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.


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

Complaints and Cold Reasons

Unusual for me, I have a real complaint I want to share with the world. For those who read my last post: you would have seen that we travelled to Gdansk and that I had camera problems due to the extreme cold as todays picture attests; however it isn’t the cold I want to complain about but invasive corporate marketing tactics.

We travel regularly and more often than not book our hotel through Booking.com, so why would they alienate us with malware that directs almost all internet searches to their site.

It seems under the disguise as a Flash player update they – along with a virus cleaning program (the irony doesn’t escape me)Booking.com surreptitiously placed two programs onto my computer. These programs first told me I needed to activate the virus checker because I had a malware problem and changed my web browser to one preloaded with Bookings preferences. It took me, a computer literate person, ten minutes to locate and get rid of all the shit, so it would take a novice a lot longer. That’s why I am telling everybody I know as well as those I don’t know to look for alternatives to Booking.com,if for no other reason than you computers integrity.

I really hate this sort of marketing and believe the only way to stop it is to boycott companies that practice it. A quick search of the net will reveal that I am not alone in my antipathy for this companies behavior. I would go so far as to advocate that the person who suggested the idea and the manager who OKed it should be criminally prosecuted as vandals.


Now that I’ve got that off my chest, back to photography.

This picture is sort of comforting to me as it shows that even in the digital era where no chemical stains can bring surprise results a camera malfunction can throw something interesting into the mix.

It Was Cold in Gdansk

We spent the last week in Gdansk, and it was cold. Oddly, before we went there I had followed Gdansk’s temperatures, which were within a degree plus or minus of Berlin’s. Prior to our departure the temperature in Berlin had been around -3/-4, which is cool but not oooh it’s so very, very freezing cold. But -4 in Gdansk is seriously cold, a cold that slides through the layers of clothes and chills you to the bone.

However, the sense of history that permeates the very fabric of the city makes it an interesting place to visit.

Old town is visually interesting and the European Solidarity Museum alone makes the trip worthwhile. Although the city itself is not really pretty, the shipyards supply a vista rarely seen elsewhere. Food and beer is inexpensive (we found a tiny Chinese restaurant that has great food but only seats 8 people), even in the tourist enclaves where we were, consequently we enjoyed our vacation but be warned, during the winter months it is very cold in Gdansk.


As an aside the cold played hell with my camera. After about an hour outside in the cold I began to get all sorts of weird things happening with the photos.

happening to the images.


28-300mm, f5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 125.


I hope everybody has had a good start to the year. Personally, January 2017 has not progressed as well as I would have hoped.

To begin, on Jan 2nd the hard drive on my computer decided that as the warranty had expired three weeks previously it would refuse to do any more work. Fortunately all but two days work had been backed up so there was minimal loss.

Yesterday my wife’s computer also decided that it had had enough and wished for a quieter existence on the scrap heap. A logic board failure is the chief suspect, but as the computer is over 6 years old it isn’t worth throwing money at it when we know the end result will be that repairing it will be prohibitively expensive.

While my computer was away awaiting the technicians pleasure I fell back onto my usual fallback, books. So on the one hand, work flow was retarded, but on the other I managed to read a few very interesting books.

I also did a couple of pictures that required minimal processing, because after all one needs to keep doing what one needs to do.

This simple little picture required three lights to get the effect I wanted. On camera right, up close in front of the piece was the key light with a soft box. Also on camera right but behind is the second light with a honeycomb grill attached. I used this light to create the highlight lines on the right side of the piece. On camera left side and almost vertical to the piece is the third smaller flash which was used to both fill in the shadows on the left of the piece and spill light onto the background.

Shooting this picture was both interesting and fun, it also eroded some of the dull free time I would normally have enlivened working on pictures with the computer.

70-200mm, f11, 1/125sec, ISO100, 2 500watt studio flashes and 1 200watt flash with silver umbrella

Light Comfort

It can’t be denied that snow makes the world just a little bit more colouful, brighter as well as colder.

While the rest of Germany has been deluged with storms and heavy snow falls, Berlin has seen very little of the bad weather, which has been both great and not so great.

The occasional long snow fall made Berlin brighter, but the weathers switching between warmer/colder temperatures has made the ground underfoot in the park where I take my daily walk treacherous and uninviting, no fun at all.

But for photographers snow is a huge bonus. This picture, taken in the rear courtyard of our apartment house comes alive because the cold blue-toned light contrasts subtly with the yellow incandescent lights, which to my eye makes for a warm and inviting picture.

Odd when you consider that it needs to be cold to give the picture a feeling of warmth.


FujifilmX20, f2, 1/30sec, ISO400

The Last Post 2016

Since the attack on Berlin’s Christmas market we have been often asked what it feels like to be living in Berlin now.

Our answers have been almost universally the same: ‘Not much has changed, it’s not like it came as a surprise, an attack had been expected, as is another’, one lives with this knowledge.

But, and I think this is a very big but, the expectation of violence does play constantly on your mind, although at a very low subliminal level.

I’ve also noticed that my pictures have become very dark, much darker than before.

It seems that evil is afoot and the population in general is aware, although we do our best to ignore it.

In the short term things are just not going to get better, we all know this, but feel powerless to stop or even slow the triumphantly grinning fascist leviathan and its miasmatic bog of lies.

Fujifilm X20,f4.5, 1 /1000 sec, ISO320

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


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