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.

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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.

Faces of Kerala: The Group Pic

Group pictures are almost a subset of street portraiture, and at least in India, they are an inevitability. They happen generally like this: you ask people if you can take a photo of them. In general, they agree, or at least the men do – if there are women with them, they tend to slink out of the picture. While you take the photos, other people are watching this, and they then come up to you as well, as a group, and want their photo taken., which then may trigger off a chain reaction…

The other way it happens is that a group of mostly young men come up and ask if they can take a photo with you, which of course I always agree to, then I take their photo in return.

Group pics are difficult to get right. People in a group are likely to clown around, or else get all serious as if it was a formal family picture. It’s very much also a generational thing: older folks would look formal and stiff, younger ones fall into the Instagram cool selfie face mode.

Be as it may, here is a selection of group photos which I took in various places in Kerala.

Muslim youths in Trivandrum (through a misted up lens)

On the Beach in Korvalum

Varkala
Streets of Kollum

All photos taken with a Fujifilm X-T20

Faces of Kerala: Pandits on the Beach

Continuing the series of portraits from Kerala in India, where I am currently travelling, here is a mini-series of images which I captured on the beach in Varkala. In the mornings, priests, a.k.a. pandits, come here to sell puja, that is prayers. There are many devotees on the beach in the mornings, not just for the pandits, but also to give offerings to the sea or to take a (ritual?) bath.

In some places, pandits ask for money if you ask for a photograph; these here didn’t. A few asked if I wanted puja, but they didn’t insist.

Again, all photos taken with a Fuji X-T20 and a 35mm lens.

Faces of Kerala: In a Small Fishing Town

I’m currently travelling Kerala, a state in Southern India. This is the first post in a series of portraits of people from the region.

These photos were shot in a small fishing town, Vizhinjam. People are mostly welcoming photographers, some are even eager to get photographed. In return, one has to pose for photos quite often as well. But that is more than ok.

Kerala itself is a great place to visit. It is very green, with hills covered in tropical forests, quaint seaside towns, backwater channels and very importantly, with a very tasty cuisine.

Photography-wise, I decided to travel light: I brought the Fuji X-T20 with a 35mm lens, which I used on all the photos below, and a 16-50mm zoom lens in case I want to shoot buildings or nature.

Sevilla: Textures and Colours

Here are more photos which I brought back from Sevilla. This time not people-centric, but exploring the details that make a city, the colours, the grit, the imperfections…. which to me say more about a city, it’s history and its culture than any panorama shot out there van convey. Well, that’s my opinion…

To see the full set on my website, [click here]

All photos taken with a Fujifilm X-T20 camera.

Streets of Sevilla

One of the places in Europe which I have been meaning to visit for ages is Andalusia. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of that particular corner of Europe, and the mix of cultures and religions (Muslim, Jewish, Christian) that existed for the span of a few centuries. I don’t know why it took me so long, but this month I finally got around to visiting it. I stayed in Sevilla for a week, which gave me plenty of time to visit the city and also take day trips to places like Córdoba and Cadiz. I missed out on places like Granada, but that gives me an excuse to go back there sometime.

Sevilla’s crown jewel is of course the Real Alcázar palace, a fascinating mix of Arabic, Mudéjar, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Other highlights include the Plaza de España and the Casa de Pilatos. In Córdoba, the highlight is the Cathedral which is a transformed Mosque, which again was built using Roman foundations.

While I visited all the touristy places, I also took time out to just walk the streets and observe and photograph people. That was easier said than done, seeing the temperatures were always in the high 30s, but I walked some 15-20km pretty much every day.

I have posted a selection of the street photographs to my web site: Streets of Sevilla. It includes photos from a number of the spots listed above, but also photos taken around the city. Despite its name, the set also includes photos from Córdoba and Cadiz.

I used a Fujifilm X-T20 camera for all photos.

Enjoy.

Links:

Streets of Sevilla

more international street photography

Real Alcazar web site

“No Photo”

dscf9249Saturday was not a good day for street portraits. I found three people who I thought were interesting, got my courage up to ask them if I could take their photo, and all three said no…. Well, you have days like that. I couldn’t help wondering, though, whether it was the fact that Saturday I had mounted the rather big 56mm lens, instead of the rather unobtrusive 27mm pancake lens I normally favour… who knows?

The story with the guy depicted above, though, was different… He was hanging out on Admiralsbrücke, a bridge in the Berlin area of Kreuzberg, a spot where people (locals, expats and many tourists) just love to hang out and drink beer. He was with friends drinking beer, and at some point started playing the guitar and signing in Spanish. I took these two photos and was just about to approach him when he noticed the camera and very energetically told me “no photos”, and a bunch of other stuff in Spanish which I didn’t understand. I nodded yes and that was that, but I didn’t delete the photos I’ve taken earlier.

Now, normally if people tell or show me that they don’t want their picture taken, I respect that. But in this case, I thought, if you’re playing guitar and singing in the middle of a street in the middle of a bridge in the middle of a city, you’re not exactly minding you’re own business, are you? So, whether you like it or not, being photographed is part and and parcel of making yourself a public spectacle… Hence, I decided to publish these pics.

I don’t know why he so vehemently refused to have his photo taken…. but maybe the clue lies in his tattoos…?

 

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20

Tales of Strangers #4: Diego

Continuing the series of stories behind some of my recent street portraits, here is a young man from London:

Diego

Diego was sitting on a bench by the banks of the Thames, across the river from Westminster. Like myself he was taking his lunch break. When I asked him if I could take his photo, he said, cool, he needed some decent photos of himself. I took this one and a couple more, and emailed them to him later. I hope he likes them. Diego is Spanish and living in London. He’s a musician and does odd jobs waiting for his career to take off….

Diego, London 2017. Camera: Fujifilm X-T20

For more on the 100 Strangers project, visit the 100 Strangers Flickr Group.