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

Paris, Fashion and Irving Penn.

I spent a day in Paris last week, basically just passing through. It was a warm autumn day and people were enjoying it. Fashion was ever present, in fashion shoots or in fashionable people lounging about. I had a good time photographing people, some candidly, some with their consent.

I also visited the excellent and comprehensive exhibition with the works of Irving Penn at the Grand Palais. It features the most significant photos from his long and distinguished career, from the Vogue cover shots to the more intimate celebrity portraits of his later days, also showcasing the series he made on craftspeople and other regular folks around the world. Highly recommended.

Man Facing Warrior (at the Irving Penn exhibition)

 

Camera: Fujifilm X-E2

Tales of Strangers #1

This is a new series which I'm starting. As I have written in earlier blog posts, one of my favourite enterprises is street portraiture, i.e. photographing strangers and learning a little bit about them. Since at times these encounters constitute interesting enough tales, I decided to write some if them up, albeit briefly, and post them here on the blog.
I've been doing this type of photography for a while now, but for this series I'm not planning to go back in time much, instead I'd rather treat this as a project in progress.
I was inspired to do this by a Flickr group called 100 Strangers which you might want to check out for more stories of strangers.
Here we go then, starting with one of my favourite encounters:

Piet

I saw Piet in a park in Berlin's Kreuzberg area where I occasionally hang out after work. It's basically his beard that attracted me, but when I asked him for permission to take a photo, he laughed and said, normally people ask to take a picture of his dog. Well, he didn't have his dog with him, so I took photos of him.

Piet is what Berliners call a typical Kreuzberger, that is, someone from that part of (former) West Berlin that has always been a haven for radicals, rebels, artists and bohemians, even after it became gentrified. Piet calls himself an old-school rebel, the last of a dying breed, and he has quite a few stories to tell of the times when Kreuzberg was inhabited by squatters, not hipsters.

Piet also takes photos which is why he didn't mind me taking his picture. We talked photography as well – I think overall, I spent an hour chatting with him.

Portraits, Continued

I’ve been doing some more portrait work these past couple of weeks, both indoors and out, trying to do a mixture of both formal and informal settings.

Cameras: Fujifilm X-T20 and X-E2, with 35mm and 27mm lenses.

For more recent portraits, [click here].

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Eduardo
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Flower Power Grlll (Karen)
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Flower Power Grrrl
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Patrick in the Park
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Katharina & Domenic (Fun Fair Fun)
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Patrick in the Park

My Year 2016 in Pictures

(Note: this is an updated version of a posting I put up on 26 December. Turns out that that was a bit premature for a full round-up of the year)

It’s that time of year again to look back and see what the year has been like. Like many out there, I feel that 2016 has been absolutely disastrous. It started with the death of David Bowie and just got worse. I thought it had reached its lowest point with the election of Donald Trump (a day I think the world will regret for a long time to come), but of course other low points followed: the atrocities committed in Aleppo, the terrorist attacks around the world, including the recent one here in Berlin.

With the world going crazy, in a negative sense, it became important for me to create a space where I connected with people – with new people. Photography allowed me to do that. It started with my intention to capture more portraits of the people around me, my friends; and then on to street portraits, i.e. portraits of strangers that I’d ask on the street. This curiosity also led me to get acquainted with street musicians here in Berlin, which in turn led me to hooking up with a larger circle of people who lead a free-spirited life outside what are deemed social norms. I called them the “Südstern gang”; Südstern being the square in Berlin where we’d meet on an almost daily basis during the late summer months and well into autumn. Describing these experiences (not all of them positive) warrants an article in itself, not one I’m ready to write just yet. Let’s just say for now that it allowed me to experience different life choices, witnessing both the freedoms and the problems that these choices bring with them. With the onset of bad weather, the group dispersed, but the experience resulted in two friendships, one good and one flawed (the flawed one marred by trying to cope with a drug addict, and all the negativity this entails).

On top of these Berlin based experiences, I also took a few trips. Initially just a few short ones, the highlights certainly being Bologna in March and Oslo in early May; however, I’m currently on a three week trip around Morocco, and two of the images taken on this trip conclude the selection, with one image actually having been taken today, on the last day of the year 2016.

Below then are a selection of image for each month, summarizing best what the month stood for. I picked solely people photos, portraits or street photographs, but they also reflect the place and the time of year they were taken in.

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All photos, except two, were taken using the two Fujifilm cameras, the X-T10 and the X-E2, which have definitely become my cameras of choice, especially the X-T10. Being small and unobtrusive, yet providing high quality images even in low light, they played an important part in my life this year.

Streets of Berlin: Candid Street Photography



This year, one particular focus of my photography was street portraiture, i.e.
posed portraits of people encountered in the street. Apart from this, I did continue to capture candid pictures of people throughout Berlin. While 2016 is not quite over yet, I have recently posted a selection of this year’s best such images: Streets of Berlin 2016.

The set is a combination of different styles of street photography. When capturing people on the street, I usually approach them closely enough to capture emotions and expressions, but I also try to include context and background. Depending on the setting, though, it’s also fun to take a step back and let the scenery take center sage, so to speak, such as in the image depicted below.

People sometimes ask me if I prefer to shoot in colour or in black and white. My answer: if there is colour, I prefer colour; else black and white. What this means is: I do love working with colours, so if the colours in a scene are right, I capture them. It’s one of the reasons why I love photographing in places like India or Italy: the colours are just gorgeous. But in settings where the colours are drab, distracting, or just not interesting, I go for black and white. Black and white also seems to add intimacy to a portrait. Sometimes, though, the distinction isn’t that rational, and I go with my mood. However, I usually decide how to shoot beforehand – I very rarely change colour to b&w in post-production. About two thirds of the photos in this set are in colour and the rest are monochrome.

Most of the photos were taken with my two Fuji cameras, the X-T10 and the X-E2; which have become my cameras of choice over the past year. However, there are also a couple of iPhone photos inclouded in the set. As the saying goes, the best camera is always the one you carry with you….

Streets of Berlin: Candid Street Photography 2016

More links:

Wearing Enigmas…

I have a distinct fondness for tattoos and when I saw this lady sitting in the doorstep of a tatto parlour in Berlin-Kreuzberg, I just had to ask if I could take her photo….

Wearing Enigmas. Camera: Fujifilm X-E2