Yesterday we had a gathering of families with an autistic child. They came together to get to know each other, talk, drink hot chocolate milk and have their kids play together, including the non autistic brothers and sisters. The idea behind it was to form a parenting association (I have no idea if that is te proper English term for it.)
It was a great afternoon and besides documenting the event, I was asked to make some family portraits in the tradition of Peru… very posed. It’s not what I normally do, but I loved the challenge. Especially as some of the autistic kids didn’t want to stand still or stand there with their parents. Therefor sometimes I had to improvise, but it all worked out.
In the mean time some of the kids decorated the place, making beautiful chalk drawings on the floor. Others played a game on the phone, or just sat in silence in a corner.
It might be a bit to early… but at least I won’t forget… also I can take this opportunity to thank all of you people checking out my blog, today number 600 hit the follow button. Thanks, without you guys it would be a lot less fun to write down my adventures.
As I’m here for this special project, I do have some free time as well. Of course I roam the city and villages around, to do some street photography, but I also like to take on some projects for myself on the side. As I did an extensive project in Malawi on a mental hospital a few years ago, I wanted to make some sort of sequel by visiting one in Peru as well.
Of course I didn’t have the three weeks I had in Malawi, but the two hour escorted tour they gave me here was enough to get quite a good impression. Shooting in Peru is quite a challenge as the light outside, even with rain, is so bright I often have to close down to f4 even when using the Monochrom at ISO 320. Inside on the otter hand I find myself shooting at ISO 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/60 on f2. The difference is huge and it’s a pain, when something happens outside while I was just shooting one of the bedrooms, I still forget to switch sometimes.
Here in Cuzco they make a clear difference between ensured people and people with no money at all. Still they help everybody that needs the help of proper doctors and nurses. Just as in Africa it’s hard to see the rough conditions they live in. But for some reason the patients were very open and friendly. Also the staff tries their best to give the people a proper schedule for the day. Because of the rain, most activities were inside today. Making christmas cards, decorating the rooms for the holidays… that kind of things. Not everybody joins these activities (a lot of them don’t actually) but you can see the effort the staff makes.
Because there was only little time, I’ll probably head back there somewhere at the end of this week to do another hour or so, joining the medication round, some meeting or anything else that I will bump into. In any case I’m quite happy that my own special projects can still continue while I’m doing my job.
These weeks I’ve joined the Abrazos foundation, visiting several families with autistic children in Cuzco- Peru. This foundation strives for awareness and education about autism. My job mainly consists of photographing the families, the work this foundation is doing and of course the children. Only to show contributors what the foundation is doing and of course to try and get some more contributors.
As I have brought my Leica M240 besides the Monochrom, I can suddenly also capture some of their work on video. As this is quite new for me, I noticed how I can lose myself in filming as well as in editing - even though I edit in Imovie instead of one of those fancy programs.
Two days ago I’ve spend about an hour with Jeferson, his mom and Cusi, who is one of the therapist of Abrazos. Jeferson is only 5 years old. During this therapy session they worked on concentration, numbers and reaction.
So I’m preparing for my next trip. A month in Cuzco- Peru, to make a reportage on autistic children. I’ve already told you a bit about it here…
But I thought it would be nice to show you what I bring on a assignment like this. With some wonderful help of Transcontinenta, this is what’s in my camera bag while traveling…
A Leica M 240 and a Leica Monochrom
A Summicron 35mm
A Summicron 50mm
A Summicron 75mm
A Leica SF 58 Flash
A 13” retina macbook pro
Two 1TB hard drives for backup (and some movies)
Extra SD cards
A sensor cleaner
Headset for some music or movies
and some cigarets.
Last sunday Jacqueline Govaert performed a try out gig in “De Vijfhoek”, a small and low lit bar in my hometown Haarlem. The music was fantastic and moving. Beautiful, small, acoustic songs behind the piano supported by two ladies on backing vocals. Of course I brought the Monochrom again, but this time… it was tough. Most of the small acoustic set took place behind the piano, so Jacqueline was sitting in almost dark. Besides that it was packed, so there was very little space to move.
