The first class of photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher defined photography as a form of art. Without it, today there would be literally no photography in a fine art museum. It was the foundation of the Düsseldorfer Schule (Duesseldorf School). The class was composed by Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich. A selection of their work is exhibited in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt Main under the title: Fotografien werden Bilder (Photographies become pictures). The exhibition is on until August 13th. I really liked it and I spent three hours there, taking a lot of ideas with me - some of them related to photography, and others on how such a class brought it into not just mastering, but shaping a new dimension in arts.
Sascha passed away on the 9th of April, 2015, aged 40. We last met a year earlier to his final day in Beijing, during his residency in the Three Shadows in Chaochangdi. The Fotografie Forum Frankfurt shows some of what remains: his photos. The exhibition will be still on until January 29th. As Sascha has put it before: "The perfect moment has to vanish. Otherwise we would just stay". Sascha was a romantic traveller with a camera.
Following the advise not to do physical exercise after receiving my influenza vaccination (colloquially also known as flu shot or even "jab" for those who prefer to speak reduced vocabulary), I decided to instead visit the University Museum and Art Gallery of The University of Hong Kong. This is one of the few cultural stepping stones, you may set foot on when walking the territory, and not wanting to dip into shopping malls and crowds. I was attracted this time by the photo exhibition featuring the pictures of the Hungarian the surgeon Dr. Dezső Bozóky, taken during his travels in East Asia 1907-1909, and illustrating his impressions by quotes from his diary. As we all know, it was a very different Hong Kong back then.
I liked the exhibition a lot (which will be on until January 8th), and also I spent quite some time with studying the catalogue which is a documentation of views and thoughts by the visiting photographer from a different time. It is available for 150 HK$ (about 18 Euros) in the museum's tea house, which is also recommended, and one of the places I like to hang out when I am here. The rest of the museum is either redecorating or lost a few of its exhibits from the accessible areas. But it is still a nice place with a long gone Hong Kong spirit.
Just installed a new desktop computer running on Windows 10. Unfortunately, the Codec does not support by default the RAW formats of my Fuji cameras, namely Fujifilm X-E2 and Fujifilm Finepix X-100. For example, it does not generate thumbnails in the file explorer. There might be different ways to fix this, but I decided to install a copy of the Codec of www.fastpictureviewer.com. I already ran this on my Windows 10 laptop and it works perfectly with my camera formats. The current Codec is version 184.108.40.206 (click here to download and purchase a license code). Fully recommend it.
How often over the years, did I run into an officer, a teacher, or priest who turned out to be an excellent anthropologist, archeologist, zoologist or photographer? And this list of professions and fields of expertise is far from being complete. To my surprise very often these people are English, Welsh or Irish. This might have to do with the places I went and a correlation to the parts of the world they explored historically. But I gained the impression, that there is something in anglo-saxon culture and history which appreciates the development of excellent amateurs with wide fields of interest and amazing skills in some fields. If you don't know what I mean, join an English bird watching society.
Today I ran into another one of these gifted "amateurs" by accident. I wanted to drop into the Natural History Museums Coral Reef exhibition in London before my lunch break from the Royal Geographic Society. But the waiting line was so long, that I found it much easier to have another look myself when I go diving at the Great Barrier Reef next time, than standing in the queue with school kids and tourists. So, as these days I commonly have the soup of the day in the Victoria & Albert Museum for lunch, and it was still a bit early for that, I dropped over to the other side of the road and bumped into another one of these people. This time a historic figure, and officer and in service of the Eastern India Company: Captain Linnaeus Tripe. The rather small exhibition of his photography in India and Burma kept me for 2 hours enjoying every photo shown. It spans from his beginning of picking up photography in England after his return from a first period of military service, until the end of his career which was the result of a budget downsizing in the Eastern India Company. It is a small, but very enjoyable exhibition and still on until October 11th. The photos are both: a record of Burma and India of that time, and also excellent pieces of fine art photography.
What I found most striking, is that the impression of many scenes, monuments and landscapes on his photos remain exactly the same until recent times. You often feel, he is just standing there today and takes the photo.
In a busy city like London, you need to know your islands of solitude. For me, one of them is the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) in Kensington, of which I am a lifetime fellow. It has everything I need: an excellent collection, a good creative spirit living in the walls, quiet corners, and of course interesting fellows to talk to. Until September 5th, there is also the Travel Photographer of the Year 2015 Exhibition on show. Admission is free. The exhibition has attracted nearly 130 thousand visitors in the last three years. It is an interesting setting, because beside the excellent photographic work on parade, also the way of making this partly a rainproof outdoor exhibition in the Society's garden, is quite creative. From the desk I sit during the days, I can observe the visitors walking through the courtyard. There are always nice scenes in front of me, when I take my eyes up from the texts and maps in front of me and refocus. The photos are excellent. The submissions are from photographers all over the world. Also, the way the competition is structured, is very interesting. Perhaps some of you want to enter next year?
