Fred Herzog

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

Playing with color... by Cristian Geelen

I am a lover…

I am a lover of Black and White photography…

If I had to pick my soul apart and examine that little bit that is responsible for photography you will find out it will consist out of bit and pieces of Ilford Delta 400 or HP5+ and Kodak Tr-X. DDX and HC110.

But in that whole mess of Black, White, and all the shades of grey, there is a secret part that loves color.

Seduced by the wonderful tones of Steve McCurry and his Kodachrome. A mistress of the vibes of William Eggleston. Or a unspoken connection with the works of Harry Gruyaert.

So got myself some rolls of color film. Just because I felt like it!

I have got my hand on some Cinestill 50D and Kodak Ektar. And luckily for a short while there was no shortage of light. Did some casual roaming around. And had no real structure whatsoever. Just photographed everything that peaked my interest. I mean, I will be traveling in a couple of weeks again to work more on my ever evolving Israel project. So casual and just having fun is all I needed for now.

And it was fun! I mean, everyone knows that shooting analog is always a surprise. And way more difficult than digital. Also you don’t have the luxury of your back screen. But in comparison to Black and White you have to think in color.

So I tried to look for some colorful scenes and just clicked away.

Because most of the all color that I did shot lately was digital I was quite excited! So curious what the end results was... I was particularly excited for the Kodak Ektar. No specific reason. I just love the vibe of it, if that is reason enough. I am not very good at describing color pallets…

Me and my big bucket…

Since I do all of my developing myself I developed these rolls myself too. And in comparison to Black and White development I actually think color is more easy. With Black and White you can influence a lot by tweaking your entire developing process. From agitation to different developers and all of it you can think of. With color it is more straightforward and you can fuck less up.

The biggest challenge with color I think is getting everything to 38 degrees Celsius.

If you have followed my Instagram stories of that day. You might have noticed I have used a nifty little trick for that… If you are curious. Well… I guess you just have to follow my Instagram stories in the future to find that out haha.

Pushing it…

No this is not a reference to a Salt-N-Pepa song. But I did pushed it real good! To 400 to be exact. I think I only shot one roll at box speed. That was one of the cinestills’. But since I always like to push it, and 50 and 100 ASA is really not enough. I was like; screw it! Crank it up!

Added 30 seconds per stop to the developing time and it all went down as smoothly as a nice IPA on a sunny day. Or any other day…

Happy as a camper…

When I scanned the results I was indeed happy as a camper. It all looked wonderful and especially the reds really seem to stand out. This is why I shoot film… The smile on my face when you get the rolls out of your tank and seeing you film dry and after that the end result in an beautiful image. Or a sucky one when you screw up haha.

I would have loved to print some, but at home I can only do Black and White printing. I will look at that process maybe at a later time.

Wrapping it up…

Not wanting to make thing one a too long of a post, so I am going to wrap it up. Like I wrote in the beginning, I am about to work on my project again in a couple of weeks. And I need to get everything ready. So here are a couple of images of the rolls. Not all of them, otherwise there is noting left to share at a later moment…

So thank you for reading. And since you have made it this far. Here are the images.

- Cristian

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

CInestill 50D EI 400.

CInestill 50D EI 400.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Cinestill 50D EI 400.

Cinestill 50D EI 400.

Cinestill 50D EI 400.

Cinestill 50D EI 400.

Cinestill 50D EI 400.

Cinestill 50D EI 400.

Cinestill 50D.

Cinestill 50D.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Kodak Ektar 100 EI 400.

Andante - Portrait series of the soul. No 2. - Reham by Cristian Geelen

Andante…

Or in other words… Slow…

A musical term that means slow. And also the name of my portrait series.

I found it on the cover of an vinyl LP record I inherited from my father and the music on it was exactly how I felt. And even represents a side of me. Of course I have a happy side. But my other one is full of romance, love, sadness and melancholy. I embraced it and love it very much.

The name: Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21 IV. Andante.

