because I adopted a more formal approach in shooting portraits. That is, I did not just casually photograph people around me, but directed people in various settings so as to play with light, background and angles. I shoot mostly in natural light but I warmed to using flash photography in combination with natural light. I also undertook dedicated portrait sessions. One was in the form of a workshop which included a model, another one was a photo session with my friend Rehan in Kolkata to create a series of portrait/fashion shoots in order to enable him creating a portfolio for his burgeoning model career. I used exclusively Fujifilm X-Series cameras, and while a 35mm is my lens of choice for the street, I shot the more formal sessions using a 56mm f1.2 lens.

I have now put together a set of what I consider the best of my portrait shoots from 2017. The set reflects both the street and the formal portrait approach [click here to view].

Not included in the set are the street portraits which I took in Kerala/India in October 2017, you can view those in a dedicated set [here].

For more of my people photography, click here.

Wishing you all a very good 2018, and may your life and your art move in whichever direction you want them to move.

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Exterior/Interior Night

There is something about cities at night when the streets empty, the shops close down and the lights from inside shine out. The night hides but it also reveals. Interiors and entrances light up as the night swallows the outside. Buildings appear differently, warmer, colder, stranger, depending on the light. Glimpses of lives that stay unnoticed during the day are suddenly revealed, while other sides of life hide away.

Glimpses of urban Berlin, inside out.

Camera: Fujifilm X-E2

Making Shapes

Donna from the MyOBT Blog contacted me back in October to ask if she could post a blog entry on my non-portrait photography, specifically the photos I had taken of building interiors. She posted the article back in October. I was travelling in India at the time and failed to respond properly then, and somehow it slipped my mind upon my return. Well here then finally, a big thank you to Donna for featuring my photos, and a big shout-out to her wonderful blog.

My OBT

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Tales of Strangers #5: Flieger

Along the river Spree in Berlin, tugged in between newly built posh riverside residencies, lies a squatter’s camp called Teepee Land. It has been founded by and is run by this man, who calls himself “Flieger”, which may be translated either as flyer or as aircraft. I walked through the camp last Saturday and asked Flieger if I could take a few photos, and I also spent some time chatting with him. While now, in winter, there aren’t that many people living here, he says they have some five hundred people pass through every year. People come from all over the world, many Europeans of course but also people from Africa and Asia. They live, as the name implies, mostly in teepees (so does Flieger), or in makeshift huts. Some pass through, but others seem to have settled on a more permanent basis. The coloured hut in the background is where a Japanese man is staying, one tent was occupied by a gay couple from Eastern Europe who fled repercussions in their home country; there is a also a Turkish man living there who became homeless after being forced from his flat by unscrupulous landlords who want to cash in on Berlin’s steep increase in rents. The camp also features a stage where they hold concerts in the summer, and a café where you pay as much as you like for your drink.

Flieger seems to choose the people who can live here, and he seems to choose them on the basis of whether they can contribute in maintaining not only their own teepee or hut, but the camp as well, as all inhabitants are expected to help keep the camp clean and functioning.Apparently the camp’s inhabitants have a good working relationship with the city government, and despite the fact that more apartment buildings are going up around them, Flieger has been assured that they can remain for the ‘foreseeable future’ (the camp is on public land). That is some measure of good news I guess.

The Photos below show Teepee Land. The colour photos were taken this past weekend while the black and white ones were taken in the summer.

Faces of Kerala: The Whole Picture

If you enjoyed my previous three blog posts about the portraits which I took while travelling the South Indian state of Kerala (starting with this one here), then hopefully you will enjoy this new set of portraits which I uploaded to my web site, Always Arriving. The set features a selection of 40 single and group portraits taken throughout my 10-day itinerary which took me from Kovalam to Trivandrum, Varkala, Kollam, Alleppey and finally Kochi. This my 12th trip to India was a very memorable one, I hugely enjoyed Kerala. The nature is spectacular, food is great and the people warm and welcoming, and I have come back from the trip with some very fond memories.

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X-T20. For the portraits, I used exclusively the 35mm f1.4 lens, which despite its shortcomings (it is kinda slow) is still my go-to lens for street portraiture and street photography. While there are three black and white photos in the set, in India I very much enjoy shooting colour, as the very many vibrant colours are one of the defining visual aspects of India.

[Click here to view Faces of Kerala]

Faces of Kerala: Meet Me On the Streets

The final part of this series on portraits of people from Kerala, India. I travelled the South Indian state for 10 days, travelling from Kovalam to Varkala, Kollam, Alleppey and finally Kochi before heading north to Kolkata.

This article features regular folks which I asked to pose around the streets of these various places; or as happened in at least one case, where I was asked to take a photo (see the photo of the gentleman with the many-coloured buckets below). Most of the photos I took in Kollam, a city that many people told me wasn’t worth a visit but which I hugely enjoyed. It was utterly devoid of tourists and I roamed its streets for two days, meeting and photographing these folks you see depicted below.

The images epitomise much of what I like about India and why I keep returning there (this was my 12th trip): the warmth and generosity of the people which make each trip memorable. It shows in the photos, in how the people not only trust this stranger in capturing their portraits but also rejoice in it, and even take pride in it. It’s such a welcome contrast to the mistrust one encounters when trying to photograph people over here in Europe.

The next trip, by the way, is already in planning…

Graveyard Guard, Kollam

The Proud House Owner, Kollam 

Fruit Vendors, Kollam

The Reed Weaver, Kollam

The Lady by the Harbour, Kollam 

Working the Streets, Kollam 

Handyman, Kollam 

The Proud Shop Owner, Kollam

Fruit Vendor, Alleppey

Man on he Train, Alleppey to Kochi

An Umbrella For My Pride, Fort Kochi

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20 with 35mm lens.