Alexey Titarenko

Women's March 2019

Hey everyone!

Last Saturday I walked alongside thousands of inspirational women and men who support their cause for equal rights and so much more!

Of course I brought my camera’s and documented the day. Shot some digital. And shot some analog. And the scanning is still not done yet. But here is what I can share at this moment. And when the scanning is done I will either update this post or make a new one.

Hopefully my photographs can be of assistance to the path of equality…

- Cristian

The monkeys did it! - My days in Varanasi, India...

I’ve been home a couple of weeks now…

My Instagram feed make you want to believe otherwise because I am still posting photographs of India. But hey! Why not! I just created a lot of work over there that I wanted to share.

Trying…

I’ve been trying to write this blog post ever since the day I have returned home. But you know… Life… Ha! I always was surprised why some photographer seem to only update their blog every once in a while. But trying to juggle a lot of things all at once makes me realize the reason why that happens…

But! For now I have some me time again. So that means going through about 3000 photographs which I took in India of course. Writing my blog. And also, thinking about a way to present my work. In real life that is… Not digitally. As many people know I hate looking at photographs in the digital form. You need to hold them.

But like always I digress…!

Back to India!

I landed in Delhi like most people do. Around midnight I got my backpack from the luggage carousel, and oh so fucking tired of the flight I stepped outside looking for my driver…

I’ve been lucky to see much of this world already. And when I was doing my research my first reaction was. Aaaaaah the chaos in India is probably not as intense as they say it is!

Well I can tell you… It is!

Even in the middle of the night it was so busy everywhere… The busiest city I have seen so far was Tehran, Iran. But that one seems orderly in comparison to the chaos when you arrive in Delhi…

It was warm, humid, and dusty…

I stayed a couple of days in Delhi. I’m not really a fan of big cities. But it would be a shame if I just flew to Varanasi immediately.

I guess Delhi was a good way to acclimatize to the moist and heat, but mainly all of the honking… I still have some nightmares about the honking! I really needed those days because nothing else could prepare me more than Varanasi itself…

In Delhi i roamed mostly around the old city. Which is nice… The light is good, the dust creates some nice looks. And plenty of people and scenes to creates some nice images and warm up. And of course plenty of street food!

The only thing you need to look out for is crooked tuktuk drivers and touts. But other than that… Just roam around, eat plenty, and have fun.

The culture shock that is Varanasi…

I took a domestic flight to Varanasi. I wanted to go by train, but with all the hassle I had to go through with the new website that the Indian railways has got, and I wasn’t planning to let fate decide this trip what kind of train seat I would have. It seemed like a good idea!

Don’t get me wrong. I do think if you have plenty of time you really need to take the train! It will probably be a adventure by itself…

Varanasi was even warmer. And when my driver picked me up from the airport I guess it was roughly an hour drive to the city. For everyone who reeds this. A tuktuk will also get you there and is more fun and cheaper. And you don’t get any tricky questions if you want to upgrade to an airco one haha.

As soon as you arrive the chaos begins. Varanasi is so busy! Especially when I arrived… It was a holiday. Gandhi Jayanti. So a lot of Indian people travel to the city to do their rituals in the Ganges.

Being in Delhi first did indeed prepared me a little bit for everything. The business… Chaos… And the honking! My god! When will the honking ever stop!

The honking is being used as some sort of echo location to see if someone is close by or something. Even in the tiniest streets, motorbikes will try to go through the crowds and honk their way onwards…

As soon as I arrived in the guest house I was staying I started to explore. With my trusty camera of course. There is no better way than just dive right in!

Gear…

BTW, if you read this, and you are a camera nerd, and the chance of that might be quite big…You are most likely interested in which gear I brought. Well that is a very short list…

It was a Fujifilm X100F. A Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with just one 23mm lens. (35 mm equivalent ). And plenty of batteries and memory cards. That was it! I din’t even need the batteries because if you learn to turn off your camera yourself it lasts longer and is quicker ready to shoot, than it gets out of sleep mode…

In the end I only used the X100F. And no regrets…

So screw the gear!

I started at the main ghat. Ghats is what makes Varanasi, Varanasi I guess… It is the heart and the soul of the city. And those are the places where life happens…

The main ghat was so busy! I felt like I was in an ant hill… But it was really interesting to see all the rituals and traditions going on…

It was not the place for me though. For me the most interesting moments happened when I was roaming between the most southern ghat ( Assi Ghat ) and just right before the main ghat.

You can go even more northern. But somehow it was less appealing to me.

And also a small but not less important. The ghats were covered in mud! There has been a flood. And there was mud everywhere… So that gave it’s own challenges… There was a huge cleanup operation going on that made for some interesting scenes. Even lost my shoe, and found it back again. And became for me a big part of the story of the city.

