Walli

This nice man named Walli was just getting ready to go skating in Berlin’s Gleisdreieck Parc when I asked if I could take his photo. He readily agreed. Afterwards he asked what I would do with the pic, and I told him I’d post it to my web site. I then showed him my web site, and he was cool with it. I wish there were more cool people like that in Berlin.

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20 with 56mmR1.2 lens.

London Street Photos (Part 2, Colour)

More street photography from London, this time in bright Velvia colours. Taken in and around Camden Market in North London, and Brick Lane in the East End. Both these places attract street photographers, I saw quite a few out and about. Most seem to use zoom lenses (some of them obscenenely huge). I myself prefer prime lenses, here I used the 35mm. For some reason I don’t like zooming in on people – I feel like a Peeping Tom doing that. But maybe that’s just me? Did I watch too many bad movies?

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20 with 35mmR1.4 lens. 
 



London Street Photos (Part 1, Black and White)

It’s been a while… here are some new street portraits and street photographs from a sunny day in London. There is nothing like travelling to get the creative juices flowing. That, and decent weather, i.e. light. 

All images shot with a Fujifilm X-T20 camera and the 35mmR1.4 lens. Colour photographs to follow…

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Meanwhile, back at Hermannplatz…


One of my favourite hang-outs in Berlin is Hermannplatz, a square at the intersection of Neukoelln and Kreuzberg, two traditionally low-income parts of Berlin who have been heavily gentrified in the last few years. It’s a fascinating place where many of the cultures that make up modern Berlin meet: the hipsters from all over the Western world, kids whose parents or grand-parents once came  from Turkey and Lebanon, newly arrived refugees from Syria, Africa and other places. I wrote about this intersection of cultures in a lengthier article last year, after having photographed in the square all of that summer and fall. Now with summer here, it’s again a good place to hang out, to meet people and to photograph.

The gentleman with the beard pictured above is a street musician who plays the guitar and other instruments, mostly in Berlin’s underground. He seems to have quite a reputation (he told me his name so I can check his videos on YouTube, but I managed to forget it…), and the other two guys were busy taking selfies with him when I asked if I could photograph them. As you can tell, they were happy to oblige. The encounter was centred on the musician, who told me all about his music; and I did not get to ask the other two guys about their background. But if you look at the scars on their faces, I am sure there is much history there as well… I guess, that’s for another day then. I’m sure we’ll meet again. On Hermannplatz.

To view more of my street photography, click here .
To view more street photography from Hermannplatz and Neukoelln, click here.

The photos above were taken with a Fujifilm X-E2 and a 27mm lens.

As Summertime Ends


With summer drawing to a close in these parts of the world, it’s time to wrap up those summer photo shoots. I’ve still been out and about in Berlin over the last sunny weeks and captured more street photographs, a selection of which I added to the sets I uploaded a couple of months ago: The Singer On the Couch and Scenes of Summer, the former being in black and white, the latter in colour. As before, the bulk of the new colour photos were shot with the Leica X2, and all the black and white ones with a Fuji, this time the X-T10. These are the final additions to these sets, and I must say I’m happy how they turned out.

Apart from the images which I added to these sets, I also shot a bunch of street photos around my neighbourhood, most of them with the Leica X2, which I will be adding later as a separate set – these photos really stand on their own and don’t really fit in with the happy-go-free images of the other two sets.

So, here’s to a good summer almost past. Enjoy.

Links: 
– The Singer on the Couch (black and white set)
– Scenes of Summer (colour set)

Summer Scenes: Berlin Street Photography


recently blogged about the fact that for the time being I’m concentrating on digital photography rather than analog as I used to. Earlier this year I posted architectural photographs from Berlin and London shot mostly with the Fujifilm X30, which was the first project I undertook with the new digital camera. 

