It has been a while… It’s getting harder to write about stuff when, in my own perception, not much is happening…. yet!
At this moment, there are things happening. My trip to South Sudan en Uganda is about to commence, only five more days before take off. It’s unreal how much preparation this trip has asked and still is taking. Because of the conflict situation there, things are different for insurance, there’s a security protocol you have to know, different visa’s to obtain etc etc. I truly believe that this is a lot to take in, because it’s the first time I’m flying into conflict territory. I haven’t felt so excited/anxious going on a photography trip for a long time.
PAX for peace is the organisation that is helping me out a lot. With preparation, getting there and with having some reliable people over there that I can depend on and that will help me with my project. Besides working on the Serous Request project “sexual violence in conflict area”, I’ll also be doing some work for PAX, documenting some of the work they do over there.
Yesterday I was at Transcontinenta, getting some extra memory cards and extra batteries and they helped me out with a sweet 24mm Summilux lens to take with me as well for this trip. I hope to put this one in good use. Of course I’ll be mainly working in monochrome again, but I’ll probably will use the M and EVF2 combination a lot. As the 24 mm Summilux has a slightly wider angle than my optical viewfinder can show me, this is probably the best way to have the most control over my framing.
I also had a long talk with Femke and Ilse who just came back from South Susan. Their company is shooting a documentary there and they had some valuable tips and contacts for me. One of the things that surprised me a lot is the fact they explained to me that bringing a small camera, could this time actually be a con instead of a pro. Because of the small camera you’ll have to work harder for them to take you seriously as a journalist. Which is less practical in an area where people want to tell their story so it can get out. ( in any other situation I love the fact that people think I’m just a tourist, it gives me the freedom to walk around and just go for it.) Any way, it’s going to be interesting to see how that works out.
All in all, I’ve prepared as much as I can and I’m ready as I’ll ever be. I am looking forward having a very interesting month with beautiful photos to take and powerful stories to listen to and then tell.
Thanks for sticking around!
On my birthday, the 10th of April, they told me that from the 15th of May, my pictures will be on display in a museum. Nine pictures from the series I shot for the Abrazos foundation in Peru, are part of an exhibition in museum Het Dolhuys in my hometown Haarlem. Last week we upgraded the exhibition even more to twelve pictures. The exhibition will be there till early September.
From the same series another twelve photos are being exhibited in the Dr Leo Kannerhuis. This is a centre for autism in the Netherlands. Also ten pictures will be printed as a set of postcards we can sell.
As I told you in the first newsletter an other exhibition is planned at the end of the year in “De Gang” gallery, again in Haarlem. This exhibition is tricky as the photos for this one still have to be made.
The radio event “Serious Request” is organised in Haarlem this year as well, right at the time I will exhibiting my photos. Of course I’m going to combine these to events.
And then there is the possibility for an exhibition of pictures Joshua and I made during our time in Kenya. If this will happen, it will happen in San Fransisco. Fingers crossed!
As you all probably know by now, I love my black & white. The Monochrom gives me huge satisfaction every time. Tones are amazing, sharpness is unreal and it delivers the dramatic effect I love. It’s perfect for telling the story with no distractions of color what so ever. For example this short story on one of the people that auditioned this weekend in Kibera, one of the slums the projects of PeaceTones are held. His fluorescent pink shirt would have been a huge distraction. (in my opinion)
But I also brought the M240. First of all, I really wanted to bring two cameras. What would I be doing in Nairobi if I had only one and for some reason it would break down? But it’s nice to be able to shoot some video too. Check my next newsletter for that. Also, sometimes there is a situation where color becomes (part of) the story. For quite some time I’ve been avoiding those moments, or maybe I just didn’t see them. By using Instagram quite often this past week, I have rediscovered color again and I’m loving it. Don’t get me wrong, black & white still has my preference, but at least I’m allowing color in again. These few photo’s were taken in Babandogo, a different slum where we also organised some of the auditions. As I still like to do some postproduction, I’ve also been introduced to “Color effex pro” which works really nice once you’ve got it down. It’s in the same software package as “Silver effex pro” made by Nik software.
Entering your photos in a contest; it’s supposed to be a smart move, but I really don’t like it. Of course I understand it’s a good way to reflect on your work, sharpen your selecting skills and it’s a great way to get some free publicity or great prices IF you win.
Would this photo, taken during my stay in Peru, have a chance of winning? I haven’t submitted it yet to any competition.
But that’s the whole problem; I hate selecting my own work… It’s not that I can’t see one photo is photographically better than te other, but the “feel” of a photo is also important. If not more important. This is where it gets tricky, as a lot of photos have more feel to me personally than to most viewers… I was there, I know the story!
This shot taken in Mumbai actually got a “mark of excellence” in the I-shot -it competition.
This shot makes my heart beat faster, was used by Transcontinenta as a cover for a special edition yearbook, but hasn’t won anything in a competition…. yet.
When selecting just one photo it’s still relatively easy… you just pick one that makes your heart jump or that others like and repost a billion times on social media. You can still talk about taste and preference, but that’s just what it is.
