Over the past 12 months, I shot a series of photographs throughout the Berlin districts of Kreuzberg and Neukoelln, two traditionally working-class districts that are now being gentrified. The series focuses on items – furniture, cloths, shoes, electronic appliances – placed outside on the pavements by local residents.
Berliners always had a tendency to get rid of unwanted items by simply disposing of them in the public space. However, in Neukoelln and Kreuzberg, this phenomenon has become increasingly more prominent as gentrification increases, and as the old working-class (or unemployed) tenants have to make way for the hipsters and the young professionals. Disposing of trash by simply putting it out on pavements and in parks is against the law, of course, and as such constitutes an act of defiance against Germany’s much loved sense of order. This act of defiance may simply be down to lazy nests or economic reasons (you have to pay money to get bulky items properly disposed of), but it can also be seen as a defiant gesture, the departing locals giving the finger to the new arrivals before they leave the neighborhood; or a sign of protests against the prettification and increasing orderliness of the neighborhood – in the same way that graffiti is used as a protest against law and order. Be that as it may, it is this act of defiance that I chose to document with this series. Continue reading “Detritus: Signs of Uneasy Cohabitation”→
I recently got around to tidying up the Travel section on my web site, and at the same time posted new images from my last trip to Kolkata.
I first visited Kolkata back in 1986 (it was still called Calcutta back then). The trip was a nightmare. The friend I was travelling with ended up in hospital with dyssentri, and instead of travelling around the country, we were stuck in the city which back then was quite horrible. It was extremely overcrowded – people were fleeing the impoverished countryside in masses and ended up as squatters in Kolkata. The city was polluted, smelly and traffic perpetually congested. I literally still had nightmares of the place months after being back in Europe. It took me almost 30 years to go back to the city, but when I did, in 2013, I found a place much changed for the better. It is a lot less crowded, and it is less dirty and hectic than Mumbai for instance. I returned there again in 2014 and 2015, which tells you that now I am quite fond of the place.
Kolkatans take pride in that their city is different from other Indian cities, and indeed it is, even though, as an outsider, I may find it difficult to judge just what that difference is. Kolkata is relatively young, of course; daring back to the 18th century only. It used to be India’s most populous city, until Mumbai overtook it, and during the British occupation, it was the capital of the British Raj. And indeed, it is this British past which characterises Kolkata to a large degree – certainly in its architecture, from the Victoria Memorial on down to the many stately villas, many of them now sadly crumbling or being demolished. The city once boasted a vibrant Jewish community, which numbered 5000 before Indian independence, but is now down to 26 members. Similarly, Kolkata is home to India’s only Chinatown, but the ethnic Chinese community has also dwindled considerably.
The city is named after the goddess Kali, and a friend of mine argues that it this which leads to women being far more empowered in Kolkata than in the rest of India.
The photos I put up are from those three last trips – unfortunately I have no photos left from the 1986 trip. I organised the images into three sets:
The City: as the name implies, photos from around the city. It is not meant to be a travel guide, and many of the landmark sites are missing from the collection. Instead I have included images of those places which interested me the most. My favourite ones were probably the overgrown grounds of the National Library and the equally overgrown Victorian-era South Park Street Cemetery. Also included are photos from two of the three Kolkatan synagogues.
Kolkata At Night: these are scenes from night time festivities during three Kolkata festivals: the Durga Pujas (in honour of the goddess Durga, a manifestation of the goddess Kali), the Kali Durgas (in honour of Kali), and the all-Indian festival of Diwali.
Across the River: images from the area outside Kolkata, on the opposite banks of the Hooghly River, as that particular branch of the Ganges is called – Chandannagar, an area which once belonged to the French (and Portuguese and Swedes).
As part of my website, I maintain a section entitled Travelogues. As the name implies, this section is meant to showcase travel photography, or rather, the photographs that I shoot on my travels which are a side product of the portrait, street and urban photography that I do mainly. As does everyone else, when I visit a place, I take a good many pictures simply as a memory – not something that is necessarily intended for publication. It is normally from these pictures that I assemble the sets for the Travelogues section.