The exhibition of Nick Brandt in the Fotografiska Museum Stockholm is absolutely magic. I walked in with "wildlife photography" in my mind. But this is far beyond just that. The exhibition is on until September 13th, and if you are interested in photography and have the chance to see this, you must go. I have been to these places. But the way he took it, is really humbling for anybody who holds a camera looking at the same scenes.
The Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm is a very fine place. I also liked Inez & Vinoodh's "Pretty Much Everything 2015", even though fashion photography is not my thing. But I liked the take on it: "At its best, fashion makes it possible for a wider audience to discover what contemporary art and design is all about". Nice also to see the exhibition of photos by Andreas Zorn, of whom I was only aware of his watercolors, but not that he also was a keen photographer.
Yesterday I visited the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. Amazing pictures. Wildlife photography today is far more than "only" documentary. On the lawn of the museum, they installed a butterfly house, which reminded me of the one in the making at Dundee Park, Mission Beach (Australia). This is the forth time, I came across butterflies. First of course, like every boy in the countryside, I had a little collection of species which I caught back in the fields in the Westerwald and pinned them to a wall. Then I got quite interest in tropical butterflies, when living on Lamma Island in the South China Sea (see the photo gallery below). Earlier this year, we helped a bit our friends Thomas and Lina Baur in Dundee Park with moving earth inside their butterfly house under construction. It was amazing for me to learn, how picky butterflies are on plants for feeding and breeding, and I realized how important floral diversity really is for them. I was frequently told by Chinese silk producers that this is a big problem on the Chinese part of the Silk Road, where the mulberry trees are cut down and there is a shortage of feed for silk worms now. Instead the farmers grow nuts.
The few butterfly shots below are taken on Lamma Island in 2008 - 2011.
Yesterday, August 16th, was the opening of Jean-Claude Mougin's photo exhibition le jour / la nuit in the 798 Art District Beijing. It was the first time for me, that I had a close look at palladium process photo prints. They are really beautiful. Most of his photos exhibited are 18 cm x 18 cm, and some are larger portrait formats. I very much like his pictures taken in Kairouan (Tunesia). Some are available on Jean-Claude's website.
"Die Grosse Chance" is a solo photo exhibition of the German poet Dieter M. Gräf in the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Caochangdi, Beijing. It will be shown from August 09th until September 5th and represents a series of pictures, taken by the poet while (re-) exploring his parent's house after both's death. The hanging shows the ups and downs, like walking though the house. The location is a village near Mannheim (Germany) and I can quite well relate to these pictures. What surprised my technically, was that they are all taken with an iPhone, and still come out quite well in large print. The exhibition is curated by Nina Zlonicky who, as an architect, reanimated house's building layout on the gallery walls. Beside the artist's work, there have been many people involved in technically turning a USB-stick into a fully fletched photo exhibition in just a few days. It was supported by the Goethe Institute Beijing and what made it special for us, was not just the nice collaboration of many professionals, but that Feibai got an insight into the process by being part of the team.
Beijing's third international photography festival is staged in Coachangdi by Thinking Hands and the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre from April 21st to May 31st. All together thirty galleries and exhibition centres take part in the initiative which are spread over Caochanghdi and also the 798 Art District.
The centre is the Crossover Three Shadows Photography Award Exhibition. I specially liked the photos of Zhang Jin, which he took walking alone along the eastern section of the Silk Road from Chang'An to Yangguan. The pictures capture a lot of the landscapes mood in a timeless manner. He still prints in gelatin silver process, and it is even more fascinating to see that these pictures have no digital touch. Zhang Kechun's series The Yellow River I also liked a lot, as well as some of the dreamy pictures of Yi Hui's. A few photographers also touch on topics of Chinese society, which did not draw too much of my attention, except Wang Lin's Tulip in the Clouds project showing the life of Chinese Stewardesses beyond their neat appearance on airports and in planes. Definetly one of the highlights of the Photospring is Hisaji Hara's Symphony of Time and Light, which is a solo exhibition also on the compund of the Three Shadows
Photography Art Centre. In this he is re-staging scences from Balthus paintings. Looking at these photos closely, they are really amazing. They look simple and plain, but the photographer used multiple focussing and exposure in such a manner that he absolutely streches what I thought is possible with a camera. These pictures are perfect, but beyond a perfect photo. It is really a bit like a merge between photo and painting, achieved by a brilliant mastering of photography. The scenes themselves are for me too many school girls for my taste, but I still spend a lot of time at every picture, just trying to figure out how he did it.
The Chaochangdi Photography Spring 2012 is really worth spending a lot of time at, or going more than once. As the centre is North of 798 Art Zone in Beijing, it is not crowded and you find mostly people appreciating photography. The main cluster of galleries of Caochangdi are in walking distance of The Three Shadows with a lot more to see. Transportation is a bit difficult, but that's the price for keeping the "folks" in 798 out, which is really worth a bit of hassle.
The best camera I ever had was my full frame Nikon D700. Unfortunately, it was robbed at gunpoint in Puno (Peru) when trying to take a photo of the Titicaca Lake last year. With it I also lost most of my pictures taken in East Africa. Good that my secondary camera, the Fuji X-100, remained a good companion - except some trouble with exposure when set at Aperture priority on the Antarctic Peninsula. For my lost D700 my wishes are that it finally found its way to a photo enthusiast - even I do not encourage to buy anything from the black market. For the robbers my wishes are that they either see the light of salvation, a cell in a Peruvian prison or get a bullet in their head as soon as possible. Anything which stops their dangerous practice is fine.
