Über die Griechische Seele - und über die Europäische

Über Fairness, Liebe und Gerechtigkeit. 

Da ist dieser Fischer von der Insel Samos. In den letzten Wochen und Monaten hat er 4000 Flüchtlinge aus dem Meer gerettet. Ein Fischer der Seelen. Ein Fischer, der Leben fischt. Ein Mann der einfach tut, was er zu tun für notwendig hält. 

Neun arbeitslose Griechinnen. Zusammen kochen sie für Flüchtlinge. Für die Gestrandeten. Über die Monate Mahlzeiten für 240.000 Menschen. Nahrung für diejenigen, die keine Heimat mehr haben, und kein Heim. Anders als sie selbst. Neun Frauen, die zwar kein Geld mehr haben, dafür aber wissen, wohin sie am Abend gehen können um sich auszuruhen. Und so denken sie, dass es ihnen immer noch viel besser geht als den Geflüchteten. 

Und da sind die Bürgermeister aus den Dörfern, den Gemeinden und auch aus den Städten. Zum Beispiel der, der Willkommensbriefe in Arabischer Sprache schrieb. Sein Kommentar: "Wenn Du Hass gibst, wirst Du Hass ernten. Wenn Du Angst hast, erzeugst Du Angst. Wenn Du Liebe gibst bekommst Du Liebe zurück." Und der, der sein ganzes Dorf zusammentrommelte und innerhalb von zwei Stunden in einer Turnhalle eine Flüchtlingsunterkunft einrichtete. 

Und tausende von Essensrationen, die Freiwillige Tag für Tag für die Flüchtlinge zubereiten. Und Zeitungsartikel über die humanitäre Pflicht, den Hilflosen zu helfen. Denn: "Uns geht es doch immer noch so viel besser als ihnen."

Und selbstverständlich keine Demonstrationen gegen die Flut, den unendlichen Strom der Fremdlinge. Und selbstverständlich keine brennenden Flüchtlingsheime. Kein Hass. Keine Anschuldigungen. Keine Proteste. Nicht einmal Beschwerden darüber "dass sie uns ausnutzen." Keine Kommentare über "die Belastungen für unser eigenes verarmtes Land". Keine Diskussion über die Frage "wie das alles gestoppt werden kann." 

Das ist die Griechische Seele. Die großzügige und weite Seele. Die liebevolle und hilfreiche Seele. Eine Seele die zuerst an andere denkt. Eine, die nicht glaubt, dass es das Wichtigste ist, zuerst sich selbst zu schützen. Eine Seele die Dich anlächelt und Dich selbstverständlich zu sich nach Hause einlädt.  

Und ihr, ihr Europäer, was bietet ihr den Hilflosen? Ihr Deutschen, was habt ihr übrig für die Flüchtlinge und das Land das den Heimatlosen hilft und das nicht einmal in der Lage ist seine eigenen Bedürfnisse zu befriedigen? Was bietet Ihr dem Land an, das überflutet wird mit Menschen in Not? Was gebt ihr den Flüchtlingen bei Euch und in diesem Land? 

Druck. Um sie klein zu halten. 
Feuer. Um Ihnen zu zeigen dass sie niemals und an keinem Ort sicher sind. 
Hassreden. Damit sie sich unwillkommen fühlen in Eurer reichen Welt. 
Pegidia. Wegen Eurer Angst vor Überfremdung.
Gesetz und Ordnung. Damit sie wissen wie der Hase läuft. 

Und Sie, Herr Schäuble? Was bieten Sie denen an die den Hilflosen helfen? 
Steuererhöhungen. Druck. Herablassende Worte. Ihre Partei nennt sich Christlich. Erinnern Sie sich an die Botschaft? Die von vor 2000 Jahren? Erinnern Sie sich daran was es im Kern bedeutet ein Christ zu sein? Glauben Sie an Menschlichkeit? 

Denkt nach. Alle. 
Denkt an die Hilflosen. 
Und helft ihnen.
Es ist nicht schwer. 

PS.  Ja, ich weiß, dass es auch in Deutschland Hilfsbereitschaft gibt. Dass es Menschen gibt die wirklich helfen wollen. Ja. Aber...

About the Greek Soul - And the European One

About fairness, love and justice

There is this fisherman from Samos Island. Over the weeks and months he pulled 4000 refugees from the sea. A fisherman of souls. A fisherman for life. A man who did what he felt he needed to do. 

Nine unemployed Greek women. Together they cook for refugees. For the stranded ones. Meals for 240.000 people over the time. Meals for the ones that have no home anymore. Other than themselves. Nine women who don't have money but who know where to return to in the evenings. Who think that they are still better off than the fleeing ones. 