My own rituals…

I created my own rituals there. For me that was roaming between the ghats I just mentioned. Walking a little, stopping for chai, and walking some more.

One morning when it still was before sunrise I continued my roaming between the ghats, and at one moment I got the questions for the thousands of time; “Boat Sir?“

Until now, I always replied no while shaking my head. But this time he even proposed a descent price. Still a little bit more than the local price. But when you travel you need to have the “fuck it“ attitude and just see what happens… And so I did…

I got in the boat. The boatman came and go, and than came again… I thought it was time to finally to go but than another passenger came out of nothing.

The other passenger and I started talking and he turned out to be a professor from Pune, that is close to Mumbai. A super friendly man which gave some interesting insights about the country and city which I otherwise I would have missed or not have known.

We ended up having lunch together and a day later diner and even introduced me to a friend of his. And also drove on a motorcycle with three people at once.

Another thing he introduced me too was lemon tea in the Assi ghat. It is not like Chai or regular tea. But it is tea with salt… The first sip was a bit weird. But after the second one I was hooked! The lemon tea later became a part of my ritual and I even made a lemon tea budget in one of my many pockets haha.

And professor. If you happen to read this blog post. Thank you for everything and your great care. And I mean that form the bottom of my heart. Kind people like you is what makes traveling so special. :-)

The story continues…

The more I roamed around the more I got to know the city. Which is a good thing… You learn what makes the city sort of tick. You start to see the light. You learn what most import is to you and your photographs. And you even get to know the people that live there. The touts started to leave me alone. Compared my muscles with some of the guys who thought they were strong. Chai break here, Chai break there, Chai break everywhere!

Talking about strong…

My physique helps me in a lot of ways… I am not a body builder so I am not huge. I am a weightlifter which is a big difference! It does not make you look bulky. You just get big legs and you look like you can lift a house. But that is a different story haha.

And this time too. One of the mornings I arrived at one of the Kushti training centers. For people who don’t know what Kushti is. Kushti is an traditional form of Indian wrestling which goes back even way before 0 BC. Here is a link to the wikipedia page.

My main goal was to do some photography over there. And it was a important item on my shot list. But I started talking to one of the wrestlers. And as soon as I mentioned that I was a weightlifter I needed to join!

How can I refuse?

So I didn’t even hesitate and joined.

I got introduced to the head coach and, and as soon as the area was made ready to train, I joined the prayer, and was ready to go. The wrestler told me what to say during they prayer. Trained with some of there equipment. Did some grappling. And got a massage and a good cracking from the head coach. Did need to take a little break to still get my shots in haha.

The equipment they use reminds me of the Persian house of strength or Zurkhaneh. Especially the clubs and hammers.

They are such a wonderful people. As soon as the training was done I got invited to join the next day again.

The monkeys did it!

I always talk about my monkey mind. But these monkeys were not in my mind. There are in the streets and on the roof. Now isn’t that really such a strange thing. But somehow the monkeys over here have a little more of a jerk factor than everywhere else.

During the evenings I made some phone-calls back home and every-time there was a huge monkey sitting above the roof entrance playing with his balls and looking at my phone… That bastard wanted to have his own… But it is mine man!

Their assholeness is fuel for some funny conversations though. I will never forget the shop own who complained about that the monkeys broke his Wi-Fi. Or the little kids who where cursing at the monkeys because they their kite. And I asked them; Are the monkeys nice? And their reply was with their sweetest voice; No, monkeys not nice…

It is really refreshing though to see kids playing with kites and chasing monkeys and be happy with it.

My bridge. And a message to other photographers…

I am not talking about a physical bridge. But I am talking about a philosophical one… And one I want to make and connect to my previous stories and my message to photographers.

And maybe not even photographers but everyone in general…

It is all about making connections!

I am not kidding! One of the things that got me triggered were a couple of remarks that were something like; “Hey you are in India, it must be really so easy to get some good photographs!”

That actually rubbed the wrong way…

If you really think like that, why are you photographing?

The things that make photographs special and timeless, are the emotions and the stories you are capturing. If it wasn’t for the kids on the roof, the professor, the Kushti wrestlers, and later a buffalo herder which I talked for hours with on the waterfront of the Ganges. I wouldn’t have gotten my shots in. And besides that. You still need to think about composition and such!

This is what makes your photographs tell stories. You are dealing with real human beings, with a heart! And a soul! And emotions! Yes India is a photography friendly country… And very photogenic. But still…

Otherwise you are just doing graphical design with a camera.

So treat humans as humans… Not as subjects…

You are not in a zoo (And I don’t even like zoos)…

Talk to some people… It will make you richer in ways that you would have never have imagined….