In the end I got a spot very near the piano, which I needed with only a 35mm on me. Luckily the Monochrom (as all Leica M cameras) is very quiet, so I didn’t disturb the concert. I had to shoot at 6400 ISO and still I had to shoot at 1/15 or 1/30 sec at f2.0. Some shots still came out a bit dark and, as you probably know, if you try to fix something like that in LR you’ll get noise… in some cases quite a lot. But I really liked the shots, so I decided not to try and get rid of the noise but put in extra grain in Silver Effex pro. Luckily it had exactly the right results. Now I had some very atmospheric shots, subsidiary to the beautiful songs of Jacqueline. Hope you’ll like them.
Yesterday I took a long drive with my brother to see these young guys performing with their band. Their performance was amazing and the energy on stage was impressive. Luckily I brought my Monochrom as these pretty guys are a joy for every photographer to capture.
Afterwards I had a little talk with the band and it was great to learn the eagerness and creativity of these guys. The lead singer and I shared some common philosophy about doing what you do. One of them; making no concessions while you follow your own path. This is why I work with the Leicas and prefer to work in black and white. These guys decided to raise money through crowd funding, to record their first album. (releases early 2014) Doing so, they taught themselves all they needed to know about working in a studio. The guitarist also does all their photography and video. They write all their groovy, afro indierock tunes themselves and their stage performance is impressive to say the least. A couple of incredible creative young minds, joined together.
In short, if you get the chance to check them out live: do so! Otherwise check their site and download the single for free.
December 1st I will travel to Peru to make a reportage on autistic children in Cuzco. The Dutch foundation Abrazos (sorry the website is in Dutch or Spanish) has asked me to make a reportage on their work and the families that benefit by their help. Their goal is to raise awareness and provide knowledge about autism in Peru. By now they help over 170 different families in Cuzco.
For this project I’m not to worried about my photography skills. But I have no experience what so ever with autism. I have no idea what to expect and I don’t know how these children will react on a stranger being near… specially a stranger holding a camera.
Most of the time I play things by ear, not preparing anything. This helps me to approach my subject without any prejudice. Whether you read a book, watch a documentary or listen to a story, you will always be looking or listening to/at somebody else’s vision. I prefer to experience things first hand. That’s why I love to travel and why I love my job as a photographer; I get to see, feel and form my own vision of whatever I’m documenting… (Of course I do check if I need some safety precautions where ever I go.)
This morning though, I had the chance to prepare a little bit for my trip to Peru. A friend of the foundation lives here in the Netherlands with his autistic son, who was born in Peru. So today I have spend two hours with Patrick and his son Gijs. Observing Gijs and talking to his father, I do have a little bit of an idea of what lies ahead. (although Patrick also pointed out that autism comes in many ways and forms.) These are some photos I took this morning.
One thing is for sure, it’s going to be an intense and very interesting month. Of course I’ll keep you posted here and on my Facebook page.
Indeed it has been a while.
Not because I haven’t made any pictures or because I haven’t had anything to say. Just because I haven’t had the urge to tell people something, or the drive to write anything down.
Mainly I’ve been enjoying myself. Thinking about life, listening to people making music, observing people doing whatever they were doing.
It’s interesting to observe. I’ve always known this, but in the past month it’s been more present than other times. I find it fascinating to see how people, including myself, try to stand out in whatever they do. Whether it’s photography or producing the most advanced camera’s (to name a few in my line of work), performing on stage or running a café as good as possible, working as a volunteer in Africa or writing a blog about design. Whether it’s putting oneself in the spotlight or trying to organise for somebody else to stand on the front row, everybody tries to be good at something.
For me that is fascinating. And it showed me and reminds me of what I try to learn and excel in. I want to observe. I want to be good at it, if possible the best. This month I practiced a lot observing others, only to find out again that if I really want to be good at it, I should also observe myself. Very carefully. So I did. It wasn’t fun all the time… to be honest there were many times It wasn’t fun at all. But I progressed, I learned…. a lot. And to think I’ve only just started…
Photography often helps me in this quest to observe. It allows me to see without judgement, it sometimes hides me in plain side, I meet people that I otherwise might not meet and it gives me a platform to show my own progress.
For me photography returned to its essence when I started using my small M. Taking the time to observe, forcing me to go back to craftsmanship, engage by going in close… in any situation that I want to observe. Again I needed to learn. A range finder gives you a different perspective, works differently, invokes different reactions. Again by reflecting my work, practicing over and over again and by choosing the stories I’d really like to tell… I slowly got better. And here to, I’ve only just begun…