Summer Scenes: Berlin Street Photography


recently blogged about the fact that for the time being I’m concentrating on digital photography rather than analog as I used to. Earlier this year I posted architectural photographs from Berlin and London shot mostly with the Fujifilm X30, which was the first project I undertook with the new digital camera. 

I have now also uploaded a of new set of images which I took as part of a second project that I embarked on with digital cameras, namely street photography. This is the first set for this project, and it features colour photographs which were taken this summer, mostly using the Leica X2 camera, but also a Fujifilm X30 and more recently a Fujifilm X-T10. I’m quite enamoured with the Leica’s colour output, I must say, which is why it seemed to me the best choice when heading out on sunny days (although I do wish the camera came with a view finder!). Although Fujifilm cameras do a great job too with colours, I find I use them mostly for black and white.

The project is ongoing, as is summer, so the set may yet change. I’m also putting together a second set with black and white photos which will be up later this summer.

I hadn’t really attempted street photography in Europe recently. When travelling in India and China, I enjoyed photographing people, be it candid shots or casual portraits. Asians in general, and Indians in particular, are very relaxed about being photographed. It’s usually a matter of ‘you shoot me, I shoot you’ attitude, which is all about sharing. Not so in Europe, and particularly in Germany. Germans have this thing what they call ‘the right to your own image.’ They like to cite that to you like a mantra whenever you mention that you photograph strangers. I blame Karl May for that. Karl May is that 19th century German author who wrote novels about the American West (and other exotic locales) without ever having set foot there. He claimed in his novels that Native Americans did not want to be photographed as they believed that it robbed them of their soul (May had a lot of BS theories about Native Americans). Germans, who basically grow up on Karl May, seem to have internalised this philosophy: if you (a stranger) take their image, you rob them of a part of them. At least that’s my theory as to why so many people tell me off, give me the finger, hide their faces or give me the evil eye when I aim the camera in their general direction (ok, I may be a bit harsh here on the Germans, maybe all Westerners have internalized this Karl May philosophy). 

So, to cut a long story short, street photography in Berlin is mostly about stealth. Sometimes some folk consent to begin photographed if you ask nicely, but in general it is best to remain inconspicuous when shooting in the street. This is one of the strengths of the Leica X2 of course, it is small and silent. Using the Leica however presents the challenge of using a fixed 27mm lens,  meaning you have to get close to your subject. That’s one skill I’m still working on, one deep breath at a time….

This set, then, is a representation of a typical urban summer: locals enjoying the elusive sun or coping with the heat, tired tourists trying to put a brave face on things, street people trying to cope with life etc. When selecting the photos for the set, I looked out for two things: that the picture is interesting in itself (or because of its subject), and that somehow it goes beyond being a mere snapshot. I hope I succeeded. 


Enjoy… and have a good summer 🙂 

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