And even when you are not a photographer. Traveling is still about connections. The laughter and joy. The stories you come back home with… Not the Instagram likes…

Rant over… Back to the fun stuff. Like getting sick for a day.

I wanted to train Kushti again but all out of nothing I felt sick. It came out of nowhere! I guess no one is safe for some sort of bug here. Especially with our fragile European bodies.

I needed some healthy stuff. And maybe some food that reminds me of home. So after some Google’ig I have found the brown bread bakery.

What a delight!

It is a nice place where they sell some European sandwiches, nice teas, and lots of smoothies!

When I was there eating my Gouda sandwich I met an amazing couple. Tobias and Isabelle. Isabelle is from the Netherlands too, and Tobias is from the UK if I am correct. And with my camera on the table it didn’t take long the conversation went towards photography. And especially analog.

It turns out that they were making a documentary film purely shot on analog film. That is so cool! They went to so many places already and now they were shooting in Varanasi.

Go check their Instagrams out! You can find Tobias here. And Isabelle here.

The flu like symptoms went away as quickly as it came. And I was going on my way again. We said goodbye. Exchanged Instagram’s. And for me it was back to photography.

Wrapping it up! For now…

I still have so many stories to tell… But maybe I will tell them later.

It is about time I will round this blog post up…

India is an amazing country. Despite the chaos, honking, slipping on cow poo, the monkeys, and the famous Delly Belly… Yes, I was also a victim haha.

The food. The nice people. The culture. Everything!

In the future I will return to see the rest of the country. There is no question about that…

For now. There is a little bit less than two months left in 2018. And if you have come this far in reading this blog post. First of all… Thank you for that.

Also…

Maybe some of you can help me with some future destinations! I opened up the comments of this post because of that.

The reason I ask is because I have to my own surprise some extra time to travel in December. And the destinations is not set yet…

So which part of this beautiful earth would you like to see me document?

Until next time…

- Cristian

Introducing Andante - Portrait series of the soul. No 1.

Monday night... 23:03... 2018...

I should be sleeping but I put up a record of one of mine favorite classical pieces.

Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21 IV. Andante...

I never knew I like classical music until I picked up a box of LP records from my uncle's place, which I inherited from my dad. Thanks dad...

Years later everything falls into place. Classical music... Photography... And a Russian photographer named Alexey Titarenko.

When I discovered his work I was blown away. I was exactly how I look at the world! He describes his work in one of his interviews as a cello playing... Long... And slow... The state of despair of cold war Russia put in an image only he could make. A real "City of Shadows..."

Later it was the name of one of his books. The other one is "The city is a novel..."

Inspired by him, and my own views of the world, I created a concept in my mind. And for two years it was brewing... Forming... Shaping... And waiting for the right moment.

An visual representation of my own cello in my monkey mind. Only my monkey plays more of a violin. But still slow!

Slow... Seeing people like a sea of souls in a world full of contradictions... Sadness and joy... Beauty and pain... Truth and lies... The ultimate form in shapes of what people really want but actually do...

It is like writing my own novel...

Only with the camera.

Or is it more an autobiography?

I truly believe that something magical happens when you press the shutter button. The visual representation you see might be a composition. But for me it feels like opening up my own soul, bare naked, to express how I see this giant magic ball floating in space we live on but can't put it into words...

Luckily I shoot work full of joy too. But both sides are a part of life. The sad needs to be there to enjoy the beautiful even more. Balance... And my close friends know that I always say...

As above, so below...

Art is a good way to vent. And something can be beautiful, and sad, and full of joy at the same time. A dramatic depiction of life! And do we need more drama? Maybe... It creates a lot. From connections, to romance, and even substance and depth. Maybe it is even a message of the things we tend to forget. And maybe not even forgotten but put aside because of the rat race we are stuck in... No matter which mask you are wearing or character playing...

I guess I am sidetracking now... Back on topic!

I should be a story teller...

None of my street, travel, or documentary work is staged. Everything is real. And I take my pride in that. That means also this portrait series. The only thing I added to the composition is the model... Which I was looking for a long time...

Finally the right moment came when I was contacted by Roos Tulen. She is the resident artist of the city of Leiden. She decided to start her own project. And that project became herself. She signed up for a fitness competition where you had to stand in a bikini on a big stage. And that meant a completely different lifestyle than then weightlifting she was used to.

That also meant a lot of physical changes. And because of that she asked twenty photographers to capture her journey... And every photographer would capture her in his or her unique way. In the end it will become an art project by itself presented in the city of Leiden.

All the details of that I will tell in a later story. So stay tuned!

This is where I played my part. Finally I could make the concept what I had in mind for a long time reality.

Within time this concept will become a series. When I find the right soul that needs to be captured. Some of them will be made here in the Netherlands. Others during one of my travels...

Let's see...

Andante - Portrait series of the soul. No 1.