Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Another Time: Berlin in Black & White Polaroids

I think I wrote about this already in an earlier post: I believe that today's Polaroid photography has two distinct faces - colour and black & white. Colour polaroids, especially Impossible Project's new Color Protection film, are vibrant, and for me very much 'today' (to avoid the term 'modern'), and personally I do not associate them with the images from the 60s or 70s, the heyday of colour polaroid photography.

But for black and white polaroids, I find this to be different. The 'Silver Shade' film stock produces results which to me are very much reminiscent of old photographs; thanks mostly to the light leaks and the other imperfections, and the sepia sheen that the photos take on if not stored in a dry place for a while shortly after being taken. David Sylvian, in the liner notes to the catalogue for his Impossible Project exhibition, Glowing Enigmas, called this "the look of something long lost, redeemed from memory, another time and place." 

Thus when I decided on a project involving black and white film (i.e. Impossible Project's Silver Shade films), I figured that combining images of Berlin's historic buildings (and other old landmarks) with the vintage look and feel of the Silver Shade films made perfect sense. So over these past two, mostly cold and grey, months, I was out with the Polaroid cameras, capturing not only the better known historic landmarks in the center of Berlin, but also a number of older industrial buildings throughout the city. As always, there are some exceptions to the rule - so not every building I captured in the series is old or historic.  The industrial buildings by the way I found fascinating enough to want to devote a whole series to them in the near-ish future.

So here it is then, the outcome of my latest project, aptly named "Another Time: Berlin in Black & White". Enjoy. And let me know what you think.

More of my polaroid work can be found [here] and on [flickr]. 

Read my earlier post about David Sylvian's recent polaroid work [here].

Sunday, 25 November 2012

City Polaroids: Berlin, Part 2

 In September I published several sets of polaroid photos which I had taken over the summer, mostly in Berlin but also in Budapest and the South of France. As summer turned to autumn, I kept shooting polaroids, fretting a bit that the results may end up being inferior once less-than-perfect daylight conditions set in. As it turned out, both the cameras and the films continued to perform really well, and I ended up with another satisfying selection of pictures.

I published one set earlier, featuring mostly the autumnal colours that nature puts on display at that time of year. This week-end I uploaded another set in the "City Polaroids" series. These images were all taken between October and November in Berlin. As in the earlier sets, I mixed details i.e. fragments of urban life with shots of buildings (see also my comments in the related blog entry here). 

Now, compared to the sets published this summer, there are two major differences. One, of course, is the changing season: the bright colours of summer giving way gradually to the muted shades, or even non-colours, of autumn. At the same time, Impossible Project, the makers of the polaroid films, came out with a new formula, the Color Protection film. This new film stock manages to render colours a lot more life-like than the previous iterations. At first I used the PX 70 film (as I shoot mostly with SX-70 cameras), but then began using the PX 680 film together with an ND filter, and this is the solution that I eventually stuck with. The PX 680 film's results are a shade darker than the PX 70, and the colours a bit more on the cold side. Also, they are more saturated and there were fewer irregularities. So if I were to recommend one film, it would be this PX 680 Color Protection.

Enough said, here are the links:

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Autumn Polaroids

"Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence"

Yoko Ono - Seasons of Glass

Now that the weather is turning (for the worse), and the last of the leaves are dropping from the trees, it's time to kiss autumn good-bye. Time also to put together the photos from this year's autumn photo outings, which, predictably, I did using Polaroid cameras this time around. So here it is then, a brand new collection of polaroids taken around parks and cemeteries in Berlin: Autumn Polaroids.

I used a variety of Impossible Project films when taking the pictures, which explains the different colour shades that can be noticed when browsing through the set: the new PX 70 Color Protection, which provides the more natural looking, warmer colours; the PX 680 Color Protection with also natural looking but less saturated colors, and the older PX 70 Color Shade Cool film with its trademark slight yellow tinge.

More links:

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Baltic Sea in Autumn....

