Netherlands

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

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

A quick date with Kodak Tri-X.

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

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