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.
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.
Casablanca was my fourth stop on my Morocco itinerary. I had allocated only two days for it, mostly on the recommendations of friends and guidebooks who claimed that there was not much to see in Casablanca. They were wrong.
There are basically three sections to the set. The first one is a series of photos which I took around and inside the huge Hassan II Mosque, which is the largest mosque outside of Saudi-Arabia, and one of the very few mosques in Morocco where non-Muslims are allowed to enter. It is a fascinating building, and quite an engineering feat. It also understands itself as an inclusive place of worship, incorporating design elements from Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism.
The second group of photos were taken by the seaside, on and near the “corniche” at Anfa. Here I shot the dilapidated, enpty seaside resorts and other once-modern buildings by the sea. These photos are in colour, the rest are in black and white.
The third group of photos I took in the city center, featuring chiefly the art deco buildings from colonial times. Additional photos highlight the new, modern architecture along the sea front.
One of my tourist guidebooks mentioned that people tend to come away disappointed from Casablanca because they associate the city with the movie of the same name, and that the city is nothing like the movie. Apart from the fact that I don’t recall much of the city of Casablanca being shown in the movie (I remember mostly the inside of Rick’s bar and some vague matte paintings of a city in the background), I actually found that the Art Deco buildings reminded me very much of the movie: the vestiges of a passed era, an architecture and style not quite here nor there, i.e. not quite European and not quite Moroccon, and above all, with its emphasis on white and black, best viewed in black and white.
I’m currently still sorting through the hundreds of photos which I took on my three week trip through Morocco, and after the street portrait & photography set, I have now published another set in the Travelogue section of my site, this one focusing on the colours of Marrakesh. Colour is what visitors tend to associate with Moroccon cities: above all the warm reds, but also rich blues, bright yellow and orange offset against white, ochre and other Earth colours. And indeed, the colours are astounding, but even more so are the intricacies of the designs combining the colours, whether they are mosaics, tiles, paintings, reliefs or graffiti.
In Marrakesh, I was staying in a Riad in the heart of the medieval, maze-like medina. I only had to step outside the door and walk down whichever alley I chose to be submerged in the richness of Moroccon design. Haunting the medina in the early hours of the morning and capturing the colours and the textures was certainly a highlight of my stay in Marrakesh. Quite frankly, this random walking through unknown parts of the city is an activity which I enjoy so much more than sightseeing – even though this activity was lost on the locals, who kept pointing out to me that there were no sights whereever I was heading.
The set of photos I chose to upload focuses mostly on details. I included the photos that are about what I enjoyed most in Morocco, the unique feeling that emanates from the colourful, playful designs. Apart from the photos from the median, there are also some taken in the cheerfully blue Jardin Majorelle (erstwhile home of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent), the Menara Garden and the Saadian Tombs. There are some photos from a couple of tanneries where leather is made from cow and goat hide. There are three black and white images from the New City as well. I did include a number of street photographs as did not want the set to solely focus on design. After all, any portrait of a city is only complete with the people in it.
All except two images were captured with a Fujifilm X-T10 camera, the remaining two were captured with the iPhone Hipstamatic app.
Almost 20 years after it was built, Potsdamer Platz still divides opinions. Some hate it, some shrug it off, some like it. For some, it’s a symbol of Berlin’s post-reunion megolamania, a failed wanna-be Disney-Manhattan. However, for a city that does not take many chances on cutting-edge, innovative architecture, Potsdamer Platz is remarkable in that here at least are a few designs which did not originate in a Lego box. Personnaly, I like it.
I recently got around to tidying up the Travel section on my web site, and at the same time posted new images from my last trip to Kolkata.
I first visited Kolkata back in 1986 (it was still called Calcutta back then). The trip was a nightmare. The friend I was travelling with ended up in hospital with dyssentri, and instead of travelling around the country, we were stuck in the city which back then was quite horrible. It was extremely overcrowded – people were fleeing the impoverished countryside in masses and ended up as squatters in Kolkata. The city was polluted, smelly and traffic perpetually congested. I literally still had nightmares of the place months after being back in Europe. It took me almost 30 years to go back to the city, but when I did, in 2013, I found a place much changed for the better. It is a lot less crowded, and it is less dirty and hectic than Mumbai for instance. I returned there again in 2014 and 2015, which tells you that now I am quite fond of the place.
Kolkatans take pride in that their city is different from other Indian cities, and indeed it is, even though, as an outsider, I may find it difficult to judge just what that difference is. Kolkata is relatively young, of course; daring back to the 18th century only. It used to be India’s most populous city, until Mumbai overtook it, and during the British occupation, it was the capital of the British Raj. And indeed, it is this British past which characterises Kolkata to a large degree – certainly in its architecture, from the Victoria Memorial on down to the many stately villas, many of them now sadly crumbling or being demolished. The city once boasted a vibrant Jewish community, which numbered 5000 before Indian independence, but is now down to 26 members. Similarly, Kolkata is home to India’s only Chinatown, but the ethnic Chinese community has also dwindled considerably.
The city is named after the goddess Kali, and a friend of mine argues that it this which leads to women being far more empowered in Kolkata than in the rest of India.
The photos I put up are from those three last trips – unfortunately I have no photos left from the 1986 trip. I organised the images into three sets:
The City: as the name implies, photos from around the city. It is not meant to be a travel guide, and many of the landmark sites are missing from the collection. Instead I have included images of those places which interested me the most. My favourite ones were probably the overgrown grounds of the National Library and the equally overgrown Victorian-era South Park Street Cemetery. Also included are photos from two of the three Kolkatan synagogues.
Kolkata At Night: these are scenes from night time festivities during three Kolkata festivals: the Durga Pujas (in honour of the goddess Durga, a manifestation of the goddess Kali), the Kali Durgas (in honour of Kali), and the all-Indian festival of Diwali.
Across the River: images from the area outside Kolkata, on the opposite banks of the Hooghly River, as that particular branch of the Ganges is called – Chandannagar, an area which once belonged to the French (and Portuguese and Swedes).
As part of my website, I maintain a section entitled Travelogues. As the name implies, this section is meant to showcase travel photography, or rather, the photographs that I shoot on my travels which are a side product of the portrait, street and urban photography that I do mainly. As does everyone else, when I visit a place, I take a good many pictures simply as a memory – not something that is necessarily intended for publication. It is normally from these pictures that I assemble the sets for the Travelogues section.
I find that selecting shots for these sets harder than it is for the street or urban photos – at least when trying to document well-known places. The photos do not need to be great (they should be good, though), but they need to be interesting. And here is where the problem arises – which travel photographs of well known locales are interesting ? Does another shot of the Eiffel Tower still kindle anyone’s interest. And even if it’s not a landmark like the Eiffel Tower, is even any kind of landmark that you can easily google relevant? Continue reading “Colours and Textures; or: How to Portray a City?”→