Snapshots

The Photo Frame

My grandmother asked for a picture of my son, and that’s how it began.

She loves him so much, it’s endearing. It would seem that with every passing generation, she loves the next one more. Since he is the first of the third one down that she can see growing up, she is absolutely smitten with him.

I chose 3 photographs and printed them out, forgetting to render them in AdobeRGB so the colors looked terribly faded and I chose too large a size to be of any practical use. But she had them at least, one in a picture frame and the others curling up on her living room cupboard.

As happens easily with photos of children, they are now outdated. He couldn’t even walk back then, and his face has changed. I figured she would need new photos soon, if she still wanted to feel that closeness that pictures can bring her. I was already dreading the whole process of getting that digital image on paper and delivered at her house in a timeframe small enough to not make me feel like a failure of a grandson.

Just how easy would it be to have one of those digital photo frames for her, I thought. But then I’d have to remember to carry a memory stick with updated pictures, and we all know how easily those get lost. The probability of her being stuck with the same old photos for months was still high. So how about one that updated over the internet? They’ve been making these horrible things for ages now, and although their popularity has all but faded, surely some clever little employee somewhere must have come up with the idea of putting a wifi adaptor inside one of them?

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Project Awesome

K.

Charleroi, at night. Wide lens, single light source held by model in the middle. Can’t lose.

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Shooting Straight

IMG_6264-9I’ve always had a history with graphical arts but I only decided to pick up photography as an excuse to leave the house. I was down and out and figured out that the only way to crawl out of this rut was to go out and experience the city again. but sitting by yourself wasn’t enough, I needed something to do. And what better way to enjoy a place than to hunt for new angles, new perspectives and capture them?

Almost 10 year later now, I have collected gear that I barely knew existed back then, and regardless of objective skill, I feel like I have improved tenfold. I have come to the point where I can start charging for my work, which happens once in a little while.

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sRGB

When I take a photo of a red fire truck, process and share that photo, generally I want people to look at their screen and see the same truck that I pointed my lens at. Sometimes I go overboard with the post-processing but usually I take the challenge onto myself to show, if not the exact picture, at least the perceived picture of what took place that day.

This chain has a lot of weak links. Not only am I only human, but everything else is only what it is. Light is captured by the sensor, calculated by the internal processor, saved on a less-than-perfect medium in a less-than-perfect format. I downgrade that file further to make it smaller and easy to share, after I’ve changed a number of things about it. If I put it up on Facebook, the colors are simplified even more and the resolution butchered.

But none of that frustrates me more than the conversion to the sRGB color scheme.

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The Scanner

“I need your help,” she texted me, and mentally I leaped forward, tore off my shirt, and flew into the sunset with unstoppable zeal. Physically, I texted back, “k.” and continued sleeping. (more…)


Looking Glass

IMG_3960-001Photography is an adventure. Nothing short of it. I hate to sound like one of those hipsters going on about their gear, artsy filters and all that nonsense, but seriously: Photography is the shit. Just wanted to say that. Again.

Some people say we should live more about experiencing things rather than capturing them: Look up from your twitter account, or remove the camera from before your eyes. Open up and enjoy. And pretty much everyone who hears this load of shit noddles retardedly (both not words according to my spell check) and agrees without question. That’s okay. Not everyone can be expected to form an opinion for themselves.


Berlin

IMG_2476Berlin is burning.

They should have called it Burnin.
Haha. How funny am I.

Berlin was many things throughout history, and only became capital of Germany during the Nazi regime. The idea was to make it a bastion of civilization, per example of Rome in early history. It turned out slightly different and if anything, Berlin shows a past of extreme controversy.

IMG_2198A friend of mine described the place as marginal and I can see why: Half the people you meet on the street openly carry alcohol, there’s graffiti literally everywhere, and no one at all seems to have a job around here.
This marginality however, is at the same time the strength of the city. It is not a sign of a failing society, but instead a glimpse of an alternative one. This might be Berlin’s most attractive quality: Its history as a place of extreme conflict has attracted artists, squatters and freedom fighters from all around the world, who have had the chance to play a part in its reconstruction, and have established an underground society amongst themselves.

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The Family

IMG_7904It’s been two years since I decided to pick up photography again and bought me a digital DSLR plus cheapo (but nonetheless good) 50mm lens. Both are now unrecognizable: I added a splash of color to the grip that has now faded, the rubber is torn, plastic damaged, and details have been repaired with super glue. The zoom lens that I later got, had its share of abuse as well; I had to open it up once to take out a broken screw and ever since, it tends to jam in certain circumstances.

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Pushing Limits

IMG_6476Photographing for someone else is a pain in the ass. If you’re lucky, there’s people at the site that you know and you won’t be ignored to the point of spontaneous identity crisis, but even then a photographer’s job is a lonely one.

Many people, me included up until recently, will think an assigned job is pretty much the same as everyday street photography. And they would be dead wrong, too. (more…)


The ‘Doel’ Series

Nuke 'em.A reason, if not the reason, I picked up photography again, was to use it as a valid excuse to come places I am not expected or welcome. Backstage, on rooftops, breaking into deserted buildings: If you’re a photographer, at least you’re obviously not a thief or vandal. “Because I can” just doesn’t cut it as a credible reason. Go figure.

