Watching the Watchers at Versailles

Despite having been to Paris numerous times, I never got around to visiting the castle of Versailles. So on my recent trip to Paris a couple of weeks ago, I decided to remedy this. I don’t know if this was a bad idea in general, or just bad timing, but I waited in line for two hours and twenty minutes to get into the castle. The place was packed of course, especially since whole tourist groups are led through there and clog up the rooms. While under normal circumstances, Versailles might be well worth a visit for both the history and the richness of the décor and art on display, but as the place was overcrowded, I got very little joy out of it. What joy I did get resulted from observing the people, many of whom seem to get their joy out of seeing the castle through their smart phones and tablets. Here is a selection:

Meknes the Imperial City

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I have uploaded the last set of my Morocco travelogue section with photos from Meknes, one of Morocco’s four imperial cities. Meknes is a bit off the beaten track, not as popular and crowded as nearby Fes, but I hugely enjoyed the city, which is relaxed and its people extremely friendly and welcoming, more so than in the larger tourist destinations. It helped that I stayed in a very cute and comfortable Riad with a room on the rooftop, run by a  verg welcoming family.

Meknes doesn’t have that many obvious tourist attractions, which was fine by me as I enjoyed wandering the streets and having a relaxed time photographing the old town, again fascinated by the many colours and textures on display, which is what I tried to capture in the photographs.

Again, all photos taken with a Fujifilm X-T10, except for one or two iPhone photos.

Links:

Colours of Meknes

For more of my photos from Morocco, click [here]

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Ouarzazate and Beyond


The second set of my Morocco travelogue section is now online. It covers what was actually the last leg of my three week journey through that country: the Southern town of Ouarzazate and the area southeast of it: the Anti-Atlas mountains, the fertile Drâa valley with its date palm plantations, and the Sahara desert.

This part of the trip ended up being my favourite part. I stayed for five days, which some considered long, but I enjoyed the laid back feeling of Ouarzazate and especially the landscape. I don’t normally do landscape photography, but in these parts, I hugely enjoyed photographing the fascinating scenery.

Click here to view Ouarzazate & Beyond. 

Camera: Fujifilm X-T10

 

Marrakesh Colours And Textures


I’m currently still sorting through the hundreds of photos which I took on my three week trip through Morocco, and after the street portrait & photography set, I have now published another set in the Travelogue section of my site, this one focusing on the colours of Marrakesh. Colour is what visitors tend to associate with Moroccon cities: above all the warm reds, but also rich blues, bright yellow and orange offset against white, ochre and other Earth colours. And indeed, the colours are astounding, but even more so are the intricacies of the designs combining the colours, whether they are mosaics, tiles, paintings, reliefs or graffiti.

img_4687-1In Marrakesh, I was staying in a Riad in the heart of the medieval, maze-like medina. I only had to step outside the door and walk down whichever alley I chose to be submerged in the richness of Moroccon design. Haunting the medina in the early hours of the morning and capturing the colours and the textures was certainly a highlight of my stay in Marrakesh.  Quite frankly, this random walking through unknown parts of the city is an activity which I enjoy so much more than sightseeing – even though this activity was lost on the locals, who kept pointing out to me that there were no sights whereever I was heading.

The set of photos I chose to upload focuses mostly on details.  I included the photos that are about what I enjoyed most in Morocco, the unique feeling that emanates from the colourful, playful designs. Apart from the photos from the median,  there are also some taken in the cheerfully blue Jardin Majorelle (erstwhile home of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent), the Menara Garden and the Saadian Tombs. There are some photos from a couple of tanneries where leather is made from cow and goat hide. There are three black and white images from the New City as well. I did include a number of street photographs as did not want the set to solely focus on design. After all, any portrait of a city is only complete with the people in it.

All except two images were captured with a Fujifilm X-T10 camera, the remaining two were captured with the iPhone Hipstamatic app.

Enjoy the Marrakesh Colours and Textures.

Click here for more travelogue galleries.

