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]