I finally got back to shooting portrait photography. As a first for me, I did a workshop for shooting in completely artificial lights (all my previous sessions always involved natural light to some measure), playing around with single or multiple light sources as well as flash and LED lightening as well as high key and low key settings, featuring this lovely model called Sandra.
Winter is now truly behind us, so it is time to finish up an urban photography project which I undertook this winter. Taking advantage of the short day, or rather the long nights of Berlin’s winter season, I set out to shoot different aspects of night in the city. I tried to catch the glittering lights of the glass towers, the surreal effects of reflections within reflections when shooting from inside out, the stark, gritty and sometimes surreal sights of industrial sites, and more intimate views of empty, lit interiors, looking in from the outside.
Most of the photos were captured on my Fujifilm X-E2, which is the camera I tend to carry around with me every day. Some were shot on the X-T20, and a few using the iPhone X, whose capacity to shoot in low light is amazing and served the project well.
Looking back on 2017, I can tell that my photography moved in two directions: sideways and forwards. Sideways because I moved away from the main focus of the previous years which was candid street photography, and towards portrait photography, either in the form of street portraiture (i.e. capturing strangers on the street) or of capturing people around me.
I also felt that my photography moved forward because I adopted a more formal approach in shooting portraits. That is, I did not just casually photograph people around me, but directed people in various settings so as to play with light, background and angles. I shoot mostly in natural light but I warmed to using flash photography in combination with natural light. I also undertook dedicated portrait sessions. One was in the form of a workshop which included a model, another one was a photo session with my friend Rehan in Kolkata to create a series of portrait/fashion shoots in order to enable him creating a portfolio for his burgeoning model career. I used exclusively Fujifilm X-Series cameras, and while a 35mm is my lens of choice for the street, I shot the more formal sessions using a 56mm f1.2 lens.
I have now put together a set of what I consider the best of my portrait shoots from 2017. The set reflects both the street and the formal portrait approach [click here to view].
Not included in the set are the street portraits which I took in Kerala/India in October 2017, you can view those in a dedicated set [here].
There is something about cities at night when the streets empty, the shops close down and the lights from inside shine out. The night hides but it also reveals. Interiors and entrances light up as the night swallows the outside. Buildings appear differently, warmer, colder, stranger, depending on the light. Glimpses of lives that stay unnoticed during the day are suddenly revealed, while other sides of life hide away.
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.
If you enjoyed my previous three blog posts about the portraits which I took while travelling the South Indian state of Kerala (starting with this one here), then hopefully you will enjoy this new set of portraits which I uploaded to my web site, Always Arriving. The set features a selection of 40 single and group portraits taken throughout my 10-day itinerary which took me from Kovalam to Trivandrum, Varkala, Kollam, Alleppey and finally Kochi. This my 12th trip to India was a very memorable one, I hugely enjoyed Kerala. The nature is spectacular, food is great and the people warm and welcoming, and I have come back from the trip with some very fond memories.
All photos were taken with a Fujifilm X-T20. For the portraits, I used exclusively the 35mm f1.4 lens, which despite its shortcomings (it is kinda slow) is still my go-to lens for street portraiture and street photography. While there are three black and white photos in the set, in India I very much enjoy shooting colour, as the very many vibrant colours are one of the defining visual aspects of India.
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…
Group pictures are almost a subset of street portraiture, and at least in India, they are an inevitability. They happen generally like this: you ask people if you can take a photo of them. In general, they agree, or at least the men do – if there are women with them, they tend to slink out of the picture. While you take the photos, other people are watching this, and they then come up to you as well, as a group, and want their photo taken., which then may trigger off a chain reaction…
The other way it happens is that a group of mostly young men come up and ask if they can take a photo with you, which of course I always agree to, then I take their photo in return.
Group pics are difficult to get right. People in a group are likely to clown around, or else get all serious as if it was a formal family picture. It’s very much also a generational thing: older folks would look formal and stiff, younger ones fall into the Instagram cool selfie face mode.
Be as it may, here is a selection of group photos which I took in various places in Kerala.
Continuing the series of portraits from Kerala in India, where I am currently travelling, here is a mini-series of images which I captured on the beach in Varkala. In the mornings, priests, a.k.a. pandits, come here to sell puja, that is prayers. There are many devotees on the beach in the mornings, not just for the pandits, but also to give offerings to the sea or to take a (ritual?) bath.
In some places, pandits ask for money if you ask for a photograph; these here didn’t. A few asked if I wanted puja, but they didn’t insist.
Again, all photos taken with a Fuji X-T20 and a 35mm lens.
I’m currently travelling Kerala, a state in Southern India. This is the first post in a series of portraits of people from the region.
These photos were shot in a small fishing town, Vizhinjam. People are mostly welcoming photographers, some are even eager to get photographed. In return, one has to pose for photos quite often as well. But that is more than ok.
Kerala itself is a great place to visit. It is very green, with hills covered in tropical forests, quaint seaside towns, backwater channels and very importantly, with a very tasty cuisine.
Photography-wise, I decided to travel light: I brought the Fuji X-T20 with a 35mm lens, which I used on all the photos below, and a 16-50mm zoom lens in case I want to shoot buildings or nature.