I find that selecting shots for these sets harder than it is for the street or urban photos – at least when trying to document well-known places. The photos do not need to be great (they should be good, though), but they need to be interesting. And here is where the problem arises – which travel photographs of well known locales are interesting ? Does another shot of the Eiffel Tower still kindle anyone’s interest. And even if it’s not a landmark like the Eiffel Tower, is even any kind of landmark that you can easily google relevant? Continue reading “Colours and Textures; or: How to Portray a City?”→
For the second year running I spent New Year’s in Brighton, and same as last year I followed that vacation up with a stay in London. And same as last year, I brought back a number of photographs.
Last year I had taken the analog Lomo Belair panoramic camera with me. This year I decided to go digital and took the Fujifilm X30. I took it primarily because I was expecting bad weather and low light, which normally hampers the use of lo-fi analog cameras. However, luckily bad weather wasn’t the norm, so that I ended up with a number of splendid colour photographs as well as black and white ones.
I’m particularly happy with many of the photos which I brought back from
London, especially the ones which I shot in and around the Barbican. I visited the Barbican Centre to see an exhibition, Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age; a show which I thought quite brilliant, both for the theme and for the large number of exceptional photos on display. At the same time, the Barbican complex is in itself a highly photogenic urban jungle, bordering on the ever growing architectural frenzy (some would say mess) that is London’s East End. Certainly it was no coincidence that the Barbican was putting on a show with this kind of theme, and so it was not necessarily a coincidence either that I ended up with a number of shots reflecting the theme of the show.
The photographs which I took this year with the Fujifilm X30 in many ways compliment the panoramic pictures which I took last year with the Belair camera, so I combined the two in a common set, adding also a number of Polaroids which fit the theme of urban panoramas, as well as a couple of ‘Holgaramas’ from 2008, and a collage which I did in 2004 of Saint Paul’s as seen from the Tate Modern. Altogether they also illustrate how fast London’s skyline keeps changing, for better and for worse. Additionally, the photos illustrate another facet of London which I always found fascinating: here, the various epochs of London’s long history do not so much co-exist side by side, but seem to pile up on top of each other. The picture above is a good example as it shows tiers of buildings from various centuries, combining the medieval church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate with buildings from the 19th, 20th and 21st century high rises into a very crowded skyline.
Last year I published a set of instant photos entitled Fragments: Signs of the Times, which I just updated with a selection of photos taken throughout 2014. Fragments is a collection of images depicting public art, graffiti, posters and other symbols (both permanent and temporary) which epitomise Berlin at a certain instant in time. The permanent structures tend to reflect much of Berlin’s late 20th century history, especially its division, as they symbolise, and sometimes directly address, the tastes, affiliations and beliefs typical of West and East Berlin respectively – not just pre- but also post-fall-of-the-wall. The more temporary displays – graffiti, posters etc. – on the other hand reflect moods, tastes and opinions of the moment in time when the pictures were taken – current then, but history a couple of weeks, months, years down the line.
All the photos except one were taken with Polaroid cameras and a variety of Impossible Project films, both colour and black and white.
Urban Geometry is the title of a new set which I’ve recently added to the Polaroid section of the site. In it, I explore the geometry found in modern architecture and urban development. I shot these images chiefly in Berlin over the course of 2014.
These past months I’ve been heavily shooting black and white instant films. One of my favourite films has turned out to be Impossible Project’s new ‘Hard Color’ film with its solid colour frames and stark contrasts, a combination I really like; but I’ve also been using that other favourite film of my, the black framed one.
I’ve put together the best of the urban-themed photos which I shot around Berlin in a new set entitled ‘City Polaroids: Berlin in Black & White’ [Click here to view]. I’ve always loved black and white photography for its seemingly time-bending quality, that is, the fact that it couples memories of old classic photos with contemporary realities such as (post-)modern architecture and contemporary urban scenes. Or alternatively, how it evokes a sense of a lost past when photographing historic places or old buildings, a theme I explored in an earlier set, Another Time[read the blog entry here].
I recently uploaded a series of photos from London and Bucharest (Romania), all of them taken with the Lomography Belair x 6-12 camera and using a 58mm lens. Contrary to the Berlin set posted earlier, I used the camera primarily to shoot buildings and vistas rather than the more intimate street scenes I captured in Berlin (see my earlier blog post here).