Daido Moriyama

Coffee in the old city of Jerusalem, Sore feet, and defining your why... by Cristian Geelen

Like I promised…

My feet are still tired… Writing this laying on my couch rolled up like a hamster ready for bed. Banging out this blog post that I have promised to you all.

But you have to forgive me. A lot has happened since I got back home. You know… Life… And all of it happened at the same time. Even squeezed in a couple of shoots and one of them was a lomography one.

But it is all for the greater good. Telling stories!

Heading straight for the coffee…

The time has come. Finally working again on my long term project “Neshama Sheli“. I was so happy yo be on the plane again.

As soon as I arrived I could not help myself my friend Issam. He has the best coffee house in the entire of country. I totally forgot it was Friday and that he is closed on Fridays. The stroopwafels I have brought him had to wait a day extra…

So that meant walking around Jerusalem until my feet hurt. That last part happened for sure since I walked 62KM in the first couple of days!

That does not seem much spread over a amount of time. But with all the hills up and down it was actually quite the walk.

Before I forget…

Since the reason why you have stumbled upon my blog probably is photography. Some of you might think it is interesting what stuff I have brought.

Well… That is easy. Not much…

Two bodies. One analog, one digital. The analog a Nikon FM2n. The digital, a Nikon D810.

I always prefer analog but sometimes digital is more practical.

Film, I bought that when I got there. The whole reason is that it is more practical and is also part of my research. The downside of that is that you have to do with what you find. I have found a lot of Kodak. That is not bad. I am a Ilford guy when it comes to Black and White. But I will never complain if Kodak Tri-X is the one that is available. And who cares in the end anyway. They both rule.

Oh, and only three lenses. Two 35mm’s. One Sigma Art for the D810. And a Nikon 35mm Nikon F1.8 ai. Also my Carl Zeiss 50mm.

This keeps it small. And even got room in my day pack for underpants and protein bars.

And in my opinion. If you can’t do it with one lens you need to be more proficient.

But enough about gear. It really is not important. It just does not need to break down and that is it. That does not mean I don’t love a beautiful camera. But getting your hours in and the reason why is way more important.

My why…

The first what I thought when I got back home was: Now I understand! Not the situation, but more the whole reason why some of my photographic heroes were working on a project for like ten years or something.

I guess that is also the whole reason why you “why” is so important. The “why“ is always important. Just to keep that perseverance to keep rocking when all your chips are down. Even Simon Sinek wrote his best selling book about that subject.

I do this because of: And fill in the blanks...

I frees my mind…

It gives my emotions a place…

I love him or her…

It gives me inner peace…

It is easy to do things when they are fun. But if you are in in for the long haul… Your “why” better be a good damn good one.

You still haven’t told me yours…

One of my favorite poets (Rumi) has a quote: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray” .

If you are following me for a while you know I do everything by gut feeling. But there is also a explainable part of this all…

Despite I am a social creature it also feels for me I am a little bit of an odd one. And fitting in is not really my thing, nor I feel I have ever did. I really don’t like stuff a lot of “normal“ people like. And I have the strangest urge to make sense out of that strange journey that is called life. If that makes any kind of sense at all…

So if I want to makes sense to any of it why not go to the region that is the origin of the three big modern religions… And so I did three years a go. It seemed like a good place to start.

Photography in the end is a search within yourself…

I never expected during the first time I went there it would become plenty of more times. Every country that I come I fall in love with. But somehow, this place…

The first time I stood in front of the western wall I even cried a little. And I am not even Jewish. I am as Dutch as I can be.

But also the Dome of the rock quiet down my ever going monkey mind. And the church of the holy sepulcher had certain calm.

So many stories… So many people… All of them with a why…

But there is more…

No worries… My passion of explaining things goes beyond Israel and the Palestinian territories. I want to see the whole world. And I have gotten quite far already.

The drive is bigger…

The world is an amazing place. And we can learn so much from each other. If we somehow get those stories across imagine where we can be! Colombia, Japan, Indonesia! It is all still on the list.

So many people to talk to… So much things to learn… And ergo, so many stories to tell…

I use photography as my medium.

So that is sort of my “why“…

Things I ran into…

It is so super interesting how being social differs from place to place all across the globe. The whole plan was to talk to as many people as possible instead of just doing random street photography. Because street photography alone just doesn’t cut it.

It is cool to do. Of course! But if you want to give your work more depth talking to people is the only way.

Well… That part is easier said than done. There are of course plenty of people. But in comparison to for example Vietnam or India, or Iran it was a bit more difficult to start a casual conversation. I had to work for it… In other countries people somehow automatically come to me. But in Jerusalem it was more like home. Other areas were more easy.

