On Film, Ism’s and Rituals

Once a site of resistance, the Peace Wall in Prague is now a place where insignificant individuals desecrate symbols of resistance for reasons of narcissism. Let’s face it, the mass of tourists who feel a need to write on walls such as the John Lennon Peace Wall are those who come late to history via a homogenized journey but want others to think they would have risked life and limb if only they had been born earlier, or in a less salubrious location, or under an oppressive regime, or didn’t have to go to uni, or….

The folk law version I heard from the locals back in the mid 1990s was that during the communist era someone did the original graffiti/paintings and the authorities painted over them, and then more were done, the authorities would removed them and back and forth it went. Finally someone who was caught repainting the J.L. mural was badly beaten, which resulted in the violent protests of record.

Ironically, Wikipedia gives a different, more homogenized and palatable version, but by the 1990s tourists had begun to do what organized oppression could not, they were taking the wall away piece by piece, paint chip by paint chip as souvenirs to put away and forget or were tagging what was left with rather stupid minutia.

The wall looks much different today, I guess because it’s now a site of entertainment, an ode to the corrosive power of any dominant ism no matter the label

The reason for these pictures is that I have begun to regress and have once again fallen in love with film. Not for the nostalgic reasons so popular today or because film is better, but for the ritual of loading film, taking light meter readings and being restricted to the amount of shots (12 in the case of this camera) to a roll of film. These actions slow everything down, makes me more selective and contemplative about composition and why I want to shoot the image. It also costs 30 to 50 cents a shot and a lot of work goes into making the final picture so each image is important. The process is therapeutic you might say, in its own odd way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennon_Wall

Bronica SQA, 80mm, Ilford HP5, developed in Rodinol. 1994

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Altrenative Berlin

While watching TV the other night I was struck by what can only be the inconsistencies in the way people see the world, the difference between one person’s reality and another’s. The speaker, a writer who had recently moved to Berlin for creative influence, stimulation, alternative lifestyle (whatever, the expressions always seem to be the same) was waxing lyrically about what a wonderful city it is, full of excitement and change, grand open spaces and interesting people. He was talking about the area around Gorlittzer Park, where he lives, which is all of those things, give or take a superlative.

Marzahn, a suburb on the far eastern edge of the city, does not have many people waxing lyrically about the superb lifestyle their area offers. In its early years Marzahn did have a reputation as the ideal communist workers’ suburb, boasting wide streets and lots of public space. After reunification it fell out of favour with just about everybody and became renown for racism and other nefarious reasons.

Today it’s just another Berlin suburb and opinions differ as to whether it would be a nice place to live or not. To me it seems a soulless place and the wide-open spaces a bit bleak and intimidating, but the blog GDR Objectified

https://gdrobjectified.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/marzahn/

sees things in a more positive light.

In an effort to be objective I’ve included two views. The landscape was shot from the S-Bahn over pass, it’s what you see when you arrive and the shopping center was photographed from where the buses stop.

Why do I go to places like this in the middle of winter? Because I think it’s important to leave one’s comfort zone occasionally, it makes making pictures more interesting.

 

Fujifilm X20, f5.6, 1/125, ISO200

Exposing Experiments

I’ve had a friend who is also a photographer visiting me in Berlin the last few days, so naturally we talked about photographic trends like the ubiquitous selfie/selfie stick and all the other happenings in the photographic world.

As we discussed these things we looked at images I had shot in Vienna and when we saw this image (which was grossly underexposed in the shadows and consequently never processed) we both agreed that it was a shame the underexposure made it useable and yet it was indicative of the quintessential Vienna café society I had heard so much about.

After she had left Berlin I thought I’d process the picture just to see what would happen and found the result very interesting.

What I’ve learnt.

Digital sensors are so remarkable it’s very hard to make a picture with the coarse grain of high speed film in camera . Normally lots of post-processing is required.

To get a photo with soft, course grain, that resembles high ISO film, early experiments have shown that it is imperative to grossly underexpose to create the film like characteristics that the digital revolution disposed with.

The whites are already in place so only the mid-tones and blacks are going to be excessively noisy/grainy, which is what I’m after

Post-processing of this image was very basic; I increased the brightness until I had details in the dark shadow areas, cropped, toned it and added a faux border for effect. Even the most basic free software can do this.

50mm, f3,2, 1/125sec, ISO100

Middle Age Thinking

I thought a small missive to those who want to build walls.

Fact 1. They neither keep people out nor do they keep people in. People are wonderfully and creatively adaptive, while a wall is a stodgy relic from the Middle Ages.

Fact 2. The wall you build will probably end up a tourist attraction dedicated to your stupidity.

Fact 3. It’s not cost effective because the people you seek to oppress will more than likely later be needed to run the concessions and maintain your wall, because as Berlin can attest, if you don’t cordon off and watch the wall the voracious hordes of tourists and profiteers will leave you with nothing but a few photographs and a memory in a very short time.

For you that don’t know it the wall in the photo is  a section of the Berlin Wall

28-300mm, f5.6, 1/125sec, ISO100

Street Theatre

It’s been a few weeks since I simply wandered the streets of Berlin with my camera idly looking at and photographing the street theatre. Every city and town in the world has its own rhythm that induces a specific style of image making and while New York was once the center of street photography, the genre moved on decades ago, but the lessons remained. I firmly believe that a major ingredient of what makes NYC street photographs so interesting is large groups of people in motion juxtaposed against the hard slanting light and massive structures of stone, glass and steel, which are features of the city.

Naturally there is more to a good picture than contrasting light and architecture, something also needs to be happening but strong sunlight and hard shadows help a lot in making the image visually interesting as well as making it very pleasant to aimlessly wander the city taking pictures.

70-200mm,f4, 1/650 sec, ISO100

More of the Same

Every day I walked past this great ugly orange building, and suddenly it isn’t there any more. Ok, the building is still there, but they’ve ripped away the bright shiny orange façade tiles.

Now, it wasn’t ever going to be a pretty building but unique it was. It’s part of the Technical University, which means it could be different without being a commercial failure. But now the landscape will change forever as it becomes remodeled to blend in with the corporate world that has encroached. An apt metaphor for the way higher education is being absorbed by the business world.

But who am I to complain, I looked past this building for years, photographing everything around it but the only picture I could find was the top image I did last year during my out-of-focus faze, the bright orange colour made it good for that.

I suppose this means that the more things change they not only remain the same but look like everything else.

Modernity, progress, conformity………………grrreat..

 

PS: the bottom photograph doesn’t do the scene justice, the building now reminds me of a newly shorn sheep on a blue cold day.

 

 

Fujifilm X20

Progress, it’s rarely benign.

The world is still white outside and very beautiful but sadly I’ve been working inside with computers trying to do a plethora of updates and then sort out the problems that come along with renewing computer software. I try to avoid this sort of exercise as much as I can which is a double-edged sword. Normal updating problems are irritating, but major updates are more along the lines of very aggravating and I work on the principle that If it Ain’t Broken don’t Fix it and things are rarely broken before updates are installed. The problem is, that because so much of what I do requires the internet I need to update every few years, otherwise the online side of the computer slowly grinds to a halt. If this wasn’t the case I doubt I would ever update because the programs I have work very well and supply me everything I need to do the work I do. But, and this is a big but, people like me are not a constant stream of income because I could use the same software I have now for the next ten years without any updates, but no, we all know that will never be allowed to happen in case the larger revenue stream drys up.

Progress, it’s rarely benign.

 

50mm, f2.8, 1/320sec, ISO100