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: 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.

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

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.

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: Candid In the Rain

Earlier in the week, I posted the first selection of my photos from this year's Berlin Gay Pride march (or CSD, as it keeps being called in Berlin. Short for Christopher Street Day), focussing on portraits. With this post, the focus is on the candid photos. A number of them highlight the quite miserable weather conditions, i.e. the heavy downpours that did not quite manage to dampen the party mood.

For more of the pics from the CSD, [click here].