I have now also uploaded a of new set of images which I took as part of a second project that I embarked on with digital cameras, namely street photography. This is the first set for this project, and it features colour photographs which were taken this summer, mostly using the Leica X2 camera, but also a Fujifilm X30 and more recently a Fujifilm X-T10. I’m quite enamoured with the Leica’s colour output, I must say, which is why it seemed to me the best choice when heading out on sunny days (although I do wish the camera came with a view finder!). Although Fujifilm cameras do a great job too with colours, I find I use them mostly for black and white.

The project is ongoing, as is summer, so the set may yet change. I’m also putting together a second set with black and white photos which will be up later this summer.

I hadn’t really attempted street photography in Europe recently. When travelling in India and China, I enjoyed photographing people, be it candid shots or casual portraits. Asians in general, and Indians in particular, are very relaxed about being photographed. It’s usually a matter of ‘you shoot me, I shoot you’ attitude, which is all about sharing. Not so in Europe, and particularly in Germany. Germans have this thing what they call ‘the right to your own image.’ They like to cite that to you like a mantra whenever you mention that you photograph strangers. I blame Karl May for that. Karl May is that 19th century German author who wrote novels about the American West (and other exotic locales) without ever having set foot there. He claimed in his novels that Native Americans did not want to be photographed as they believed that it robbed them of their soul (May had a lot of BS theories about Native Americans). Germans, who basically grow up on Karl May, seem to have internalised this philosophy: if you (a stranger) take their image, you rob them of a part of them. At least that’s my theory as to why so many people tell me off, give me the finger, hide their faces or give me the evil eye when I aim the camera in their general direction (ok, I may be a bit harsh here on the Germans, maybe all Westerners have internalized this Karl May philosophy). 

So, to cut a long story short, street photography in Berlin is mostly about stealth. Sometimes some folk consent to begin photographed if you ask nicely, but in general it is best to remain inconspicuous when shooting in the street. This is one of the strengths of the Leica X2 of course, it is small and silent. Using the Leica however presents the challenge of using a fixed 27mm lens,  meaning you have to get close to your subject. That’s one skill I’m still working on, one deep breath at a time….

This set, then, is a representation of a typical urban summer: locals enjoying the elusive sun or coping with the heat, tired tourists trying to put a brave face on things, street people trying to cope with life etc. When selecting the photos for the set, I looked out for two things: that the picture is interesting in itself (or because of its subject), and that somehow it goes beyond being a mere snapshot. I hope I succeeded. 


Enjoy… and have a good summer 🙂 

Links:



My Polaroid Summer

Now that summer is officially over, it is time for me to post the last set of photos which I took this summer. These are all summer related, so the set is called, unsurprisingly, “Polaroid Summer”.

From my earlier blog entries, you can tell that this summer was indeed a busy one for me with regard to taking photos, and more specifically, polaroids. For this reason, I have come to think of this as being “My Polaroid Summer”. I bought my first polaroid camera in June of this year. And it being summer (and a decent one for a change), I embarked on a series of projects involving the instant film cameras (all of which I blogged about earlier, just scroll down…). 

While doing these projects, I also ended up with a series of ‘incidental’ photos, basically shots taken here and there of people enjoying summer. And this is what this set is about – the last output of My Polaroid Summer.

This being the end of September, we may still have a few sunny days coming this year. But they will be autumn days, not summer days. And that, as they say, will be another story.

Links:

City Polaroids

When back in June I started taking photos with the newly acquired Polaroid camera, and after playing around with it to explore the camera’s and the films’ strengths and weaknesses, I decided on several projects that attempt to portray the city (Berlin) not by photographing its landmarks or its buildings, but by focusing on details. Following that approach, I went about shooting its cemeteries (which I wrote about earlier) and Berlin’s ‘occupied spaces’ (read more here).

Additionally, I ended up taking a series of random photos around town, most of them, again, focusing on details, even if I ended up taking one or the other landmark and buildings shot. When I visited Budapest in June, I decided to also apply the same principle to the photos I took there. Now, it is debatable to what degree these photos really ‘portray’ a city or just present a highly subjective kaleidoscope that may or may not add up to a full image. Be that as it may, in the end, the most important thing was getting a series of good photos, and I hope to have achieved that.