When earlier this year I migrated my site to a new look and feel, I left out a few of the older sets. For some reason I left out a collection of photos which I shot on the Baltic Sea island of Rügen about three years ago, and today I remedied that, so here I proudly present one of the few nature sets I ever shot, and will probably ever shoot [click here to view].

As you can probably tell by browsing through this blog, my work is almost all urban related, whether I capture people or buildings. That does not mean that I don't enjoy nature, 'cause I do, it's just that nature doesn't inspire me as much as a city does. Actually, one of the perks for me of being out of city is that I feel it quite relaxing to be in an environment where I don't feel the constant urge to push a trigger. But since for every rule there's got be some exceptions, this particular set is one. 

The photos were taken over an extended, partly sunny, partly stormy week-end on the island of Rügen, off Germany's Baltic Sea coast. I used the Diana+, a camera I haven't really used in a few years. The Diana+ was always my bad weather camera since it uses a shutter speed of 1/60, and I used it regularly during autumn and winter, but have sadly neglected it over the last years. Looking at these photos, I think that is a bit of a shame - the Diana magic comes out nicely in these pics. Well, it's never too late, because, as they say, winter will come....

Monday, 1 October 2012

Street Art by Instax

While on the lookout for motives for the 'Occupying Spaces' project (see blog entry a bit further down), I started shooting graffiti and interesting street art using the Fuji Instax 210 camera. While the Occupying Spaces project is now at an end, I still enjoy photographing interesting pieces of street art when I happen to see some. I've put up a selection of the shots I liked best. With there being so much street art here in Berlin, I figure this set is pretty much going to be a work in progress...

Here is the link: [Urban Art].

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Budapest Revisited

I was in Budapest at the end of June, but I only now got around to scanning and uploading the various photos. The set I put together is a rather unequal mix of polaroids, black & white Holga and (mostly) black & white Hipstamatic pics. I had been to Budapest before and shot a good many photos then (which I always liked since it was winter and the city was snowed in), so I felt less of an urge to go out and document the city, hence the photos in this set tend to be a bit more incidental in nature. I still hope you enjoy them.


Friday, 28 September 2012

My Polaroid Summer

Now that summer is officially over, it is time for me to post the last set of photos which I took this summer. These are all summer related, so the set is called, unsurprisingly, “Polaroid Summer”.

From my earlier blog entries, you can tell that this summer was indeed a busy one for me with regard to taking photos, and more specifically, polaroids. For this reason, I have come to think of this as being “My Polaroid Summer”. I bought my first polaroid camera in June of this year. And it being summer (and a decent one for a change), I embarked on a series of projects involving the instant film cameras (all of which I blogged about earlier, just scroll down…). 

While doing these projects, I also ended up with a series of ‘incidental’ photos, basically shots taken here and there of people enjoying summer. And this is what this set is about - the last output of My Polaroid Summer.

This being the end of September, we may still have a few sunny days coming this year. But they will be autumn days, not summer days. And that, as they say, will be another story.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

City Polaroids

When back in June I started taking photos with the newly acquired Polaroid camera, and after playing around with it to explore the camera’s and the films’ strengths and weaknesses, I decided on several projects that attempt to portray the city (Berlin) not by photographing its landmarks or its buildings, but by focusing on details. Following that approach, I went about shooting its cemeteries (which I wrote about earlier) and Berlin’s 'occupied spaces’ (read more here).

Additionally, I ended up taking a series of random photos around town, most of them, again, focusing on details, even if I ended up taking one or the other landmark and buildings shot. When I visited Budapest in June, I decided to also apply the same principle to the photos I took there. Now, it is debatable to what degree these photos really ‘portray’ a city or just present a highly subjective kaleidoscope that may or may not add up to a full image. Be that as it may, in the end, the most important thing was getting a series of good photos, and I hope to have achieved that.