I was about to repurchase the D700, but then thought that I might adapt to my current life style by switching to a lighter and more flexible model, like a mirrorless SLR. After comparing specifications, I decided for the Sony NEX 7 with the 18-200 mm zoom lens. This is small enough for snap shots and good enough in terms of quality, even it is clearly in the consumer segment. Like currently no other mirrorless SLR the NEX 7 uses a normal size D-SLR size sensor.
What I found amazing of the NEX 7 in this configuration was not just the small size and full capabilities of a D-SLR camera. But also I first time experienced that the so-called "intelligent automatic settings" are really intelligent. Further the landscape stitching and anti blur programmes are quite amazingly accurate. Unless there is really scene where the camera can not "imagine" the image you have in your mind, the automatic functions are brilliant and you can put your mind in peace on composition or speed (if required).
The NEX 7 is nearly everywhere outside Japan sold out and you need to sign up on waiting lists to get it a few months later. But I was able to pick up one in the "Bigcamera" store which is 5 minutes walk West from Kyoto Japan Railway Station. Beware that there are two versions: a Japanese (only Japanese menus) one and the Worldwide model (which also has a worldwide warranty).
In Germany we have traveling shows coming to the villages and setting up what we call "Kirmes". They bring roller coasters, carousels, lots of beer and "Schiessbuden" (shooting budes). 35 years ago one of those also came to Feldkirchen and I was already quite good sniper at the age of 10, I took a rifle and won a Russian photo camera called "Diana" with one shot. Given the fact that in Roman Methodology Diana is a goddess often seen with bow and arrow, I found the way I got her quite matching and amusing.
Diana was always a camera you could do things with, which you could not do with other cameras. And the reason was: it was so cheap, that if you crash it, it does not matter. I even fixed it to a kite get a bird's view. The shutter I operated by a pendulum mechanism which just made click on a certain angle (which corresponded to the pre-calculated flight height). Then I put it into a sewage pipe and used it for my own kind of underwater photography. I have to say though, that there is not much to see in the lakes and ponds of the Westerwald. What else can be said about Diana? Well, just that it was a really bad camera - 35 years ago. It is really not much different from a Camera Obscura, just that it has a lens and not just a hole. And I guess it is simply put one of the world's worst cameras.
Now, something called Lomography has become a fashion and Diana (and her sisters) are reborn. Strange for me, because every mobile phone can take better pictures than a "Lomo". In the online shop, you have the choice between many different models in the range between about US$ 50 up to over US$ 100. People meet for Lomo-Events and pin their photos to walls and talking pictures with it seems a cult. In the Lomography shop which I found today were a few girls which only had frames for glasses on their noses. This is also a strange fashion I have now often seen in Asia. I suggested that if did not forget to put glasses in their frames, their might actually be able to see how bad their pictures are. But they just giggled. Never mind. I think it is actually think it is nice they have a hobby like that and I regretted a minute later that I said something so nasty.
I took the picture of the shop above and post edited it with a cross color algorithm and then a preset function called "Toy Camera". But it is still not what a Diana would make it look like. Today's Dianas I have seen are actually not made in Russia, but in China. Would be nice if the good old (and I mean literally "good old") Voiglaenders also could make it back like this. And when I think about all the old Chinese camera brands which are actually so much better then a Lomograph, then there are quite a few nice things which can be done to get them alive again.
Beside the Hans Schafgans Studio in Bonn, my favorite "Photo shop" is the Beijing China Photostudio Ltd. on 180 Wang Fu Jing. When you click on their website you will find that it does not work. When you tell them it does not work, they will not care. And why should they? Established in 1937, they have been photographing not just the leaders of China, but hundreds of thousands people and families, including myself. On the upper floor at Chinese New Year you have families putting their reunion in photographic memories. You see moving scenes of grandparents dressing up in their best suit, while babies get pacified with milk, people choosing glasses without glass (not to have the reflection). Young couples go there to take a photo together which might become a document for lifetime, they love to look back to. And then all the buzz and discussions around making finally the choices which photos to print. But the Beijing China Photo Studio is not just a "sweet place", it is also highly professional: the photographers in the upper floor themselves, the editors sitting at the computers making minor corrections and last but not least the print shop. On the ground floor the camera and equipment sales is actually run by people loving photography and knowing what they talk about. In my quest of getting a few pictures for my office, I finally decided for some of my own photos and went there to make use of the print shop. When the editor opened the files, I saw that his eyes started to sparkle. They were also some Antarctic scenes and he was looking at it interested like watching a different planet. I thought if an editor who sees thousands of photos from his professional photographers, looks twice at my photos, this is a very compliment for a crude amateur like me. So I left happily after asking to make a few large prints and then still bought on the same street a wool coat, a pullover, two maps of China and Beijing and two tea cups.