Storyteller

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

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

Did Instagram kill photography?

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

 

Five things I learned about (Photography) going to Jerusalem the second time...

Hey all!

I am currently really busy with the processing of all of my material of my latest trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. But that is a long process and when it is all done I want to write a big article about it. And find a proper way to present it to the world.

Until that time arrives I will write short blog posts like this to keep the information and sort of involve you all in a bit of my process.

So this piece part one of a two part piece with five things I have learned during or after my latest trip to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

First one is about photography. The second one is about life.

So let's start!

Part one: Photography...

Like I said. Currently I am in the process of working through all of the material I made and that is just something that takes time... A lot of time!

In short. I took around 1100 photographs and I am editing them at the moment. Part of that process is also voicing visually the intent of the photograph. And ultimately after all the editing is done the post processing start.

Of the approximately 1100 photographs there are only a few that will make the cut and want to share with the world.

During that process which is not even done. I ran into a lot of issues. Not everyone shares that stuff. But I am a big believer in that running into problems or even failing is a big part of getting better. It's a rule you can apply to everything in life...

Same goes for photography!

And the whole trick after the whole failing or running into issues thingie. Is that you just don't give up! Get back on the horse and just go go go!

Learn from it. Feed from it... Grow from it!

Btw I am not only summing up stuff that went bad. It's also good to reflect on stuff that went well, or even good! Because also that is a good thing to know.

Alright here it goes. Five things I learned!

  1. Don't buy new gear!
    A couple of weeks before I left for my trip I switched from Olympus to Fujifilm. I sold all of my lenses and my beautiful Olympus PEN-F body... And I did not even hate my gear. There was nothing wrong with it, and I am a firm believer in that you can't buy a bad camera anymore.

    It was more that I was chasing some sort of look or vibe that the Fujifilm sensors have. And I just felt it was time for a change. And if you never try something new you will never know you will like it or not!

    The whole difference between my Olympus PEN-F and Fujfilm X-E3 is a whole other subject to dive into. Because the end conclusion is I love them both. The point I am trying to make here for the DO NOT BUY NEW GEAR issue is the learning curve!

    My ego let me believe I worked enough hours with the Fujifilm to understand the device completely and I would not make any mistakes with it.

    Well I was wrong...

    For example the aperture I shot on my Olympus to get everything sharp was around f5.6 or lower. On my Fujifilm it was way lower. And I realized I had to take my photographs around f8! That resulted in some shots I had a shallow depth of field when I did not want it. Especially when I missed focus.

    That brings me to another point. I missed focus! A lot!

    I was like: How the hell is this happening! Back home I did not have this problem!

    There is a difference between photographing back home and while traveling. And that too will be material for another blog post. But in this case, the conditions were different. The people were different even though I was there before. The gear of course was different. My mindset was different. All the narrow alleyways and using certain techniques to get a shot and doing stuff on instinct. All of that together gave me some out of focus results.

    I analyzed it all. And one of the things was the the single point focus on my Olympus somehow let me get away with errors. While the single point focus on my Fujifilm was unforgiving. If you miss it, you miss it!

    I switched to zone focusing instead and that worked better for me in those conditions. End result. More material I am satisfied with. And no customer or viewer of your art will care if you used a single point focus method or a zone focus method. It is all getting the shot and the story you are telling. 
     
  2. Do your research.
    Like I said, it is not all about the bad things. You also need to reflect on all the stuff that went well!

    For me it was arranging my guide or fixer or whatever you want to call it. Making a plan on what you are going to do everyday and also leave some room for spontaneity. Having a back-up plan if something falls short. All of that so you can get the most out of your time.

    I planned everything well. And I also was very lucky that nothing went wrong. I think on that part I had the smoothest trip ever. Planning helped.
     
  3. Update your software.
    This one is actually not about the time during my trip. But more about the process when you return and start to review your work do your post processing.

    I looked at my shots and I was getting angrier and angrier by the day. My photos looked like crap. And I did nothing wrong! Why? Why was this?

    I was getting into fights with my raw files. And got a bad case of worming. Man o man I was getting frustrated... My photos looked like a watercolor painting!

    A fellow photographer said to me: Cris, did you update lightroom?

    Fujifilm raw files had got some issues with lightroom in the past. And after a lot of Google searches I read that there were a lot of people that used alternative raw processors and bypassed lightroom or not used it at all! The switched to alternatives like for example capture one.

    Small side-note. I used to have the last standalone version of the original lightroom. Because I refused to be part of the subscription model that Adobe started.

    I actually like lightroom a lot. So I followed his advice. Put my ego aside. And updated purchased the monthly version of lightroom. And as soon as I openend my photographs again they looked a lot better.

    I combined that with a different way of sharpening and voila! Instant happy Cris!

    Btw. The whole sharpening thing with Fujifilm raw files... Only use the sharpening slider a little. Use the detail slider more and pull back the radius.
     
  4. Shoot a lot of shit.
    Maybe it is a bit redundant to say. But I hope I don't have to tell any photographer that it is to take a shot extra than you have not taken the shot at all...

    That especially is true with memory cards. Fill those puppies up and shoot everything that peaks your interest.

    And no. That does not automatically nullifies my post about "f##k instant gratification". Those are two completely different things. And if you have a goal in mind... Do whatever it takes. There is no award for getting the decisive moment in the least amount of photos...
     
  5. Take your time!
    I saved this one for last...

    Because for me this is the most important one.

    Why?

    Because I did not do it...

    I wanted to get the ultimate photograph so much. I soared and roared across the area like a idiot. My drive that I am so proud of got the best of me.

    The end result was that I did not take the time take in the moment as I normally do. And that sucks. It is not that I have bad photographs now... But in retrospect there were moments where I should have taken my time more the choose another angle. Or kneel down to take the shot. Get closer. Wait longer. Getting the details more right.

    What if is miss something?

    That mindset held me back to look at some little details. When you see a scenario and you don't need to react in a split second. Just take your time... Relax... Take two photos extra. Inhale... Get low or high. Analyse... Wait for the light. It will all come together if you just let the moment be...

    It is hard to explain I guess... But there goes a lot detail in taking a good or even a great photograph. And a lot has to go with a certain flow and peace of mind. You feel it when you do it. And once you made one. It is a feeling that you will forever chase again...

 

Alright! This is it!

My five lessons about photography. I hope you enjoyed them!

Stand by for Part two: Life...

 

Catching that decisive moment...

Catching that decisive moment...