But was I satisfied when I got back home? Not not really… But like I said earlier… Now I understand why things take so long!

Not that I have not met some beautiful people. I did! If some of you will read the blog you know who you are.

The story continues…

I focused mainly around Jerusalem and Bethlehem again. This mainly because my train of thought was because of it was just after pesach (passover), Ramadan started, and memorial day was also happening. And most of the stories were hopefully developing around those places. Plus it is just a nice place to be and Jerusalem is centrally located to everywhere you want to go.

But I think next time I will roam around a bite more. Or rent a car or something.. I don’t know. That is stuff for future Cris.

Aida and Dheisheh refugee camp…

I was here last time too. And I could of course not be in the neighborhood without saying hello to my friend, Omar. He lives in the Dheisheh refugee camp and is an artist and musician.

I went though the same checkpoint as last year. The same one where I have written about last year (link here).

It has changed… A lot!

Checkpoint 300. Instead of going though a regular gate there is a building now where you have to go through. Still turnstiles. Still the cattle like exit. And still the annoying cab drivers in the end.

We chatted a lot. About life, love, girls, music… His car that he had to turn in because it was illegal. That story was a bit funny. Sorry man haha…

It is so interesting how much our lives differ and in so much aspects are so the same. For him the water truck comes once every thirty days if he is lucky… I can just open the tap. But still, we both like waffles and are afraid of spiders.

He also told me he started working out. Better have some gainz next time I am there bro!

At the graveyard…

Apparently we are not only afraid of spiders… He wanted to show a martyrs graveyard. And like the name says, it is a graveyard where the local martyrs are being buried.

We had to be quiet because there was a young woman mourning. Here brother was killed not that long ago. And every day she was there because she missed him a lot. This was one of the moments you have to put your camera away and just let someone be…

We wanted to give our tired feet some rest so we sat down on a bench, but a humongous queen bee suddenly showed up and we both yelled like little girls and ran off. That beast was enormous!

After we came to a safe distance we pretended the bee had nothing on. Like the young cool kids do…

Memorial Day…

My blog post has no structure at all this time. But hey… what can you do!

A couple of days later it was memorial day… There are quite some similarities with the memorial day we have in the Netherlands. We just have one siren and stay quiet for two minutes to remember the atrocities of the second world war, and the fallen since then. In Israel you have two sirens. Because it literally is a day. First one was the preceding evening at 20:00 and the second one at 11:00 in the morning…

The entire city and country stops what they are doing.

This was also one of my moments of getting back to reality. If you stay somewhere for a while things start to get normal.

My lasagna theory…

Earlier that week about 250+ rockets were fired from the Gaza strip, and it wasn’t on my mind already.

I dubbed this my lasagna theory. I like lasagna a lot! But if you every day it starts to get normal and it is not special anymore. You get used to it…

From my own country I am used to stop the car or motorbike on the side of the road and everyone is most of the time respectful… And what I do is I try to remember the people that are important to me that are no longer here. And say thank you.

It was this moment where you realize that I was in an area where not everyone could get along. Of course the Israeli - Palestinian conflict is still active and that’s the reason not everyone participated in the moment of silence. You can probably can guess the reason why.

It was a teaching moment for myself and made me more curious. Is it ever going to end? Will they ever get along? Will there ever be an end to the conflict? And what can we learn from all of this in the rest of the world?

But what now…

By now it is already three days later since I have started writing… The rain has started falling down. Thunder is coming. And there are plenty strips of film waiting for me to be printed… And the official project page needs to be updated. All the editing…

Believe me. I have plenty of anecdotes.

But writing long blog posts always leaves me with more questions. And I will write more on a later moment.

All I know is I had a great and interesting time again. And I have met some beautiful souls along the way. Bracha, Issam, they woman from television in Japan, Omar, Jared. The dudes from Japan. And all the other people I spoke to. Thanks for everything.

Jerusalem. I hope to see you soon again… You give me a home away from home…

Neshama Sheli. You are indeed important to me. You are a part of my soul…

One last thing…

One last thing that remains… Is figuring out what the band was I was dancing to at the Mahane Yehuda market in the evening… “Feel it in my brain“ and plenty of others songs. I danced my ass off! So if anyone has a clue… Please let me know! That song made me happy. :)

- Cristian

Digital vs Analog, Israel, testing stuff, and other project updates. by Cristian Geelen

Hey everyone!