So it was only before a matter of time before the ghost town of Doel was paid a visit. I’ve been playing with this idea for years and the suggestion came up among a couple friends to go shoot together. I saw the perfect opportunity and that same week, the four of us sat crammed together in IMG_9790a Mitsubishi like these in an A cup on our way to the border. Because where else would you find abominations like Doel, but in the furthest corners of this tiny place?

– Doel in the past

Trivia: Doel used to be your everyday little hick town, with only two things special about it. A nuclear power plant was built in its backyard in the seventies, and together with that plant, it is cut off from the world by the Schelde on one side, and Antwerp’s industrial zone on the other. Long before its residents even thought of moving out, this place was forgotten by God and left to go mad.

When you see Doel today, it is hard not to imagine that at some point, everyone did indeed go mad. It’s strange because they wouldn’t have any particular reason (beyond the obvious): In the early sixties, the first plans arose to wipe Doel from the maps and use the space for industrial growth. They were quickly trashed again, but resurfaced in 1995. A series of protests, juridical screw-ups and poor communication lead to uncertainty around the fate of the village. Its residents were divided between those who wanted Doel to stay, and those who wanted a clear policy on how the village was to be abandoned.

The government eventually found loopholes to continue the build of the new container dock, IMG_9651and started a program in 1999 to buy the entire town, and put it up for rent so the locals (or outsiders) could stay and maintain a worthwhile living standard, while it became possible for the contracts to be ended and the town left empty.

Things didn’t go so well, in reality. The atmosphere had soured and those who took the money, were labeled traitors. Squatters took the place of those who left and the town turned lawless until in 2006, a zero tolerance was enforced. The squatters too, were driven out and left the empty husk of a short, but turbulent past behind.

-Doel today

IMG_9665So this is what remains: From the first moment of turning into this desolate place, it becomes apparent that there are three major chapters that formed it. The long process that turned it into a village, the few years it took for it all to go to hell, and the ongoing period where the only souls there are photographers and graffiti artists. The protests that escalated into hatred and the promises never kept, leave their echo as though an apocalypse took place.

My first worry was that there would be nothing left but ruins. Especially the area around the church was pecked dry. Windows smashed, furniture in pieces. But if you took the risk of going upstairs, you would sometimes find things left behind by the original residents. Amazing, if you think about it, that after all these years, evidence of a peaceful town can still be found.

At times, it was truly heartbreaking. Old books, children’s toys, letters, bank account logs. Things that, in normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been left behind. I can understand if you’re angry, but leaving your bedroom behind untouched? Some things were too strange to fit into the big picture.

IMG_9648And then there was the power plant, completing the picture of something along the lines of a nuclear holocaust. One might wonder if he shouldn’t be wearing a gas mask, with all the warning signs, both official and artistic. There was always this atmosphere of invisible danger, that made me walk very carefully where ever I went.

Not that I needed actual danger to do so- I could never shake the feeling that I was still breaking into someone’s home. That these broken valuables still belong to someone who might come back any moment to find his former life utterly destroyed.

I’m being dramatic, I know. It’s the effect this town has on people. And here’s what I couldn’t believe- People still live there. Original residents that stuck, through it all. There’s a hardware store and a bar still open, and the church bell rings every half hour. Looking around, it’s just inconceivable how people can survive there, in that godforsaken hellhole in the midst of Belgium’s worst landscape. The nearest shop seems two days away and there’s just nothing left to live for. And, in all honesty, it was a shitty place to begin with.

-Us four

Heidi doing what she does best.The four of us all carried identical camera bodies (Canon 500D, although mine is labeled ‘Rebel T1i’) so if we one day manage to put our pictures together, it will be easier to compare shooting styles and lens characteristics. Personally, I must say I seriously took the effort to make my shorts technically sound, using a few new methods:

-Av mode, which controls the aperture.
-Exposure compensation for shadows or highlights, so that I could recover their detail in post-processing.
-Using the camera’s histogram to review my shots, so I could determine if no details were lost outside the camera’s dynamic range.
-Adjusting the tonecurve to bring contrast in the areas that needed it the most.

The Crew on the prowlIf this is all incomprehensible to you, don’t fret: Up until recently it was for me, too. These are advanced techniques and I’m still not anywhere near mastering them. I am still too concentrated on my subject rather than my camera, forgetting to adjust ISO values or using entirely the wrong aperture. Regardless, I took the few tips of my friend’s photography teacher to heart and it seems that, even in that single evening, I learned heaps. Using the histogram in particular helped me solve problems I had been struggling with from the start.

IMG_9662It seems I needed this to restore my self confidence as a photographer. Lately I’ve been occupied with other things and if I made any progress at all the last few months, it didn’t show. The respect for photography itself rather than using it as a means to accomplish a good picture, was something I needed to be told. It put me in my place and I think it helped me open up to new techniques. All this from 30 minutes with a photography teacher.

Dun dun dunnnIt was safe to say we weren’t the only ones there. In the afternoon, the crowd that showed up reminded me of my festival jobs last summer. Cameras far more expensive than ours, tripods,… the works. Usually my response is to climb or trespass where others won’t go, but that wasn’t really an option this time around. I’m happy that instead, I would later be able to show my pictures and explain why I used the settings that I did. I may have been far from the best photographer there, but at least I can pass for one.

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