It’s the series which give me the hard time. Most of the time they give you a restriction of X photos. And for some reason I always end up with X plus some, to tell the whole story. I guess this also is just a matter of perseverance and practice… so I’ve started to enter some of my work.
These are shots taken during a project with autistic children in Peru. I didn’t select these three for entering this serie in a contest. To see all the photos check here and decide which seven pictures you would send in…
I’m mainly entering competitions where there are actual jurors and no “social voting system”. On the one hand because this gets me actual feedback on what I’m doing and on the other hand so I don’t have to spam my entire network. Also I’m entering some competitions that actually cost money… I look at this as “learning tuition” that I’ve never spend on an actual course, school or training.
This picture I’ve never entered in a competition… still it got me some amazing publicity…
As for the publicity side of things; It’s always good to have people notice you and even blog about you… as you can check here, you might end up in one of those “best of the year” lists that come out by the end of the year. Thanks a lot for checking out my blog this year, have a great new years eve and hopefully see you all next year!
Being back home, I notice everything changes. I need to find my way again. Where I was holding a camera nearly every day for five months during my trip, now I’m holding one maybe twice a week. For the rest I’m talking to people, figuring out what to do next, meeting people etc etc.
Luckily, there were some people that have been following my journey and they decided they want to make a book out of the India journey. An offer I just couldn’t refuse.
So here I am, sitting in my office, music out loud, trying to reduce the huge selection of photos back to about 150 pictures. It’s hard to kill your darlings and even harder to find a proper balance between close up portraits and street views and everything in between. But it’s also very rewarding and flipping back through all I have shot, I’m traveling again. I see new things, experience new emotions, I can sometimes even smell the atmosphere that was there at the time I took the shot.
Of course I’ll keep you posted on the developments of the book, either here or at my facebook page.
Back home for nearly two weeks, it’s time to look back at a wonderful trip. Because I had to return the Monochrom to Transcontinenta BV, who very kindly supported me with the camera for this long experiment, I would like to look back at working with this wonderful camera.
It felt like a crazy decision at first, going to the land of colour with an all black & white camera. And the first month I did have some doubts. I even turned back to the M9 some times. Which I only brought with me as a backup. But during the trip I fell in love with the camera. By now, I actually don’t see a reason not to switch from the M9 to the Monochrom. In these two weeks back home, I think I’ve figured out why this B&W camera got to me. Some of the questions and remarks I had on my blogs and facebookpage, helped me discover this. Thank you for that!
As I told you in an earlier blog, I use my camera to interact with the people I meet or to cope with the situations I’m in. I use a lot of energy connecting with my subjects. I have figured out that the Monochrom helps me to safe more energy. The way it does that, is taking away choices.
When I was shopping in the Netherlands for the first time in 5 months, I suddenly realised that making a choice, does cost me energy. In India, shopping for cornflakes, will give you cornflakes. There’s only one kind. (if they have any at all!) Here in the Netherlands, it takes me 5 minutes to figure out which cornflakes to take and then I have to choose if I want a small package or a large one. Same happens when buying the milk to go along with it. It takes time, and therefor energy to make such decisions.
With photography it’s the same thing. Most “modern” cameras have so many options I don’t know where to start. Specially when the camera is equipped with a 24-70 mm zoom. With the Monochrom and its 35 mm Summicron, there is very little choice. Actually there’s close to none. This camera is as basic as they come. Therefor all my energy can be spend with the subject of my picture.
That said, I did have to become a craftsman before I could use this camera in such way. The technique had to be ingrained in my hands and in my mind. Luckily I had done so in the past two years with the Leica M9. Now I’m shooting the same way as I did when I started photography: Instinctively. The only difference is that now, I know what I’m doing, so I can work with a minimum in choice and a maximum in quality (camera) and knowledge (technique).
The Black & White aspect is another important aspect of why I love this new Leica. In the same blog I referred to before, there’s another reason why I take pictures. I need to observe. I need to step away from the story to actually see the bigger picture. For me personally, colour distracts me from the story. Whenever I see a picture in colour, the first thing I see is colour, vibrance (or lack of) and contrast. When I look at a monochrome picture, the first thing I see is a story. To me there’s only one exception to this and that is when colour or it’s vibrance, ís telling me the actual story.
Of course I could also “sell” the camera with it’s toning, beautiful sharpness, it’s dynamic range etc etc. But every advertorial or advert will tell you this. For me personal this is not that important. A camera is good or it’s not. What’s most important for me, is that it lets me do what I like to do the most: Get to know the world and tell my stories as I see them.
Sometimes, you need to admit you’re in need of desperate help. This is one of those times. When on the road for a long period of time, shooting as many pictures as I have, you can lose track and certainly objectivity of the pictures you have shot. I can make a reasonable estimate on which pictures are good and which are even better, but picking out just one black and white photo out of all the pictures I have taken during my trip, is a task that comes near to the impossible. Still this is what I need to do, so I ask you… Help me.
You can check the pictures at my Flickr page and leave a comment and a description of your favorite here on the blog. Thank you so much!