So here then, as the second-to-last ‘project’ for this summer, is a selection entitled City Polaroids. All photos were taken on Polaroid SX-70 cameras using Impossible Project films, both colour and black & white. Enjoy.

Here are the links:

Monday, 24 September 2012

Occupying Spaces

Now that summer is wrapping up, I’m also wrapping up my summer projects. I have just added a new set of Polaroids to my site, entitled “Occupying Spaces”, a photo documentation of sorts of occupied places in Berlin.

Occupying public, or indeed private, spaces has had a long history in Berlin. During the time of the Berlin Wall, at a time when living space was limited in West Berlin, many real estate developers let apartment building stand empty in order to get permission to tear the rotting buildings down and build new ones. Many, if not most, of these buildings ended up being occupied by squatters. Similarly, another phenomenon occurred on unused (or disused) public terrain: squatters used them to set up camp, living in trucks, sheds and mobile homes. As they fortified the camps against possible raids by the city authorities, these settlements became known under the Wild West term of “corral” (“Wagenburg” in German).

When the Wall came down, squatting bloomed briefly in East Berlin as well as people found more disused buildings to occupy, but in the 1990s, with Berlin being again the German capital, most of these buildings were cleared, often in violent confrontations between the occupiers and the police (or the government came to an arrangement with the occupiers who’d eventually became owners of the buildings); and most of the “corrals” were cleared as well, 

However, that whole “cleaning up the city” act by the city government does not mean that there are no more occupied spaces today. There are still a few corrals left here and there; and a couple of squatted apartment blocks also remain. Additionally, a number of old factories and warehouses along the Spree river which are left to rot as developers are seeking permission to tear these old buildings down and erect shiny new office palaces on the much-priced water front, have now been occupied by squatters who live there, artists who work there, or modern day nomads from all over Europe who come to stay there for a while. And, it has to be said, by trigger happy tourists who have read about these places in the latest tourist guides….

Then there is the curious case of Osman Kalin’s tree house. Mr. Kalin, a Turkish immigrant, set up a garden and tree house on a patch of land that technically belonged to East Germany but was located on the Western side of the Wall. During the separation of the halves of the city, he was left alone by both authorities, but after the Wall came down, pressure was put upon him to tear down the tree house. Mr. Kalin persisted… and lives there still. 

Unused areas along the river also became the site for a good number of improvised beach bars - now unfortunately getting replaced by commercial venues as Berliners' fondness for sipping beer and cocktails by the river has been established. 

Yet another now popular past time is for local residents to set up improvised gardens, playgrounds and even pet zoos in patches of unused and/or unclaimed land.

In other words, Berliners are still busy (re-)claiming their city from what they perceive as willful negligence by those trying to make a quick buck out of… doing nothing.

As one of my summer projects, I tried to document these “occupied spaces” with the Polaroid cameras. I visited occupied factories and derelict buildings, a couple of the remaining “corrals”, improvised “beaches” and camp sites.

There are a couple of remarks I should add. One is that, as you can see, graffiti plays a big role in occupying these spaces – as indeed it represents a ‘marking of the territory’. As such, I extended the scope of the photo selection to also include random, interesting graffiti around the city not necessarily linked to occupied places.

As to the “corrals”: the inhabitants of these camps are notoriously private and averse to visitors, especially those carrying cameras. For a good reason: since some of the tourist guide books have started “featuring” them, the corrals have become tourist attractions of their own. Thus, while I photographed the surrounding “public” areas (taken up by mostly by graffiti and art work), I did not manage to get any photos taken inside the camps proper, which I find too bad.

I used primarily a couple of Polaroid SX-70 cameras with a variety of Impossible Project films, including the new “color protection” film.

In a few instances I also used the Fuji Instax 210 camera, and I added an additional gallery with only the instax photos on urban art.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Riviera Polaroids

I recently spent a week in the South of France, in what is called the Côte d'Azur, or as the English speaking folks say, the French Riviera. Now the image that you have of that place depends, I guess, largely on whether you have been there or not. If you have been there, you picture endless beaches, classy old hotels, good food and wine, grand villas and even grander yachts. And tourists. Loads of tourists. And rows and rows of concrete block hotels that have come to replace the classy old ones...

