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.
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…
I’m so lucky. Beautiful weather, plans to go to the beach and luckily I brought my camera. Lucky because Jennah Bell was performing live at the beach. This girl comes from New York and just played the night before with her band at North Sea Jazz. Mark my words, she’s going to be huge!
I just lost myself taking pictures while listening to her wonderful songs. After the gig I started chatting with some of the band members and I was pleasantly surprised they were heading for the studio the next three days.
They responded very happy when I asked them if I could come to the studio as well. For them it would mean some extra photos and for me it would mean, watching these artist at work and testing the Monochrom in a sound sensitive environment. Would it be silent enough for me to sit in the studio while these musicians were recording? Yes it was and I could stay with them the whole time while recording… It was great.
I take photographs to understand. To observe a world that is unknown to me. To look at situations I’ve never been in.
So when I got the opportunity to photograph 5 days out of the life of an activist, I jumped at the occasion. And what an opportunity this was: shadowing the director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, for 5 days in Istanbul, while he was attending the Global Power Shift conference, meeting with journalists and marching through the streets of Istanbul, raising awareness about how the fossil fuel threatens the climate and environment. And all of this, only weeks after the Gezi protests sparked unrest in the entire Turkey.
Greenpeace Turkey’s staff and volunteers were involved in the initial protest against the demolition of Gezi park, one of the only remaining green areas in the vast city of Istanbul. We also joined a protest to commemorate all the people that were killed in Turkey during the past few weeks.
Now, looking back at it, I can honestly say: ”That man is a machine”. And I mean that in the most respectful way I can possibly think of. Imagine a work day that starts early in the morning and doesn’t end until the night comes, seven days a week, for a cause he so strongly believes in. And imagine that there is rarely a glimpse of tiredness to be seen. Every person he meets, every group he addresses, every interview he gives, is with warmth, contact, focus and attention. One late night he started a conference call and was on for several hours, just as I went to my hotel room to sleep. I just couldn’t keep up.
In the quick moments between meetings, he makes calls, deliberates with his colleagues, or listens to spoken Turkish words on his phone so that he will pronounce them the right way when speaking at the rally we were going to.
I’m aware of my special position. Everyone who meets this man, gets a certain amount of time, dedicated specially to them. After that, he’s gone and you have no idea what he is going to do next. This man lives in a constant hyper focus with the ability to convey what his vision of a better world is. I got to see, up close and personal, how this man shifts between tone and the words, often explaining the same issues. To 20 volunteers, the message has to be brought differently than on a live TV program for the Turkish public. But the message is the same: a better world is possible. The intensity is overwhelming each time, and it was empowering to see how one person can inspire so many.
So here I am, in Istanbul. Not to capture the events on Taskim Square, but to shadow the head of Greenpeace, mister Kumi Naidoo. He will be attending the conference of the Global Power Shift.
Still, I’ll meet him tomorrow, so tonight I did go to Taskim square. What else would you do ;-) As I was still carying my luggage, looking for my hotel, I didn’t make a lot of photos on arrival. But I did take a few, because the amount of police there was overwhelming.
Tonight I went back and I took some more. A perfect moment to check out the high ISO settings (2000) on the Monochrom, combined with a 1/30 or less shutter speed and an apperture of f2.0. I have to say… it delivered.
Luckily there wasn’t to much action, otherwise the slow shutter speed would have been a problem. Actually it was quite interesting to see some people demonstrating, police joking around with each other and venders trying to sell their food and balloon swards. Kind of surreal. And so very busy even on a Tuesday night at 23.30 h