This blog post is not really a dedicated story about something particular. But more of a quick sum up of everything that is going on. I will address my photography and I will be addressing a little bit of my travel plans and projects that I am preparing.

So I am putting on some Tool (The band) and just write away!

And at the end some images… And yes. Even some color… As a reward for reading through everything haha.

That analog life…

If you have been following me you probably noticed that I am getting more and more into analog photography. Not that there is anything wrong with digital, but I just think it is tons of fun!

For everything is a time and a place though.

It started out with just pure curiosity. How it works, and aesthetically it is just amazing. For me there are too many variables in digital photography if you are really into the whole mega post-processed stuff. But I am more of a documentary photographer anyway. So it is not that bad. But I remembered when I started and before I have found my voice photographically the amount of stuff what you can do and achieve are almost limitless. That can be a advantage… But for me… It is not… The less of distractions in my gear the better.

With analog I pick a film that goes with my subject matter. Of course you need to do some post processing. That part is not different. Unlike some people like to believe. But your base is just different. And because of that I can focus more on my composition instead of being a Lightroom warrior.

Sitting in a Ferrari…

The fun thing is. After you have shot analog for a while as soon as I grab my digital camera it feels like I am sitting in a Ferrari. Everything goes so quickly! You can review what you are doing, not to worry about a full roll, auto focus all of sudden… Man! Like a hot knife though butter!

I already mentioned this once before. But every-time it gives me more and more respect of the photographers from the golden age and all of my heroes. In comparison shooting analog is just goddamn difficult!

Shades of grey…

The world is not black and white like photographs, but situations are as grey as they come. Same in the case of photography. And specifically; what do I bring on my upcoming project…

I will be traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories again at the end of April. Continuing with my everlasting story I want to tell.

And despite I want to shoot most of it analog. The thing that is going through my mind is.

Is it practical?

If you have ever been to for example Jerusalem. The amount of detectors you have to go though is enormous. And the last thing I want is that my film is getting screwed up by all the scanners and stuff. Of course on the airport you can ask for hand checks. And as you have read in my Vietnam and China blog, it is not really a problem. But I just don’t want to take the risk. Because if I lost any of my images again I definitely get a heart attack or something. It happened already to me last year and, I don’t want to happen it again.

In the end my heart will probably kick my brains ass and I will bring digital and analog anyway.

Lomography…

Speaking of grey… I have been picked by Lomography to test their new Postdam Kino 100 film. From what I have seen it looks like an amazing film. It is inspired by old German cinema. And from the images I have seen what they have shot I am actually really curious what it will give me.

The only thing is, because it is 100 ASA I need a lot more sunlight. And the Netherlands is still grey…

But as soon as I shot it I will dedicate a blog post to it. So stay tuned for that…

Developing stuff…

Lately I have written a lot about developing. Especially on Instagram. And filming it to and such. But I am trying to keep it on my own blog to a minimum.

The whole reason for that…

I just want this about the art of photography and my adventures. Projects I am doing. And even maybe a sort of diary with things that come to my mind. Not one of the many gear or technical blog that are out there.

I am a photographer first. The rest is just bonus…

I do like I said, share that stuff in my Instagram. That whole platform is as contemporary as it can be. It has it’s uses. So that seems like the right place for that.

Also you probably will on some guest blogs that I am going to write. And have written already. You can find one on 35mmc. I have written a 5 frames with. Go check it out if you like! Click here.

There are also some other ones in development. But I will let you all know as soon as that will materializes.

Searching for stories…

After I return from Israel and the Palestinian territories and processed all of my work I will be looking for another place to travel to. No idea which one yet. But I am doing plenty of research. Nepal, Papua New-Guinea and Uzbekistan are on my list. But it always can change.

I am open for suggestions though. So if you have some. The comment section is open, so you can always drop a comment if you want.

The stipulation is. I do need to have a story to tell. The main focus is that I want to steer my work towards that I create more depth in my images. Not only with composition. But also ,it needs to be about something. Otherwise it will be just one of the many millions out there. I need to get out of that street photography flow and more into my documentary photo-journalistic flow.

So I am looking for events that are happening. Some special festivals. Tribes or (sub)cultures. It’s a difficult task. But hey, if you want that your work means something…

Ramble on…

Not the famous song of Led Zeppelin, but this time it is me that is starting to ramble again. So it is time to close the lid of my laptop and go to bed. Because I am finishing this story up on a Saturday night…

Oh!

And I bought a “new“ enlarger for my darkroom. Time to print!

Alright. This really was it. For now at least!