Now, if you haven't been there, your picture of the place is likely to be fueled by photos or images from magazines, or indeed movies. If you think Cannes, you probably think of the film festival and its stars and starlets. And all this possibly in black & white, the way glossy magazines like(d) to portray them back when. If you think Nice, you might envision it in technicolor, the way Alfred Hitchcock shot it in "To Catch a Thief" (the movie where famously the female lead, Grace Kelly, met her prince charming, Rainier of Monaco).

Now, before I went there, I made a conscious decision of taking only a Polaroid camera the new Impossible Project film along. I had been to the Côte d'Azur before and knew what to expect. Thus I also realized that shooting polaroids would portray the place in a distinctively retro look - and as such, in a deceptive look. After all, Polaroids are not especielly prone to being used in "Cinema Vérité", as the French call it....
Of course, if you think that photographs should always tell the truth, this may be anathema. But on the other hand, in this day and age of millions of photos flooding the internet, the truth is out there, in stark unembellished digital photos that tell all sorts of truths. So why not engage in a bit of make-believe. The way Hitchcock did. 

Now, looking at the photos, I realize that depending of the film used, this make believe is only partial, or rather, the resulting effects are very dissimilar. Thus, the black and white photos are indeed reminiscent of the 50s or 60s - check out the beach scenes and you know what I mean - these images are indeed from a different time.

However, with the colour photos, the look and feel is totally different. The Impossible Project colour films are very different from the polaroids of once-upon-a-time. They convey less a sense of times gone by, instead they add a sense of abstraction. With the slightly off colours, the somewhat blurred focus, they look like drawings or paintings. And this harks us back to another side of the Côte d'Azur, because indeed this place, full of light and colours, was a preferred painting location for many artists, including people such as Picasso or Cocteau. So while I do not pretend that any of the photos I took rival the work of these artists, I do like to believe that at least the emotions and impressions conveyed in my photos are similar... the joy of sun and light and warm colors.... and a certain sense of mystery.

The photos where taken in four locations: Nice (with its endless beaches and old quarter), Antibes (with its Picasso Museum and old quarter), Cannes (with its old hotels and, yes, old quarter), and my favourite, Menton, on the Italian border, and with a distinctive Italian flair. Enjoy.

[Click here to view]

Friday, 20 July 2012


I recently participated in two projects that involved self portraits.
The first one was for a polaroid project entitled "Instant People" - see details here. The photos for that project are currently shown at the Documenta art show in Kassel, with more shows planned in Poland, Korea and Luxembourg. The attached photo shows the hanging in Kassel.

The second project is an online project started by Dutch magazine EAGER. Called "The Red Line", the goal is to get a series of 2012 self portraits until the end of the year, whereby each photo is linked to the next via a red line that crosses each picture. The project is still a long way short of 2012 pics, but then, the year is still young. Click here to view the photos.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Chilly Peace

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article on this blog entitled "Peace... Eternal", after having visited and photographed one of Berlin's oldest and most charming graveyards. In it, I described the ambiguity I felt of being in that remote, utterly peaceful place while being constantly reminded of death.

I recently came across a blog entry written by one Masud Mahmood about the American poet Emily Dickinson, and what the author refers to as her 'graveyard mentality'. I'm not overly familiar with Dickinson's work, although I knew that death was a central theme in her poems, and so it took this article to show me how she had in her work repeatedly referenced graveyards and their uneasy peace - what Dickinson called a 'chilly peace'. Since I was back visiting more cemeteries these past couple of week-ends, I thought the new pics and Emily Dickinson were reason enough to warrant a second blog entry on the same subject...

