Rodinal

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

Andante - Portrait series of the soul. No 2. - Reham

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

Learn from this mistake... My adventure with Ilford PAN F and a jetlag.

Happy new year to you all!

First blog post of 2019. And let me start off by saying that I appreciate every single one of you that takes the time to read my articles.

Thinking in soundtracks…

I was supposed to write this earlier in the day but I had a severe case of procrastination and I finally bought magnum contact sheets. Than my monkey mind got tricked in by looking at my scans again because if all the master could make it look that beautiful back in the day. I should’t have a problem with all this modern equipment!

Well…

I actually don’t have too much problems with scanning. Except of those pesky Vietnam negatives. Did some tweaks on my more recent scans I took on an estate close by. And my self confidence was restored.

Yes! I did not suck as hard as I was thinking I was!

So with those tweaks. Got my Vietnam negatives in the scanner again. And they still are the same…

That triggered a track from the band Down - Learn from this mistake

I always seem to think in lyrics or soundtracks or whatever if I do something. Don’t know why. But that is just how my brain works.

How it happened…

Everything went well actually! I found film in Ho Chi Minh. Got through customs with a hand check. In China as well as Vietnam. And got the film home safely.

Like I told you in the last blog post, the security officers treated me so nice. Hand checks were never that easy. So if you are a security agent at Chinese or Vietnamese customs. You are appreciated to treating this film photographer so nicely.

So I came home…

And being as excited as I always am I immediately got to work. Backed-Up all of my digital files. Threw the into Lightroom. And of I went.

Same goes for my analog shots…

I do all of the processing myself…

Processing yourself is way more fun than bringing it to a lab. And with the amount of rolls I have shot I am getting quite proficient in it.

You have so many advantages like, being more cost effective, in charge of your own quality, experimentation, magic. (Yes developing and printing analog film really is magic…)

But because I am so proficient my ego got the best of me…

I apparently had a jet-lag!

So that means I am human after all…

Into my dark bag I went…

I popped everything into my dark bag. Rolled the films on the spools. Got it in the Patterson tanks safely without light. That part… Went well… Like it should!

Than the developing started. Mixed my chemicals according to the massive dev chart.

BTW! I haven’t mentioned it in this article. But the film I just in Vietnam was Ilford PAN 400.

I love Ilford.

And unfortunately they did not have HP5+. Or at least I could’t find it…

Anyways. Back to the story…

What happened during developing is that because I was so tired and almost fell asleep I mixed up the order of the treatment. After I was done I have gotten in the fixer first and than the stop. It should be the other way around…

I still had and image but the grain was bigger and harsher, and there were some glows over the film. And weird other stuff.

I never would have have taken a risk normally. And especially not if it was work for a client. But somehow this one time I slipped up.

So why write about it?

So why write about it huh… Well. If everything went well in life we never would have gong any better. You need to indeed learn from your mistakes. Even if at the moment a situation doesn’t look import, in this case being tired. It would never make me a better developer. Or a photographer!

Also appreciation…

We are so lucky now with all the digital stuff. Writing this article with Magnum contact sheets next to me gives me the realization how much of a craftsman all of them were, and are.

We all hopefully know that a good photograph is not made by the camera. Even if you have the most advanced device ever. And that thing in your pocket is no slough either. You still need vision and creativity to make an image. Composition is everything…

But I am more trying to say is that everyone in that book, or even wasn’t in that book was so more aware of what they were doing. Craftsmanship and thinking things though were the order of the day. While the internet now is complaining about no dual memory card slots in the new Nikon Z1, they just had one roll. And for 36 exposures the same set ISO (ASA). And after that when it got send back, it was all in the hands of the gods. Than a lab technician came into play. The list goes on and on…

A bit more technical…

If you are curious how I developed it…

My recipe for this bunch was:

Rodinal 1 to 50.

Ilford Ilfostop 1 to 19.

Ilford Rapid Fixer 1 to 4.

Developing time 24 minutes since I pushed the Ilford PAN 400 to 1600. All of that on 20 degrees Celsius.

I always love to push my film. And this time I chose Rodinal. Other times I use Ilford DDX. Actually. That is now my preferred developer…

And now for the photographs…

Cris! They look like crap! Well… Yes, if they would have looked pretty this story would have been a lot shorter haha. They are shot on a Nikon FM2n with a 50mm f 1.6 AI. 50mm is totally not my focal length… But it is what it is. My 35mm was on my digital one. And I always travel minimal. But I immediately got my hands as soon as I got home on a new old 35mm AI that will replace the 50mm.

For comparison. There are some later developed photographs. Same method. Only not screwing up.

But now… A few minutes later when I am looking at them again they actually are not that bad. At least aesthetically. But you have to ignore the tint shifts and other weird spots you see haha. And I seem to have a memory they looked worse when they came out than they look now.

Here there Vietnam photographs. (Navigate by pressing the buttons on side).

As you can see there are spots and tint shifts. The inversion process was like always. Smooth. And right on time.

Same process. But not get the order wrong. Images are way more clearer and sharper.

Conclusion.

People say that black and white is the most forgiving format to develop. And is less prone to mistakes. Of course they are right in comparison to color film. But that does not mean they are bulletproof.

You still need to get your hours in and fine tune you whole process.

Take your time…

You only have one shot with your negatives. So give them the attention they need…