This fall is coming in late and warm. It makes you worry about climate change but at the same time you can’t but ignore the fact that it’s also a very enjoyable autumn that paints the city in all sorts of colors.
I hadn’t been posting new pictures for quite some time which is a shame. I think it’s a function of too much work-related distraction and just not taking my small Leica with me all the time. As one wise man once said, the best camera is always the one you have with you, and that’s usually a smartphone, not a “real” camera. Hence, I will try and get better in just bringing my Leica wherever I go.
The photo above is an example of one of those random pictures you can take as long as you have your camera with you. It’s really nothing special. I was on my way home from lunch. I just walked over the other side of the road to take it. No travel required or any other extra effort.
Normally, I only cherry-pick the images I post on this blog, because this is not a travel blog, but rather about photography itself. However, when I went through the pictures I took last year in Los Angeles, in particular the ones I had taken with the Leica MP and a roll of Kodak Portra 160, I thought although they will never win a price, they are still a good reflection of what LA feels like. So here you have it.
All images are untouched (only one is leveled, because as usual I couldn’t hold my camera straight :)).
When I have to stay overnight in Berlin, I usually stay in a very nice hotel close to “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße” train station. I was always fascinated by the architecture and the maze of underpasses and small alleys in that station. It’s extremely confusing. But normally you rush through a train station, you don’t have time to take photographs – or better: you don’t take your time to make them. This time, I was so amazed by the light in the small overpass that crosses Friedrichstraße and connects to the U-Bahn station that I quickly checked into the hotel and went back with my camera and took a few photographs and then edited them right away on my iPad during dinner with Lightroom Mobile. I increasingly like the ability to work on the photographs right away – when they are still fresh in your memory.
Later on today I was then reading a bit about the history of “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße”. I knew a little bit about it, that it was one of the train stations that basically got cut in half and truncated East and West Berlin after the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. I also faintly remembered that it was one of the biggest gateways for East German Stasi (East German State Police) spies to get into West Berlin. In September 1967 alone 1,700 of those spies crossed the border at Bahnhof Friedrichstraße. That’s a couple dozen per day. One of the reasons why the train station was so heavily frequented was because it was extremely hard to oversee and observe. So it was not only used by Eastern spies but also by Western RAF terrorists to get more or less undiscovered to their Stasi contacts in East Berlin.
When you wander through the train station today you can still see and appreciate why it was such a great place for the Cold War spy business – even I get still lost here sometimes.
The Dresdeners among us know the guy on the left by heart. He is standing in the middle of the busiest pedestrian street in Dresden every day and is promoting his “movement” or “party” or simply his views of life. He seems to be a very smart person, very kind and – I believe – just loves to talk to people. He is not bothering anyone, but whoever he catches he can talk to forever. So beware, you have been warned :).
Taking photographs can be very rewarding. Taking photographs of people can be even more rewarding. But usually you know nothing about the people who you photograph on the street. They are just passers-by. In a best case scenario they are a collection of well exposed and hopefully equally well composed pixels on your camera sensor or film.
The icing on the cake, however, is when you get to know your photographic subject at least a teeny bit and scratch the surface of his or her thoughts and ideas. In a crowded pedestrian street in the middle of the city where everybody is rushing from shop to shop or appointment to appointment that seems highly unlikely to ever happen. And yet, sometimes, fortune is with you. As it was with me today. I was just strolling through the streets trying to kill some time until my next appointment, the weather was extremely nice, although very cold, but the sun had this very winterly glow with harsh shadows and crisp air. So I thought I take my camera out and just try my luck.
And then I saw this guy in my picture leaning against this city-light ad thingie. I was only pointing the camera at him and not even taking a picture yet, and he began speaking to me. So I approached him, and of course the very first question was what I was taking the photographs for. So we engaged in a very nice conversation about my blog, what he does for a living etc. etc. etc. And this, really, is what makes photography such a pleasure. Without my camera I would have never spoken to him, never heard his story, would have never been able to grasp what was on his mind.
After five minutes of conversing he agreed that I may take some photos of him. And he was a natural. No stupid posing, no looking into the camera. Just a very relaxed pose, as if I would not even be there. Perfection.
At the end of the day, a nice photograph can be something beautiful to look at. But sometimes the story behind these photographs can be much more interesting than the surface of what you are looking at – more than a collection of pixels and electric current.
If you take street photography by the book one should try and tell a story. Sometimes, I think, the absence of a story can be one. There is really nothing unusual or exciting in this picture that I took on one of the main boulevards in Dresden. It’s just plain and simple a reflection of normal lives that people live, chilling, strolling and shopping on a warm and sunny afternoon. But isn’t that a story in itself?