Here are some passages from Emily Dickinson that reflect the mood I was talking about:

Writing from a dead person's point of view, in this poem Dickinson paints this cheerful picture of a graveyard:
It's stiller than the sundown.
It's cooler than the dawn -
The Daisies dare to come here -
And birds can flutter down -


But in other ones, such as this one, the emotions are mixed, sadness mingles here with the feeling of peace:
Where every bird is bold to go
And bees abashless play,
The foreigner before he knocks
Must thrust the tears away.


While in this one, the mood turns downright sombre:
A chilly Peace infests the Grass
The Sun respectful lies —
Not any Trance of industry
These shadows scrutinize —

Whose Allies go no more astray
For service or for Glee —
But all mankind deliver here
From whatsoever sea —

I was reminded of this poem on the week-end as I strolled through one more old Berlin graveyard. But first I should explain what I'm doing in these places. I'm not particularly attracted to death, nor am I driven to seek refuge from the city bustle among the lost graves. I go there, primarily, because I find cemeteries intriguing witnesses to a city's history - a history that, in Berlin's case, has been rather turbulent. The cemeteries are a showcase of Berlin's once great past and its downfall - but that is a topic that I would like to save for another blog post.

Additionally, I find the monuments and statues to be very photogenic indeed - hence that other collection of photos which I entitled Postures of Grief, which focuses on the statues and their depicition of grief and salvation. But, walking around these old and overgrown cemeteries in this season, high summer, I also found intriguing the notion to try and capture this unique look and feel, and through the photographs convey both the sense of peace and the proximity of death, in other words, this ambiguity that Dickinson so aptly called the 'chilly peace.'

I used, once again, the Polaroid SX-70 camera and the Fuji Instax to try and capture that mood. Again, I found the Polaroid camera and the Impossible Project's Color Shade film the perfect instrument to depict the 'otherworldly', dreamlike state of an old light-filled graveyard full of overgrown and crumbling tombs, walls and statues. The resulting images' tones and colours imbue them with a sense of melancholy, of past times and of loss; a mood I find very reminiscent of some of the quieter, less dramatic works of the 18th century romantic painters such as Caspar David Friedrich or William Turner, who also had a fondness for depicting ruins and old, forgotten places overrun by nature in paintings full of melancholy which reflect a yearning for simpler times.

The Instax camera, on the other hand, delivers more saturated images, which paint the cemetery a different shade. Here, the photos I took in plain sunlight stress the colours of summer, highlighting the abundance of nature that has taken over these places; while in the photos taken in late afternoons or under cloudy skies, they reflect a starker, more sombre mood, where the abundance of nature seems almost menacing. I found these darker images to be the perfect conclusion for the Peace Eternal set.

I updated both the Peace Eternal and the Postures of Grief sets with new photos. Here are the links:
And here is the link to the article "The Graveyard Sensibility of Emily Dickinson" by Masud Mahmood.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Christopher Street Day

Yesterday, the annual Christopher Street Day (i.e. Gay Pride) parade took place in Berlin. This year I skipped the main event and went to an alternative CSD which also takes place every year in Berlin's Kreuzberg district - off the main drag, so to speak (pardon the pun).  I wasn't going to take any photos, so I didn't take a camera along, only my iPhone - and ended up taking a whole bunch of pics with the iPhone; all of them in black & white. Here is the result. Enjoy. :)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Peace... Eternal

If there is one thing Berlin has a lot of, it’s old graveyards (granted, any old city does, but still...).  On Sunday I decided to take my polaroid camera to another one of these old places, the “Mehringdamm” cemeteries. Situated in the heart of a residential district, the area comprises in fact several distinct cemeteries, with the older ones situated within the newer ones. The oldest places are therefore located in the heart of sprawling area, cut off from the rest by a cordon of crumbling, ivy covered walls. By the time you get to that inner place, you feel like you have entered a lost world. The nearby residential buildings are barely visible, and you find yourself in a place that seems to be a world removed from the city. All around are overgrown tombs, crumbling walls, crooked, ivy covered crosses and weather worn statues of angels and saints. On a sunny summer day such as this one, the place is awash with bird song and the buzzing of insects. Trees and tall shrubs provide shelter from the sun, and the place is a playground for moving dapples of shadow and light. The whole place feels like a forbidden garden, a refuge from the hectic city life beyond its walls. In short: it is a very peaceful place.