I wrote about it in an earlier blog post which you can find here.

Time…

For me it represents time… When you are doing something you like or love and are having a good time it flies by, and when you are going through hardship or have to wait for something it goes as slow as it can be. But time is only to spend once…

That’s why it is so valuable.

Reham…

This portrait series I just want to do by gut feeling. And that is how I choose the person I ask to photograph. I was thinking for a long time about whom I could make my second part of the series with. Than at one moment, I woke up in the morning I was thinking about Reham. I knew I wanted to photograph her for a long time but the puzzle pieces never connected until now.

Reham is a beautiful young soul of Palestinian descent that was born in Syria as a refugee but was unable to reuturn home. From Syria she went to Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt, and Turkey, before eventually ending up here in the Netherlands. Now studying computer science at one of the best universities of our country.

She is one smart cookie.

I’ve met her during a diner named “Diner voor gelukzoekers“ (Diner for fortune seekers) a couple of years a go hosted by Roos. The woman in the first version of this series. Everything is connected.

My process….

So how does that translate to my photography? Well… As you can see in the first one. It is full of people passing by as souls. And in this one… Trying to capture it. This through a medium of analog film instead of digital. A slower process of manual focusing and metering and developing it myself. Also, during that slowness I wanted to capture more…

I wanted to capture her power!

Her heart.

And eventually her soul…

A young powerful woman that is youthful and experienced at the same time. So after a couple of hours wandering through her hometown I think we succeeded. And during the editing process I ended up with four frames which I thought that would show everything perfectly.

What EI I shot it at or which film I used is not important. Except maybe that I always use Ilford for everything. With some exceptions of course. Other than that giving someone a safe space to open up is way more important.

The rest is not only film chemistry, but chemistry between you and the soul you are photographing.

So hereby…

So hereby. My second part of Andante - Portrait series of the soul.

- Cristian

Women's March 2019 by Cristian Geelen

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

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.

A quick date with Kodak Tri-X. by Cristian Geelen

Leftover rolls…

I thought it was a good idea to write more about some of my processes. And especially when I shoot something different than regular. Of course I would rather give you constant travel and adventure updates. But unlike the internet likes you to believe, real life is not always like that.

I shoot both digital and analog. But all of the experimenting you can do with film is just so much fun! Of course when I shoot with film I have my preferences. I just love Ilford and particular HP5+ 400. For me it is the perfect film. But sometimes I just have to try out new stuff.

And in that case, old stuff. Because when I was cleaning up my fridge I found out that I had two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 left.

Good excuse to go out and shoot.

Sidenote: I noticed afterwards that I even had some more. But those are expired. I will safe all the expired film for a later fun thing when I have plenty of time to spend.

Just doing random stuff…

I had no particular plan or anything. I just went out and shoot. First roll of Tri-X 400 on EI 1600 and than pushed two stops with developing. Same as I actually always do with my film. And the other one on box speed so I could screw around with long exposures.

The thing is. You do have to develop twice in that case. So don’t plan it when you are in a hurry and you want to see your results quickly. You can’t dump them in the same tank.

The first one which I have shot wasn’t all that different from every other film you eventually push two stops. So that was just walking around Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Utrecht and having fun.

For the second one I have brought along my tripod. I was trying to experiment with long exposures and multiple exposures at the same time.

The long exposures as a single shots turned out well. There was nothing wrong with those. But when you combine them with multiple exposures you miss the definition in the people. You only can get them when you are really quick with the “please don’t advance the film“ lever I think. I guess that is the whole reason why Titarenko was so good. Making good long exposures with people in it are just goddamn hard.

Technical details…

As far as the technical details of the developing process. I have used Ilford DD-X developer, Ilfostop, and Ilford Rapid Fixer. All of them on 20 degrees Celsius. So nothing fancy actually.

Deja Vu…

No philosophical message this time. Except for maybe just have fun and try new stuff… But what I did remembered is why I don’t like Tri-X! And that is it is curly as hell! And the film also damages quite easy I think. And it is not that I am a ruffian with the medium.

