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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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.

Hard Truths

How far do you go in trying to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? When do you reach the point where you say, enough is enough? How long do you keep watching someone whose every action is a step towards a long slow death, with the danger of a sudden quick death always lurking right behind the corner.

I don’t have answers. Faced with some hard truths, there exists the temptation to run. But a coward’s way is not a way out…

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:

Personal Portraits


I posted a new set of photos to my web site, consisting of a series of portraits which I made of friends and acquaintances over the last year, entitled ‘Up Close & Personal 3′. It joins two earlier sets of the same name, the first one of which features analog portraits, while the second one consists mainly of photos taken with the iPhone. This time around, the set features mostly photos taken with Fujifilm X-Series cameras, but also some Leica and a couple of iPhone ones.

More of my people photography can be found [here].

Enjoy.