And yet...

It is a cemetery after all. Peaceful it may be, but the tombs, crucifixes, and the statues depicting grieving figures remind you that this is a place of "eternal peace". On a sunny day like this, it might be a very joyful place.... yet the place reminds you of death - yours, everyone’s... .

This place is very old, the oldest graves I found date back to the early 1700s. Some famous people are buried here, the composer Felix Mendelsson-Bartholdy and the author E.T.A. Hoffmann for example. In an old place such as this, death seems a bit more – remote than it would be in a new cemetery, where fresh flowers and newly dug graves remind you that behind each one of those graves, there is grief; there are relatives and friends missing a dear one. Here, you know that the grief has passed, because the grievers have also passed away. So, for me at least, this seems more bearable - death does not quite appear as imminent as it does elsewhere.

I found the Polaroid camera and the Impossible Project film, which delivers somewhat off-colour results, to be the perfect instrument for capturing the slightly unreal mood of the cemetery. The resulting images, with their muted colours, perfectly capture the idea of a sunny, dreamy, peaceful, forgotten place. In these photographs, the cemetery truly looks to be “another time, another place.”

I have put together a set of photos taken at this graveyard as well as at the one which I visited earlier, which reflects this idea of "Peace Eternal". I also included photos taken with the Fuji Instax camera. [Click here to view.

Additionally, I photographed more of the statues to add to the Postures of Grief set. This time around I used Impossible Project's Silver Shade film, so some of the new pics are in black and white-ish, highlighting the more sombre side of the depicted figures. [Click here to view the updated version.]


Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Carnival of Cultures

Every year in early summer, Berlin holds its "Carnival of Cultures", a parade where the many ethnic groups residing in Berlin can showcase their cultural talents. So you have everything from African and South American to Japanese and Indian folk groups and dancers - including not a few German housewives showing off their talents at samba dancing ;) . The results are mixed, not every group is a hot act, even if most of the participating dancers and musicians make up in enthusiasm for what they lack in talent... but overall the carnival is fun to watch... and it is fun to watch the watchers. 

I took one of my Holgas to this year's parade, and shot several films, both of the participants and of the onlookers. I shot both in color and in black & white, and used an inlay to get 16 exposures rather than the normal 12, which is why this time the photos are rectangular rather than square. 

Click here to view and enjoy! 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

New instax photos

I have posted more photos taken recently with the Fuji Instax camera to the [instax page]. This batch was taken around the Kreuzberg area of Berlin. I'm still enjoying capturing the instant photos with this ugly little thing.
Check out both the City and the Summer sections of the instax page.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Postures of Grief; or: Polaroid vs. Instax