So here then, as the second-to-last ‘project’ for this summer, is a selection entitled City Polaroids. All photos were taken on Polaroid SX-70 cameras using Impossible Project films, both colour and black & white. Enjoy.


Here are the links:

Occupying Spaces

Now that summer is wrapping up, I’m also wrapping up my summer projects. I have just added a new set of Polaroids to my site, entitled “Occupying Spaces”, a photo documentation of sorts of occupied places in Berlin.

Occupying public, or indeed private, spaces has had a long history in Berlin. During the time of the Berlin Wall, at a time when living space was limited in West Berlin, many real estate developers let apartment building stand empty in order to get permission to tear the rotting buildings down and build new ones. Many, if not most, of these buildings ended up being occupied by squatters. Similarly, another phenomenon occurred on unused (or disused) public terrain: squatters used them to set up camp, living in trucks, sheds and mobile homes. As they fortified the camps against possible raids by the city authorities, these settlements became known under the Wild West term of “corral” (“Wagenburg” in German).

When the Wall came down, squatting bloomed briefly in East Berlin as well as people found more disused buildings to occupy, but in the 1990s, with Berlin being again the German capital, most of these buildings were cleared, often in violent confrontations between the occupiers and the police (or the government came to an arrangement with the occupiers who’d eventually became owners of the buildings); and most of the “corrals” were cleared as well, 

However, that whole “cleaning up the city” act by the city government does not mean that there are no more occupied spaces today. There are still a few corrals left here and there; and a couple of squatted apartment blocks also remain. Additionally, a number of old factories and warehouses along the Spree river which are left to rot as developers are seeking permission to tear these old buildings down and erect shiny new office palaces on the much-priced water front, have now been occupied by squatters who live there, artists who work there, or modern day nomads from all over Europe who come to stay there for a while. And, it has to be said, by trigger happy tourists who have read about these places in the latest tourist guides….

Then there is the curious case of Osman Kalin’s tree house. Mr. Kalin, a Turkish immigrant, set up a garden and tree house on a patch of land that technically belonged to East Germany but was located on the Western side of the Wall. During the separation of the halves of the city, he was left alone by both authorities, but after the Wall came down, pressure was put upon him to tear down the tree house. Mr. Kalin persisted… and lives there still. 

Unused areas along the river also became the site for a good number of improvised beach bars – now unfortunately getting replaced by commercial venues as Berliners’ fondness for sipping beer and cocktails by the river has been established. 

Yet another now popular past time is for local residents to set up improvised gardens, playgrounds and even pet zoos in patches of unused and/or unclaimed land.

In other words, Berliners are still busy (re-)claiming their city from what they perceive as willful negligence by those trying to make a quick buck out of… doing nothing.

As one of my summer projects, I tried to document these “occupied spaces” with the Polaroid cameras. I visited occupied factories and derelict buildings, a couple of the remaining “corrals”, improvised “beaches” and camp sites.
There are a couple of remarks I should add. One is that, as you can see, graffiti plays a big role in occupying these spaces – as indeed it represents a ‘marking of the territory’. As such, I extended the scope of the photo selection to also include random, interesting graffiti around the city not necessarily linked to occupied places.

As to the “corrals”: the inhabitants of these camps are notoriously private and averse to visitors, especially those carrying cameras. For a good reason: since some of the tourist guide books have started “featuring” them, the corrals have become tourist attractions of their own. Thus, while I photographed the surrounding “public” areas (taken up by mostly by graffiti and art work), I did not manage to get any photos taken inside the camps proper, which I find too bad.

I used primarily a couple of Polaroid SX-70 cameras with a variety of Impossible Project films, including the new “color protection” film.

In a few instances I also used the Fuji Instax 210 camera, and I added an additional gallery with only the instax photos on urban art.

Links: