Wednesday 28 December 2022

Photo Reminders of 2022

Puppy dogs, Santa Cruz do Sul, 24 January 2022

Moinhos de Vento, Porto Alegre, 26 February 2022

Porto, 7 April 2022

Marseille, 1 May 2022.

Nice, 28 November 2022

Santa Cruz do Sul, 24 December 2022

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Prague, the photo capital of the world


When I visited Prague in late November 2022, the city was full of tourists who took photos of historic buildings and other impressive landmarks. Since I did not feel like competing with what PR-professionals are good at, I decided to concentrate on what I could spot by the side of the road. This is how the above pic came about.

I do not recall to have come across as many photo shops and gallerys as in Prague – it surely must be the photo capital of the world. The first store I wandered in by sheer accident was Centrum Foto Skoda, a place filled with used and new cameras, camera bags, filters, special bulbs, tripods, a repair facility, postcards and photo books.

When I asked the assistant manager whether he could recommend a photo exhibition nearby, he informed me that communist totalitarianism of forty years had been replaced by money totalitarianism – and that the result was, well, what would I expect?

Was I interested in Czech photography? He showed me photobooks by photographers that apart from Josef Sudek I had never heard of. Jaroslav Kucera, Jan Reich, Miroslav Kubes, Daniel Sperl, Frantisek Dostal. The Prague impressions by Dostal turned out to be one of the best composed photo tomes I have ever laid eyes on.

We talked about whether photos need words or whether they should be able to speak for themselves. Interestingly enough, only the previous day I had come across a quote from myself on a Finnish website that read Most photographs do not work without an explanation.

Photographers who think otherwise are in my view people who are a bit cheap: They throw images at you as if to say Do with them as you please! Needless to say this is fine for me as long as you do not expect me to be interested in your motives – if you've had any in the first place, that is.

In my view, most people (and that includes photographers) do not know why they do what they do. Our rationalisations are done in hindsight. Sudek, the assistant manger at Centrum Foto Skoda said when putting one of his books in front of me, is all about harmony. With this in mind I do appreciate his images even more.

Wednesday 14 December 2022

The Importance of Background

My friend Blazenka Kostolna, a professional photographer, who took the above shots, always emphasises the importance of background, as demonstrated on these pics that were taken in Adliswil on 5 December 2022.

My own picture taking is solely informed by intuition. Nevertheless, Blazenka's stance had an impact on how I look nowadays at photographs. Moreover, her regular insistence on the importance of background left its mark on my own picture taking for it made me become aware of the fact that I can direct my attention in various ways. Differently put: I have a choice. Photographers are choosing. Constantly. And, that includes the background of their photographs.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Olaf Heine: Human Conditions

I'm not into celebrities, most of the people portrayed in this tome I do not recognise. I need to consult the index in order to know who I am shown. There is hardly anything that I find more despicable than our obsessions with people who we have decided are somehow special. So how come I'm spending time with this book?

My interest in this tome stems from it's title. I'm curious to see what photographs can tell me about human conditions. Probably not much, I surmise, for pictures reflect a person's outside, they can't show me their inside, where I suspect the human condition might be located.

On the other hand, we judge people by their appearance. So surely a person's character must be visible in one's body, in the way people present themselves to the camera. The ones shown in this book seem to be more than conscious of the camera's presence. It is a display of vanity that I abhor. Moreoever, most of the people portrayed I have no sympathy for.

However, the photos are excellent, the framing as well as the selection of light are superb. Also, I spend quite some time with them. Which is sort of irrtitating for it seems to me that these pics make me pause while others that I like make me not pay much attention. How come? I can only guess. Is it the photographs, the subject matter, or is it me, the state of mind that I'm presently in? Well, I do not know. I suppose it is a mix of all of that. Yet fact is that it has to do with the photographes that seem to trigger something that I'm not consciously aware of.

When looking at photographs I'm not asking myself what the photographer wanted to show me. For one thing, seaching for motives isn't my thing. In addition, I doubt that anybody has a clue why (s)he's doing what (s)he's doing. And so I simply observe what looking at these photographs is doing to me.

Men on a rooftop in São Paulo make my mind automatically wander to René Burri's shot of 1960; a man pretending to play chess with a naked woman brings up Henry Miller playing table tennis with a naked woman.

Some of the shots are sheer aesthetic pleasure. Untitled (Nude Lying on Daybed), Berlin, 2018, for instance. Or Valerie Pachner, Berlin, 2022. Or Untitled (Gabriela), Berlin 2016. Or Shermine, Berlin, 2018. It hasn't escaped me that all of these shots (and quite some more) are showing beautiful women. In other words: I'm not sure whether it is their natural beauty or the photographs that enchant me.

I do not glance through the pages in one go, instead I look at them, put the book aside, come back to it when in another mood. And, I realise that some of the shots stay with me. No, I do not try to explain to myself why that might be. I simply observe it. Interestingly enough, it is pictures of people I do not have much sympathy for that I feel drawn to. Bono, for instance. Or Moritz and Wotan. On the other hand, I do have favourites: Cate Blanchett at the piano as well as Oscar Niemeyer's fingers holding a pen (I'm fond of Niemeyer's thinking and of his work).

The photographs are accompanied by two texts. The one by Laura Helena Wurth deals with quite some of the pictures in this book, the one by Christian 'Flake' Lorenz is basically about music, another celebration of the moment, that however cannot be photographed.

Olaf Heine
Human Conditions
Prestel Verlag, Munich-London-New York 2022