- Cristian

Ilford Delta 400

Ilford Delta 400

Ilford Delta 400

Ilford Delta 400

One of my few color shots lately.

One of my few color shots lately.

And another color one.

And another color one.

Did Instagram kill photography? by Cristian Geelen

I woke up this morning...

Thank god...

Because I like waking up!

The smell of incense was still hanging around from last nights meditation... Sun was a shining a bit on my face because I left the curtains a bit open... And my mind went to photography again...

Because I like photography...

Cup of coffee was made... Went back to bed... And turned on my iPad...

Grateful...

In comparison to most parts of the world where I travel to, people don't have the luxury waking up like this...

I started watching "The many lives of William Klein." and Daido Moriyama's "Near Equal.". If you aren't familiar with those photographers go look them up! And make that your main task today...

I let my mind wander... Thinking... Always thinking...

Because I like thinking...

And my monkey mind is always jumping from one place to the other. In this case to a quote from another legend, Elliot Erwitt. "Digital Manipulation kills photography".

Altough I don't completely agree. Because photographs have always been manipulated! Either in the darkroom or in the digital darkroom that is stationed on your computer.

He does have a point!

My monkey mind was going insane again. But it ain't all that bad...

Because I like my monkey mind...

How does Instagram fit into all of this? And what is Instagram actually? And what if William Klein was born when Instagram existed? or Daido Moriyama?

Valid questions... But more so. It gave me also the opportunity to think about the way how the general public uses Instagram. Or any other piece of social media. Or hell! Even how we treat everyday life.

As where I stand now the platform itself is a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Let me elaborate on that.

The positives are quite big actually. It gives any person in the world the opportunity to get their message out there. Either it is music, art, views, or whatever. It can help you build a audience that you otherwise would not have. The whole world at your fingertips! As long as you have a internet connection and a phone or a computer.

Awesome right?

The downside is... Well... us... The people...

Wait wut? What do you mean Cristian!?!?

Well like a lot of things in life it has become more of a popularity contest. We as a species at this moment, and yes I am realizing I am generalizing heavily now, seem to have to attention span of a goldfish! Actually I believe that science already proved that it is even less now...

We choose to get triggered by stuff that is catchy. We see it in our politics, how we communicate with each other, or we rather take a pill to lose weight than change our diet. And even rather send a text than have a telephone conversation because it is scary...

Same goes for art and Instagram.

For me a great photograph is something that you have to analyze... You can lose yourself into... Let yourself escape from reality... Or experience reality more vivid... It is really one big visual story one way or the other. Either it is the traveling tales of Steve McCurry or being in some sort of photographic version of the horror movie the ring and a playboy magazine with Daido's work.

And how does that translate to a medium like Instagram?

Well no worries I will come to that. Life is one big story! And...

Because I like telling stories...

Well, look closely how you scroll through your feed? Maybe another assignment for today?

I goes something like this....

Scroll scroll scroll, Like , Scroll, Like, Comment, Scroll scroll...

And all of that in a couple of seconds...

Did you actually see some of the photographs?

Or did you just got triggered by something catchy?

Would you have the same behavior if you go through a Steve McCurry book?

I think it is a good question to ask yourself. Especially if you consider yourself a photographer, a artist, or just a art lover in general.

That does not mean there isn't a time and a place for the platform. I discovered some amazing photographers who made the platform their own. But it creates some sort of unexplainable distance between one type of photographer and the other. You even got a term "Instagram photographer". Like that a person that uses the platform apparently in a efficient form isn't a real photographer?

I don't know... 

I think photographers that both are on the platform and are not on the platform or maybe less successful on it, are photographers. So hmmmm it can be part of my conclusion...

All I know is I don't like trends... And most of my photographic heroes where from a time that it did not exist. I don't like cropping. Don't like shitty small screens but I do like to print my photographs big. And I don't like it when we fall in the trap of instant gratification. Either it is enjoying art or interacting with humans...

Because I like art and I like humans...

And do we have to copy all the big accounts all the time?

On the other hand I also do realize that times always change. And you either adapt or you die out. And change is good. Altough not always... But sometimes.

And a picture is a picture. It does not matter what tool you use. So should that also count for the medium we use how to show it to the world?

But what I do believe is that whatever medium we use. We do need to stop, and appreciate the art for what it is. Give ourselves the time to enjoy it. Stop a bit longer at the photograph you like and stop scrolling, or walking, or turning the pages...

Enjoy it for what it is.... A story...

Food for thought...

Speaking about food... I am going to have a bite....

Because I like food...

Have a nice weekend you all...

- Cristian