No dust magnet though. So that is a plus…

On aesthetics. I think that is just a matter of taste. I just like the way Ilford looks more. It is more me… Although Tri-X also has that classic look that all of the legends had. Sometimes you get that whole Garry Winogrand or Bruce Gilden vibe.

Speaking of legends!

What I always get reminded about how much shooting analog differs from digital. Especially mirror-less… You get instant feedback how your image looks. Particularly with those electronic viewfinder… Oh boy. I get why people like it. And than to think of it what kind of amazing work all of my heroes produced with all of the equipment from that age.

No auto focus…

No electronic viewfinder…

No feedback…

I mean, you have to visualize the entire image. And your feedback how it looks can take from hours to days. No fancy gadget makes you a better photographer. But it sure makes life easier.

But I digress!

Like always!

My damn monkey mind…

Not the longest post this time. But in the end it is just about sharing work and words, and hopefully that it reaches someones heart somehow.

Have a good one….

- Cristian

Going to Vietnam, Listening to an old lady singing Celine Dion songs, and freezing in China by Cristian Geelen

Bags are packed…

I started writing this post in a stuffy hotel room in China. Meanwhile in the background the television was on, and a lady with a mustache singing Celine Dion songs. All of this together in a perfectly choreographed dance with her partner. Gotto love Chinese television…

So what the hell was I doing in a stuffy hotel room in China?

Well… I was on my way back from a trip I never would have expected to take this year. Vietnam!

I didn’t have that much time…

It was a short trip. I only had two weeks, and I had to make a short detour through China. Not that I was complaining, but China was freezing my balls of so cold was it! The downside was that having a long layover is that it will eat your time up at your final destination.

But with everything in life. You need to see the positives of it. And that gave me some thing to do some sightseeing in China itself. Despite I didn’t bring winter clothes. Silly me…

I just checked the weather in Ho Chi Minh and that is it!

The start of my adventure…

My adventure started about two weeks earlier give or take. Hopped on the plane in the middle of the day. Got all my baggage checked by security. And off I went.

In my research I looked for stores in Ho Chi Minh that sell Ilford film, and maybe some other analog stuff. This, because I was trying to minimize the chances of film going through an X-Ray scanner. Those scanners say they are film safe. But most of the time only to 800 ASA and I guess when you value your work you just don’t take the chance. It can leave some ugly glow across your film or some even more ugly lines. X-Ray is also light. Just very strong. The security personal did noticed my camera gear btw, and treated it with all of the care it needed. But more on that in the conclusion of my story.

The lady with the sign…

Anyways! After about and eleven hours I arrived in Beijing. And my whole plan for the layover was to do some sightseeing and maybe rent an sleeping pod for a couple of hours somewhere. But to my surprise there were two lovely Chinese ladies with a sign and my name on it! Also the name of some other travelers.

There was a little confusion because of the language barrier. But after a lot of talking with hand and feet the end conclusion was: Free hotel room!

Woohoo!

I like free stuff! But maybe that is because I am Dutch haha.

It turns out that you get a free hotel room with your plane ticket when you fly with China Southern airlines. Who would have known…

So got my 72 hour visa. Everyone got a sticker except for me. :( And took a long shower in the hotel room.

Sightseeing time!

My fellow companions of fate were a Dutch couple, a dude with a Roomba, and a German couple. We exchanged numbers during checking, because when you encounter these kind of surprises it is always smart to sort of have a line to each other in case something is the matter. And we all wanted to see the great wall of China.

So here we went! In the taxi, of to the great wall. And getting some Chinese money in the process. I called them Yen, but that is Japan. Sorry Japan! haha.

Because it was so freaking cold the great wall there were no crowds there. So for me that meant great photo opportunities!