I recently took my two instant film cameras, the Fuji Instax 210 and a recently acquired Polaroid SX-70, to a couple of nearby graveyards. My main goal was to give the Polaroid its first serious try-out, but at the same time I wanted to find out how the two cameras compare.
It should be stated first that comparing the two cameras may be a case of apples and oranges. The cameras and the films work differently and use different chemical processes, achieving very different results. They are also targeted at very different groups of people. Fuji seems to market its instax cameras towards the snapshot-happy crowd, trying to place the cameras as a party gimmick for young people (mind you, I very much doubt that the clumsy 210 camera is lugged around much to parties); if you browse the instax flickr groups, people are using the Instax for all sorts of shots - from moody nature pics to fashion shootings. Impossible Project on the other hand caters to the more art-oriented crowd, a fact highlighted by the various exhibitions it organizes around the world. At the price that the new polaroid films sell, they are definitely not meant to be used for snapshots. Additionally, the imperfections inherent in the current film stock mean that its users are willing to embrace those.
Nonetheless, having the two cameras with me for shooting under the same conditions and in the same environment provided me with a good opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of the two cameras for a specific project.
For the SX-70, I consider the results as mixed. I like the otherworldly quality of the polaroids, which imbues the images with a dreamy, even ghostly mood that fits the subject matter extremely well, even giving the depicted statues a sense of timelessness. However, on some of the pics, the discoloration is a bit too intense even for me. I'm still learning to fine-tune the darkness settings on the camera, which may be part of the problem. Having shot some 20 photos, I consider about five to be good, and of those three to be better than good; although I should add that I really like those three.
The photos taken with the Fuji Instax are very different in quality and in mood - more realistic, sure, but still a bit off - softer than digital or normal film would be, and thus, again, less realistic than straight photography. I was also surprised to see how well the camera handled more muted colors in less than sunny settings, having previously shot mostly colorful scenes on sunny days. These muted colors give the resulting photos a very sombre feel, again very appropriate to the setting but totally opposite to the effect achieved by the Polaroid camera. On the down side, I am less than impressed with the shots where I used the flash - the flash is way too bright. Also, it doesn't handle large contrasts very well - the light areas tend to come out all washed out. Overall, however, I got a larger number of satisfying photos from the Fuji, although, at the end, again only 3 or so which I find better than good. 
Beyond the aesthetics, there are other factors to consider when comparing the camera. The price of the film for one, you can get 20 instax pics for the price of eight polaroids. The Instax also delivers results faster, you can at least recognize what you shot 30 seconds after taking the picture - with the Polaroid, it takes 4-5 minutes. 
A couple of factors which weigh more heavily in favor of the Polaroid cameras is for one that Impossible Project offers a choice of films, including black & white, while Fuji just offers one. Then there is also the fact that there is a stronger community than there is for the Instax. The Polaroid flickr groups for example are a lot more active than those dedicated to the Instax, and Impossible Project itself is fueling the community through its web site (which offers plenty of advice as well) and through different exhibitions and contests (see also my earlier review of David Sylvian's Glowing Enigmas exhibition).
Overall I guess it comes down to a matter of taste if you prefer the one to the other, or for what purpose you intend to use it. I for one am happy to have both and will be using both, but for different ends.

Monday, 4 June 2012


I added a batch of summery photos captured with the Fuji Instax instant camera to the [instax page]. Enjoy

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Glowing Enigmas, or the Art of Imperfection

A Review of David Sylvian's Glowing Enigmas Polaroid Exhibition Catalog. 

As a musician, David Sylvian has certainly been around the block a few times: he can now look back on a 30 year solo career, and that is not counting his time as a frontman for the group Japan. Besides music, Sylvian has worked in a series of art forms: be it installations, video works (1985's Steel Cathedrals), and photography. In 1984, he published a book entitled "Perspectives" which featured his then recent Polaroid works - or rather, collages made from Polaroids. Over the years he kept posting photos of his on his web site - having gone digital, he snapped everyday objects and scenery, quiet reflections on his life and environment. In April of this year, Sylvian returned to Polaroids. In cooperation with the Impossible Project (the project which brought Polaroid photography back to life after the demise of the company Polaroid), he exhibited his new work in a gallery in Tokyo, in a show which was entitled Glowing Enigmas.

I have not seen the show, but I recently acquired the catalog for the exhibition from the Impossible Project web site. Glowing Enigmas presents itself much like Sylvian's recent music: brooding, experimental, a celebration of imperfection which at the same time opens the senses to the beauty at the core of this imperfection. Of the 55 photos represented here, there are a few self portraits, a couple of portraits of other people, a few nature shots; but the heart of the collection is the representation of small objects - statuettes, photographs, bottles, flowers  etc. - which give the collection a very intimate, even personal feel. Most images (both in black and white and in colour) use darker tones, low light and are often out of focus, giving the everyday objects a sense of the magical and mysterious, i.e. enigmatic. Many photos play with light: light falling through glass, shadow plays, reflections on surfaces etc., enhancing the magic quality of the images and underlining the artistic approach to the taking of the photographs.