Most of the time when traveling, I find myself going from city to town and back to a city again. Sometimes I almost forget there’s more than that. When I hired a little motor bike and just cruised out of the town Pushkar, I noticed everything changed. Landscape, there’s no surprise, but also the contact with the people I met along the way.
There was no hassle, asking for money or trying to sell me anything anymore. People were open and friendly, inviting and very photo genetic. I wrote a blog a while ago, about sending a private driver back home and taking the bus between destinations. I’m still very happy i did, but after a day driving around on my little moped, I guess next time I’ll be traveling with a drivers license for a motorbike. That way I can buy myself a cheap motor and travel the country on my own. Bringing only my small Leica kit - same as I have with me now - and some necessities like underware, there will be no trouble with luggage and it will bring me at places I’ll otherwise won’t see.
So, at least I have found my reason to stay traveling and go back to beautiful India again and again! ;-)
If you like to see these pictures and some more in higher resolution, check my Flickr account
As the albums on my Flickr page and my facebook are starting to become a bit abundant, I decided to start selecting a bit stricter. Also I decided to delete some of the pictures in my facebook albums. Not that they are bad, but some others are just a better and in the end you only want to keep the best.
For me it’s one of the hardest things to do: “killing your darlings”. Especially because they are not only my darlings, they are also part of my journey. Of course I don’t throw them away, But in the end nobody wants to relive the hours and hours you spend behind a projector at your grandparents. And nobody really wants to see the wedding book with 750 pictures of your uncle dancing the cha cha cha or your nephew spoiling tomato soup on his mini smoking. Most of the time 50 pictures is enough, after that, attention most of the time decreases rapidly. Often less is more, so choices must me made.
What makes me decide which picture stays in and which one goes, is hard to tell. Most of the time it’s a gut feeling. It’s easy to select the ones that have to stay in for sure. The diamonds. Thing is; if I only leave those, I’ll end up posting maybe 5 pictures out of all (not each) albums. I’d like to think I’m my most critical judge. So after selecting these I go on.
I try to look at the balance in my story. I can have ten women sitting in their door opening, but I only need one. Again everything is just a gut feeling. Which woman gives me the feeling I can’t leave her out. Because of the way she looks, or her colorful sari or the beautiful woodwork of the doorposts. Looking at the light, composition, technique is another way to get rid of some of my babies. Even though sometimes it’s the one that breaks all the rules that stays in. Just because the “feel” is right.
In the end it’s all just a matter of taste. Which ones do I like the most? Which ones give me the uncontrollable urge to show them to the rest of the world? Which ones do I think people like to talk about? Which ones do I think tell the story?
Luckily, here I can make a separation again. Here on my blog, I tell you how I work and what problems I encounter. I show you some of the shots that either clarify my story or some that I just think you should really see. At my facebook page, I now show you the ones that I really think are good. This differs from time to time. I add pictures and I take some of. Same goes for my website, only on my facebook, I also give you updates about the trip, some behind the scene photos and every now and again a link that I think you should check. On my Flickr account I post a lot more. This is the place where people tend to go to browse pictures, just like they browse youtube for videos. So make your pick, or check them all… Hope you like what you see!
Framing is quite an important part of photography and I guess it’s something that comes with practice. (like everything else ;-) All over the net or in any bookstore that sells “how to” books, you can find information on how you can or should frame your pictures. Rule of third, Diagonal rule, when to shoot horizontal or vertical, leading of lines etc etc.
To be honest, I’ve never really bothered to read all that stuff. I just shoot the things I see, making sure that everything that is of interest to me is in the frame. Sometimes it’s not until afterwards that I see something that really ads to the picture, or that makes it suddenly a useless one. In this picture for example the boy in the back just started to take a wee. I didn’t really notice when taking the shot. I was to bussy with the two boys on the left side playing and the serious boy making strange faces. It’s a detail that you don’t even see in the low resolution on this blog… but if you check it here, you’ll see it in full. To me, it finished the shot.
So then I started to wonder if it’s just luck if you have these moments. Many would say it is BUT… is it still luck if it happens more often than sometimes? When is the point that you can honestly say you make your own luck?
One of the things that helps a lot with practicing the framing is feedback of others. Sometimes you’re so caught up in what you’re doing, you start missing things. Last week I was asked to provide a horizontal photo that would be used for a magazine cover. It would take both front and back of the magazine. I asked a friend at Transcontinenta, to help look for what would be a suitable picture. After checking out a fair amount of pictures he pointed out that if you use a picture that way, your main point of interest should be in the right side of the picture. The left side is going to be at the back of the magazine anyway. And suddenly I was aware that a lot of my picture actually have the main subject on the left side of the picture. Let me start by saying, this is not on purpose. Most of the time I just see something and I’ll take the shot. Often it’s not even possible to frame it from the other side, due to uninteresting topics that I want to crop out while taking the shot.
It’s not that I will think about this anymore then I used to… I figure that the more I think during my endless walks through cities and slums, I’ll just get distracted of what I’m supposed to do… take photos. But I am aware now. Specially when I know I need a picture for a certain purpose like the cover one or for example one that needs a heading in the picture. I think this is what they mean when they (the books and tutorials) tell you to know the rules, so you can then bend or sometimes even brake them.