Time for some noodles and onward with my journey…

And so I did…

After another six hour flight I arrived at Ho Chi Minh airport. We all split up to our final destination but the German couple was looking for a place to stay. And told them I was not staying in the party district, but in hostel at a district that was more easy going. I am not much of a party person, and my main goal was to photograph and chill out.

2019 is going to be a busy year for my with some hard to photograph places. So this was my sort of work / vacation trip.

They liked the sound of that and decided to join me.

I am so they did because they turned out to be this trips amazing souls.

If you follow me and my projects and travels I always met a person or persons that will make everything worth while. India there was the Professor. Claire and Ricky always have a special place in my heart. Chana. And the list goes on and on… If I didn’t name you, believe me, I didn’t forget you.

And now Tino and Alina. Thank you so much for the wonderful time I had while I was in your company.

Time to kill…

We could’t check into the hostel yet because we had to wait until two ‘o clock. So that meant time to kill.

Btw, the hostel I was staying in was DaBlend hostel. It was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in. Everything was so well organized. And the personal, especially Khoa are the coolest. So if you are like me and just want to do some work while chilling out if you are in Ho Chi Minh go to this place. Here is a link.

It turned out Alina is a photographer too. So after we dropped our bags and had some ice coffees we went out to do some photography. Got some great shots in, and walked a lot and had loads of fun.

Dragon Ball Z hands and time for bed…

We ended the super lang day with some beers and some food and some more beers on the roof. Apparently after I have had some Saigon beers I get Dragon Ball Z hands. Who would have known…

Time to rest…

Getting my hands on some film…

Ah morning! Time to be productive. I do my best photography alone and I also needed to get my hands on analog film I went out not too late. During my research I found the croplab.

Croplab didn’t have the film I normally use. I am a big fan of Ilford HP5+. But all they had of the Ilford brand was PAN 400 and Ilford Delta. In the end I chose to ho with the PAN 400.

Never had that one before and had to make a decision on the spot. So PAN 400 it was!

After I bought it I did some research during my rest moments. And it turns out it is not that common that you can get it here in western Europe. So that made it even more exciting for me! It was one big surprise how everything was going to turn out.

More on the results of the developed Ilford PAN 400 photographs in the blog post after this one.

The upcoming days…

The upcoming days were filled with everything I have planned. Went to a monastery close to the Cambodian border. Altough it was very cliche, but a big part of the history of Vietnam went to the Cu Chi tunnels and also shot some guns, and of course, plenty of more photography.

It broke my heart…

I do have to say this. And this is a reprimand to all tourist and I am very serious about it. At a couple of places. And especially the the religious places. There were a crapload of people misbehaving. And no, not young people. People of all ages, but especially the “elder” crowd.

It broke my heart that at a place where people were performing these very old traditions the tourists treated it like it was the McDonald’s.

Behave! Don’t be a dick! And keep your mouth shut! And also put that selfie stick in a place, or selfies in general, at a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

I am not doing that at your home either!

So if you read this. And you have the feeling that I am addressing you, I probably am.

Observe. Don’t consume!

You should know better…

Back to the fun stuff!

We took public transportation to most of the locations. But it takes a while. So at one time we were completely beat, and also a little scared that we weren’t able to get into the city because Vietnam was in the finals of the AFF Suzuki cup (Soccer). Luckily we entered the city just in time before the final whistle. Had to make one stop. But when the final whistle blew the city exploded in joy!

Haha at one point we had to celebrate with a group of Vietnamese people who were so excited to see us. Can’s of beers! Lot’s of photos with the foreigners! And chanting and cheering!

Congratulations Vietnam on the cup!

Time to get home…

Of course I want to tell you every other bit of this adventure. But i will spread those across future stories. Or maybe when you see me in real life, you can buy me a beer and I will tell you anyway.

It was time time for me to pack and head home. Lot’s of photos. Digital as well as analog.

The route i was going to take was the same one as I took on my way towards Vietnam. But now with a crapload of analog film.

I told all of you earlier that film can’t really handle X-Ray scanners that well. So I asked everyone security officer if they were able to hand check my film by hand.