David Sylvian, in the accompanying text, summarizes the collection thus: 

"I rarely photograph people. Most of my images are now devoid of the living. Our presence is alluded to via the manmade environments I'm largely drawn to, the detritus of our modern lives, evidence of social organisations and cohabitation, vehicles, architecture, possessions, and inevitably, the natural world."

Of course, the style  of the polaroids also reflects where the Impossible Project is at today: the film stock which the company produces are still at an imperfect stage - the colours are far from what the original Polaroids used to be, are slow to develop and prone to light leaks and other discolorations. This is disturbing to many (read the reviews for the films on Amazon, and you get the picture), but some, like Sylvian, embrace this imperfection. To the films' inherent quirks, he even adds other imperfections: many of the photos show tearing, although whether this is by design or by accident, I don't know. As Sylvian puts it, these imperfections give the images "the look of something long lost, redeemed from memory, another time and place. They imbue the ordinary with the melancholy of the departed." 

The book itself is printed on heavy white paper and comes in an unusual slim format. It presents the 55 photos in its original size. Some pages are fold-outs, when opened, they present triptychs of related images.

So in short, Glowing Enigmas reflects an artist’s very personal yet enigmatic look at his world though a collection of unique, original and artistic photographs.

Glowing Enigmas Exhibition Catalog. Limited edition catalogue for the glowing enigmas exhibition by David Sylvian. Limited to 1000 copies, printed on heavy, high quality paper. 55 black and white and colour reproductions of instant originals. Price: €25.

Here are the links:
All photos shown in this article are copyright David Sylvian. They and others are featured in the catalog entry of the Impossible Project shop.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Holga in China

I finally got around to reorganizing all the China photos from the eight trips or so which I took to that country over the past eight years. So [here] is a new gallery with the photos from Beijing, Shanghai, Jinan and Hong Kong, all shot with with the Holga, Lubitel and/or Diana+ cameras. Enjoy.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Around Town With the Fuji Instax

I uploaded a short series of very colorful instant photos that I shot with the Fuji Instax 210 instant camera over a couple of sunny days here in Berlin. Most of them were taken around the Old National Gallery and Alexanderplatz.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Prague in (Almost) Black & White

I spent a few days in Prague earlier this month. It's a city that is charming enough but is a bit over-run by tourists - well, no wonder, it does have sights to spare. Here is an album of photos I shot there. Most of them are in black and white, which suited both the city and the weather. Like so many recent sets shot on recent trips, about half the photos were taken with an iPhone and the other half with a Holga.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Fuji Instax instant photos

As if I didn't have enough cameras yet, last week I bought myself a Fujifilm Instax 210 instant camera. Yesterday I went about town and shot the first decent batch of pics, most of them in the early morning in an almost deserted fairground [click here to view]

The verdict: the camera has a few obvious problems with contrasts in stark sunlight, and sometimes there is a purple tinge to the image, but in true Fuji manner, the camera loves colors. So overall... so far so good, I would say.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

First Warm Day of Spring

I uploaded photos from a couple of rolls I shot with a Holga on 17 March, the first day here in Berlin which was warm enough to actually feel like spring. The photos were all taken around Alexanderplatz, except for the Buddha pic, which is from the "Indian Fountain" in Kreuzberg. 
[Click here]

Friday, 13 April 2012

Kuala Lumpur

Added a new set with photographs from a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, with an additional handful of pictures I shot on an earlier trip in 2005. The photos were all shot with a Holga camera and an iPhone.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cairo & Milano

It's been a while since I posted any new pics, but here are a couple of new sets: Cairo by Night, from a visit in February to Cairo, Egypt; and Milano (Milan, Italy) from a short trip over the Easter holidays.