Faces of Morocco


I recently returned from a three week trip to Morocco, where I visited the towns of Marrakesh, Meknes, Fes, Casablanca and Ouarzazate. I had with me my trusted Fujifilm X-T10 camera, and came back, as usual, with a good many photos. I tend to take two kinds of photos when I do trips: street photography (including street portraits), and photos with which I hope to capture the essence of a city by focusing on details (see my earlier article “Colours and Textures” on this) and on architecture. I seldom take landscape photos, but in Morocco I visited the desert south of Ouarzazate, and also photographed the fascinating landscape there.

I have now gone through the street photos and made a selection which I put up on my site. The 40 images which I selected include both candid shots, and images of people whom I asked to pose. Morocco is not an easy country for street photography. Many people object to having their picture taken by strangers, some energetically so. I was told off a couple of times, and in one instance I saw a young man force a tourist delete a picture she had taken of him. My first instinct was to ask people’s permission. Some agreed to be photographed, but most did not. Some people I got into conversation with and they subsequently agreed to pose, happily so. But even photographing crowds was difficult. Women especially but also men (especially older ones) would turn their head or hide their faces behind a scarf or a hand if I only vaguely pointed the camera their way. In the end I often had to resort to the old trick of seeming to photograph random objects in the street and thereby capturing people who happened to be in the scene at the same time.

The set includes only two black and white photos, the rest are in colour. Colour is an important aspect of Morocco, and it was a joy to capture the country in all its colourful splendour – especially given how well Fujifilm cameras render colour. As I mentioned above, I used a Fujifilm X-T10, primarily with a 35mm lens, but also the 27mm pancake which came in very handy in the narrow alleyways of the medieval medinas.

I will be posting more of the other photos in the weeks to follow but to begin with, here is the link to the street photography set, Faces of Morocco. Enjoy.

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.

Not-Quite-Middle Earth

This past weekend I revisited a place where I used to live prior to moving to Berlin: Beaufort, in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. The small town is unremarkable but boasts an 11th century castle and, leading away from the castle, a narrow valley which conjures myths and legends. If you ever find yourself in Luxembourg, make sure to visit the place.

Continue reading “Not-Quite-Middle Earth”

Kolkata Travelogue

imageI 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

For more India travel photos, click here.

For portrait and street photography from India, click here.

Click here to read more on Kolkata’s Jewish community.

South Park Street Cemetery

Faces of Oslo


It is a wisdom repeated elsewhere, and a fact that I have experienced often enough to know it is true: a vacation is worth more than new camera equipment in terms of raising one out of a creative slump. When I feel like I have covered every corner of my city, photographed every situation there is to be photographed, then there is nothing like visiting a new place to let me refocus and get motivated again.

As one can guess from some of my previous blog entries, I recently went to Oslo, Norway, for a brief vacation. Against all expectations, the early May weather was lovely. It was sunny, people were out and about, relaxing and relaxed. In other words, the time was perfect for street photography, and I took ample advantage of this.

I now uploaded a set of people photographs from that great city. Most are candid shots but there are also a couple of portraits in there where I asked people’s permission before shooting. However, much like in Berlin, I found that many folks were reluctant to be photographed; to the point where I saw one photographer being accosted by people in a square where he had been shooting, and having to show the photos in his camera to prove that he did not capture those people …

Oslo also features some stunning modern architecture, images of which I will share at a later point as I am currently working on a new series of modern architecture; but some of the architecture is on display in the street photography set as well. A few pictures were taken in the impressive Vigeland Sculpture Park (or, more accurately: the Vigeland Installation in Frogner Park), where I chose to go just before sunset, when Vigeland’s sculptures shine in striking colours – as can be seen from the photo at the top. I will post a separate set of images from the sculpture installation in the next few days.

Meanwhile, enjoy Faces of Oslo.

I used a Fujifilm X-T10 throughout, mostly with a 35mm lens, and a 16-55mm lens for the architectural, wide-angle shots.

Those Unblinking Eyes (part 2)

Continuing the theme of pictures depicting the great many statues spread throughout the city of Oslo, Norway.

Included here is only one picture from the Vigeland Sculpture Park (the last one). This park with it’s really awesome collection of statues merits its own entry, coming soon.

All photos taken with a Fujifilm X-T10 camera.

Continue reading “Those Unblinking Eyes (part 2)”