And they did!

I guess this also counts like everything in life. Just ask politely, put up a big smile, and tell passionate about the gear you have. And don’t feel entitled to anything.

All of the security officers treated my film with all the care they could give it. As they did with me. Some even got excited to see it. That gave me a comfortable feeling.

If you don’t want to risk it anyway. The alternative is to find a place that can process your film. Developed film can not be harmed by scanners.

The reason I bring undeveloped film home with me is because I want to be in complete control of the developing process.

A couple of days later…

Now I am back at home. Already thinking of the next adventures I will have in 2019…

Not listening to Chinese Celine Dion, but to the Doors on vinyl.

Having the daunting task to go trough all of my work. That is always quite the project by itself…

Alina and Tino thanks again!

Merry Christmas you all of your that have taken the time to read this blog post.

The next one will be about the analog photographs I took and the developing process.

And remember…

It is Christmas 365 days a year…

- Cristian

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

 

Aida and Dheisheh refugee camp... by Cristian Geelen

April 3rd, 2018...

It was 09:00 in the morning... Sitting in the Arabic bus from Jerusalem...

Destination: Checkpoint 300...

I was supposed to meet Omar my guide at 11:00, but I woke up way to early and could't sleep anyway. Also a bit nervous what was on the schedule today. Not only I wanted to capture the way how most Palestinians head over to and from the West Bank but I made arrangements to get guided through Aida en Dheisheh refugee camps.

As soon as I got passed the checkpoint I was officially in the West Bank. It went easier than expected. Only realizing later that it would be easy getting out of Israeli territory. Getting back in is where the difficulty lies.

Bus stop at checkpoint 300...

Bus stop at checkpoint 300...

I went through the doors and after getting some annoying taxi drivers off my back I gave Omar a call that I was already there. He was still asleep... Btw, if you read this sorry I woke you up too early man haha!

I waited a while.. The sun started shining harder but I refused to get into the shade... I didn't want to him to somehow at the point where I was waiting so he could easily find me.

The taxi drivers left me alone... I told them for whom I was waiting and they understood. Something that normally never happens. Usually they rip-off some lost tourist, ask 200 shekels for a ride and some sight seeing but drop you off around the corner. Omar confirmed that to me later when we finally met up.

When he arrived we finally went walking.

Path that leads to the turnstile at the checkpoint...

Path that leads to the turnstile at the checkpoint...

My first impression of him was a young and intelligent young man. Reminded me a little bit of myself when I was his age. That makes me sound old, although I am only 35. He was wearing a t-shirt and a necklace with two photographs on it. Both in memory of his uncle and cousin.

Later I also discovered that he is an amazing artist. He made a beautiful painting about the whole situation in the LAYLAC center that is in front of the Dheisheh camp.

He started telling me about life behind the wall. Where he was allowed to come and if he crossed a certain area he would get shot... That sank in... Made me realize and reminded again how fragile life is and how good our life over here is...

Right after we crossed paths with someone who went to work illegally...

That would mean throwing a rope over a part of the wall where there are no camera's and hop over. It is some sort of Russian roulette where you don't know if the army is waiting for you or your friends. The latter is good.. The first means jail or death...

Later we passed the street where most of the clashes happen on Fridays. Friday prayer is the first part of the day, and after that protest happens. You could still smell the tear gas the has been used earlier in some parts...

After we walked through that area we saw a guy selling some fresh juice. Not only it is a totally random place to sell some juice. But hey, why not take a glass. Exactly what I needed.

Part of the road next to the wall where most clashes happen...

Part of the road next to the wall where most clashes happen...

Omar told me he hadn't seen him for a while because he suddenly disappeared and after a while he found out he was in jail. 

Just a short walk from this place we arrived at Aida camp...

Even though I did my research I still did not knew what to expect. And actually after two days it is still hard to describe how it is...

