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.

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Tales of Strangers #3: Walli

Part 3 in the stories behind some of my recent street portraits:

Walli

Walli was fairly reticent when I asked if I could take a some pictures of him. He had just put on his skates and was about to go skating in the park. But he didn't decline. He asked me what I was gonna use the pics for, and I explained that I put them up on my web site and on Flickr, he then went online and checked what I had been posting. Then he agreed to be photographed, and immediately struck this pensive pose which made me think that he's actually used to being photographed. I couldn't draw much information out of him, after all, skating waited…


Tales of Strangers #2: Ludwi

Continuing the stories behind some of my recent street portraits….

Ludwi

I hope I’m transcribing the name correctly, but that’s how he told me: like Ludwig, but without the ‘g’. It’s not hard to guess that Ludwi is Palestinian. He crisscrosses the city – or at least this part of the city – with himself and his motorbike bedecked in Palestinian flags, blaring music out of crappy loudspeakers. I approached him as he was stopping at a red light and asked permission to take a few photos of him and I briefly chatted with him. He said his aim is to raise awareness, and money, for the plight of the Palestinian people… Well, that’s all he had time for to tell me, then the lights changed and Ludwi had to continue on his sacred mission…

Ludwi, Berlin 2017. Camera: Fujifilm X-T20

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.

Berlin Gay Pride 2017: May I Take Your Picture?

Berlin’s Christopher Street Day celebration was on this past Saturday. German parliament having recently ratified Marriage Equality, the event was more a matter of celebration this year than in previous years. About an hour into the event, heavy rainfalls began to come down, which didn’t really deter people, and the whole thing became a big party in the rain.

This was the first time in many years that I went back to the CSD march. It’s always been a good occasion for taking photos. This year’s didn’t disappoint either. On occasions like these, people usually don’t mind having their photo taken. I did take a number of candid shots, but the ones I’m happiest with are the ones where I asked people to pose. Gay Pride attracts many photographers, most with huge zoom lenses waiting at the side of the road. My approach is a tad different: I participate in the event, that is, I take part in the march, and I take photos from within, from close-up. When I ask people to pose, most of the time there is a connection, and there is something about the resulting pics which makes them more personal, and also makes them stand out.

I used the Fuji X-T20 camera, with initially a 56mm lens which I soon swapped for the 35mm lens as it was more suited to work from within the crowd.

For more of my Gay Pride photos, [click here]. Photos from earlier CSD events can be found on my Berlin page. Enjoy.

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

Portraits…

… and a look at where I’m now.

2017 is almost half over, so this might be a good moment to reflect on how the year has been so far in terms of photography. To put it bluntly: I think I’ve had better years. The year started out strong with a trip to Morocco which provided plenty of photo opportunities, and I came back with a good number of images with which I was more than satisfied. But back in Berlin’s ‘grey season’, that long miserable sunless season into which autumn, winter and spring have nowadays morphed, things started to look bleak. Blame it on the weather, blame it on extended stress at work, or on just a general lack of energy, but I found it near impossible to take decent photos, especially street photos. I found it hard to get excited, neither about people nor light nor context. If on occasion I did  shoot some photos, the results were less than stellar and this discouraged me even more. Add to that that I felt increasingly uncomfortable accosting people and asking their permission to photograph them, something which I had overcome easy enough in previous years in order to pursue what I like best in street photography, i.e. street portraiture. I’ve only recently started doing this again, on a recent trip to London and lately also back here in Berlin.

DSCF7915Now I know I’m not the first photographer to hit a low and to feel uninspired, and I know it will pass. Anyway, this blog post is not about me wallowing in self pity. It’s really about the parts that did work.

As street photography left me uninspired, I retreated into a comfort zone of sorts by turning to the portraiture of friends and acquaintances. Now, portrait photography was something I wanted to get into more anyway, so it didn’t necessarily feel like a retreat but a step forward. I took part in a portrait workshop which not only let me work with a model but also with other people who were comfortable in having their picture taken and from which I stepped away with good results. The work shop was about portrait photography in available light, and I have another workshop lined up for portraiture in artificial light. 

Normally I wait with the ‘best of’ series until the end of the year. But I figured I could motivate myself by actually taking a look at what I achieved rather than moping about what I didn’t. So I put together this set with a selection of the portraits that I have taken so far this year. They include photos from the workshop, portraits of my friends and a couple of street portraits as well. All were shot on Fuji X-Series cameras, notably my new X-T20, it’s predecessor the X-T10, and the faithful old X-E2 which I keep around. Enjoy.

Links:

Portraits 2017

Portraits 2016

more people photographs

(Note: this is an updated version of an entry posted earlier)

Mario Testino – Undressed

(Mario Testino Undressed exhibition at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin)

I should start by saying that I’m not a big fan of Helmut Newton’s nudes – for me there is something unsettling about the sensationalist, voyeuristic way in which Newton stages his (all female) models. Having said that, I was happy to see the Helmut Newton Foundation here in Berlin host the works of Mario Testino, a friend of Helmut Newton’s, who approaches nude photography in a totally different manner – but more on that later; first a word on the exhibition itself.

The show is entitled Undressed, and its set-up has been created specifically for this site. The photos have been blown up larger than life and glued directly on the walls, almost covering every inch of wall space available. So basically one wanders through a maze of nude figures. The effect is mesmerising, and a game changer: you’re not peering (peeping?) at details in tiny to poster-sized images, instead the images and their content are right in your face. Quite a bold step for an installation of nudes which literally hide nothing.


Now back to Pestino’s work itself. The show is billed as examining the boundaries between fashion, eroticism and art. The fashion part itself is almost non-existant. Instead, the photos represent models (both famous and unknown) in both formal and informal settings. Some are staged (and look that way), while others (and for me the best) have a candid vibe about them. There is a playfulness about the images and the way that the models are presented which makes the nudity seem casual, almost irrelevant – in other words, lacking the voyeuristic aspect of Newton’s nudes. Testino also features models across the gender spectrum: female, male, and androgynous. While some images highlight the maleness or femaleness of the respective models, this is put into perspective by juxtaposition to those images which mix up and question the gender norms.


Undressed is on until November 2017. It is accompanied by a publication of the same name by the renowned Taschen publisher.

On a side note, the museum currently also features a temporary exhibition of Helmut Newton photos (apart from the permanent exhibition), entitled ‘Unseen’, most of which stem from portrait and fashion shootings which Newton undertook for various publications. This show I also enjoyed a lot.

Links: 

– The Helmut Newton Foundation 
Undressed
by Mario Testino, published by Taschen

Portraits

This weekend I took part in an “available light” portrait workshop. This was actually my first time working with a professional model, and I found it quite a joy to work with someone completely at ease in front of the camera, someone who knows how to look and how to pose. The model is the girl depicted in the pics below, the other folks shown were other participants.

I used my Fujifilm X-T20 with the 56mm1.2 lens, making great use of the lens’ large aperture.

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