The camp felt more like a favela you will find in for example Brazil. It has been there since 1948, and the tents got replaced for more solid temporary but also permanent housing at the same time.

The thing that stuck to me the most was the big netting above the playground / soccer field. The whole purpose of it is when tear gas is being fired it does not fall on the kids playing and they can get out...

We talked some more about about life...

After I did my photography it was of to the second camp... Dheisheh.

Rear entrance of Aida camp...

Rear entrance of Aida camp...

We took a taxi to the other side of town and arrived at Deisheh.

But before we went in we went to the LAYLAC center. The center is a place for youth development and they work on projects. Omar showed me one of his works and it is amazing! the young man really has some talent. Not only graphically but it also had a beautiful message on a deeper level. All about your roots...

I shook the hand of the director of the center and a young girl who was there and we had some small talk. It was good to be in this place. It gave me a positive feeling again.

Enter Dheisheh...

We turned the corner and got into the camp. Like I wrote about Aida that it looks more like a favela is also true for this one. Once started out as a tent encampment and now it turned into this.

Street in Dheisheh...

Street in Dheisheh...

The whole situation in Dheisheh looks worse than in Aida. It was build around 1949 and according to the UNRWA it is housing at this moment around 15000 people.... But only was build to house around 3000 people on a surface of 330 square meters...

Try to imagine this...

The streets are covered in pamphlets are murals of martyrs. To us in Europe that sounds weird. Because we got a association with this concept with the things we hear in the news. For the people that live there they are friends and families, brothers and sisters...

One thing that also drew my attention was the caricature named Handala. You will see him painted on numerous wall. If you want to know more on him just click on the link. It is a cartoonist symbol for the deviance of the Palestinian people in general and his alligiance to the poor.

Handala...

Handala...

We walked some more... Talked some more... About the situation and about life... And than it was time to go... Back to Jerusalem...

But man...

I wish I just had some answers how to make some sense out of this. And that is the whole reason I became a photographer. Just to make sense of life in general!

But in the end for now it raises just more questions...

I am not taking sides. That also is also not my job. My job is being a story teller...

And my experience with the Israeli people is nothing but positive. If you see them in every day life the are kind and well educated, well mannered , and just very nice. So this is NOT a article to bash the Israelis. Remember that... I also gained a very close Israeli friend last time I was in the area. You know who you are. ;-)

The thought that is going through my mind most now is how this could just happen and how this is possible...

And hopefully one day there will a solution for what I think one of the most complex situations in the world.

And maybe with my photography I make a small difference... Or at least can get a conversation started in a civil way...

 

Street in Dheisheh...

Street in Dheisheh...

One of the martyrs...

One of the martyrs...

Netting above the soccer field...

Netting above the soccer field...

F##k instant gratification. by Cristian Geelen

Hey you all!

Some of you might know who follow me on Instagram. I bought a late sixties Olympus Trip 35 for 20,- euros two weeks ago. I did a live video about it and later a instagram vlog when I got the results. I think it is a beautiful camera!

I read some reviews about it online and watched some YouTube clips, and I thought! Why not!

I always wanted to try analog photography for a long time anyway. And as some of you also might know that I really really really like physical things. I just think stuff loses their soul in the digital world...

Anyways! Bought the camera from a guy that lives in my hometown. Thanks Matt Que! It rocks! Bought some rolls of Tri-X 400 and I was good to go! Later when I get the hang of it I can always buy a more fancy analog camera.

The Olympus Trip 35 is a point and shoot style camera rangefinder style. You only got two shutter speed, you can adjust the aperture if you want to. A dial to enter your ASA number and that is it! But I think for the best result in this case is just leave it on auto. In that case you just have to just the distance to your subject. For that purpose there are meters on the bottom and little people figures on the top.

I went out and got shooting. Essentially there is nothing different than normal photography... You see a composition or a situation, aim, and snap the photograph...

What is different, and that makes it very exciting, and that is you have no fucking clue what you are doing. Of course you know technically what you are doing. But you don't have a display that will tell you if you got the shot!

The other thing is you only got 36 shots. So you can't just snap away! You really have to think about the situation if it is worth it. Do I want to spend one of my frames on this situation or composition?

All of that makes you think...

I makes you value more what you are doing... It gives it worth...

In the throwaway society thing that we live in it is a rare occasion...

And all of that just because you really have to work for it!

And that isn't the fun part! The fun part that gives it even more value is taking it to the photo-lab to get it developed! Like normal printing you have to think about stuff like; what kind of paper do I want? How big needs the print to be? Do I want borders? And after all of that you still don't know what your photographs look like!

And than you wait... And wait... And wait some more...

The black and whites had to be send out so it took a bit longer and after 4 days I got them back Developed and print! Ready to be drooled on be me!

I opened the envelop and there they were... Beautiful! I was so happy!

Not every shot was in focus but I didn't care... They were amazing!

I browser through them already a lot of times. And I will continue to do so haha. It is reall, it is physical, and I can hold it. It is magic! That feeling that can't be explained. And it made me happy as a little kid gain.

I will post some of the photographs below. Not everything. Because I want safe some for later... So there are some of my first roll. But I think how it looks digitally does not do it justice. I scanned them with a very convenient app named PhotoMyme. If you want to digitize you analog shot that seems like a easy way to go. You can just use your smartphone for that. And if you want to do it more fancy you can use a real scanner or even scan the negatives. Probably more on that later.

So in the end I can only conclude is shoot some film yourself! Fuck instant gratification and just go out and go analog. It is really fun, I can promise you that!

Finally my Iran work in physical form! Souls of Iran as a Zine! by Cristian Geelen

Dear friends!

I was so busy with everything that I forgot to wright a blog post. And to tell you all a super exciting update!

My Souls of Iran work is now available as a two part Zine!

I am so happy with this. I can't describe it into words. But I will try it anyway haha.

And yes, I know I know, I should write more... I'm working on that!

I wanted to to make a book at first. But I got really inspired by a special about zines. Or zeenes...

The origin of Zines is rooted in Sc-Fi, Punk, and Photography sub-cultures. It was, and is used to self publish their work or their own ideas and spread them around there scene or the world.

And with me being a photographer and still have a lot of rebel in me left from when I was a little Cris, it seemed like a better idea.

The book was actually already done. The spell check was back, had some people look it over and review it whom I hold in high regard. And I was good to go!

Until I was watching a episode of Ted Forbes's YouTube channel "The art of Photography"... Btw, if you are really into photography it is a awesome channel to follow. It brings the art back into photography.

Anyway! I was so inspired! So I decided to sort of re-work it into a Zine format.

Making a version of a4 size paper stapled together was maybe a bit to rebellious for the way I wanted to present my photographic work from Iran I decided to go with the most used self publishing service out there named blurb. Blurb is a very cool platform for everyone who is trying to get his or her work out there and offers incredible quality and services.

I also made the creative decision to split my work up into two parts. Isfahan & Shiraz, and Yazd & Tehran. It seemed more fitting. And that way I think the focus is more on the photographs instead of the volume of pages.

And in this day and age I think that was the best fitting way to present it. Everything is already in bulk. If for example you look at Instagram. I don't now how long people look at a photograph. But it is way to short... I guess that is the reason why I like physical prints so much. You have something real...

Another factor was price.

My fine art prints are expensive as they are. They are of course worth every euro. But it is still a fair amount of money. And I wanted to make something that is more accessible for everyone. A book would cost around 70,- euros. And the Zines are 20,- and 15,- euros. So that is a big difference.

Small side-note. Every cent and euro make it possible for me to continue my photographic journey and tell the story world. And makes new future projects possible. So it is a big support!

The end result you can see below. And yes, it makes me very proud!

Like I said before. It feels good to see your work in physical form. And hopefully all of you like it just as much as I do!

If you are interested you can order it through here or just click on the shop and than Zines menu item.