And the mayors. The ones from villages and towns and even cities. The one that wrote welcome letters in Arabian language. "When you give hatred you will receive hatred. When you give fear you will receive fear. When you give love you will receive love." That was his comment. And the one that assembled the whole village around him and set up a refugee camp for 2000 in a gym within two hours. 

And of course the thousands of portions of food every day that volunteers provide for refugees. And of course articles in papers that call it a duty to help the helpless. And of course "we still are so much better off than they are". 

And of course no demonstrations to stop the flood, the incessant stream of foreigners coming into the country. And of course no burning refugee camps. No hatred. No allegations. No protests. Not even complaints that "they exploit us". No comments about the "strain on our own poor country". No discussion of "how we could stop all that". 

That is the Greek soul. The wide and open soul. The loving soul. The helpful soul. The soul that thinks of others and puts them first. The soul that doesn't think of itself as the vulnerable one. The soul that smiles at you and invites you into its home. 

And you, Europeans, what do you have to offer to those who help the helpless? You, Germans what do you contribute to a country that helps the homeless and is still not even able to maintain its own needs? What do you offer to the country that gets flooded with people in need? What do you offer to the fleeing ones? 

Pressure. To make them comply. 
Fire. To show them that they are nowhere and never safe. 
Polemics. To make them feel unwelcome in a rich and affluent world. 
Pegidia. To express your worries about foreign infiltration.
Law and order. To show them how the clock ticks. 


And you Mr Schäuble, what do you have to offer to the ones that help the helpless? 
Tax hikes. Pressure. Condescending words of superiority. Your party calls itself Christian. Do you remember the message from long ago?  Do you know what it means to be a Christian?  Do you believe in humanity? 

Think twice. All of you. 
Think of them. 
And help them. 
Just help them.

The Pace of the Soul

For many years I wished I could lead an international life. Travel from place to place, visit countries, live like a modern nomad. Exposing myself to the influence of many cultures, assimilating influences, breathing deeply and understanding more of this world. All that seemed deeply desirable to me. 

I now live this life. I do travel between continents. I do meet people of different ethnicities and cultural background. And I do have this variety of influences. So what does it do on me?

Yes, it is fascinating. Sitting on a plane from Athens to London and knowing that I will wake up in Auckland after a day and a half is truly fascinating. Knowing that I can work in different environments, that I can learn from them and give my bit of experience to them is very satisfying. Photography in different countries, switching from one mood to the other within a day is fascinating too. 

And still - it is all very tiring. There is on the one hand simply the jet lag. And as I am approaching an age where physical fitness is not an automatically given feature the recurrent jet lag does something on me. It tires me and it wears out my body physically. 

And there is something more. And this is about the soul. About the pace of the soul. Yes, the soul has its pace. I feel that the soul travels at a pace that is much slower than our modern means of civilisation suggest. The soul walks. Maybe it is able to travel at railway or motor vehicle speed. But the soul clearly can't follow an airplane at sonic speed from one continent to another. It lags behind. And waking up in a completely different environment confuses the soul. It makes her feel lost and lonely. And it makes it necessary to her to adapt for several days. 

My soul tells me during every travel that what I am doing is too quick. That I am overwhelming her. (Is she female? Is she sitting in the right hemisphere of my brain? Can I localise her?). She tells me that my lifestyle might be modern and interesting but not healthy to her. My soul is wise. She is wiser than I am. And she will tell me what to do in the future. She will guide me. 

For now she is tired. And so am I. 

About Processing

The more I take pictures and the more I develop a purposeful vision of photography the more I feel the need to process my pictures after just ‘taking’ and uploading them.  I want to make them mine. I want to add what I think helps them express my vision.  And I want to be able to evoke emotions in my viewers. 

All that can be done by getting the exposure right in camera, by framing, by applying rules of third and all the skills that we as photographers are supposed to have. But I think by focussing on the picture-taking process only we miss out on an essential aspect of creating pictures. The processing adds so much, the picture becomes different, more emotional, more purposeful by working on it in the computer (yes, the technical device that we need to work on our pictures puts me off, but this is the legitimate successor of the good old darkroom). 

And the more I think about processing and the more I do processing the more I come to the conclusion that the image developing process is supposed to transform a basic picture file into the final image.  And that includes changing it considerably. It means that the vision that I develop during the process is what guides me.  And it might well be that the picture will look completely different from the original photograph that I have taken with my camera. 

The photographer Juliana Gospodarou (http://blog.juliaannagospodarou.com) has developed a processing technique that she calls (en)Visionography. She uses purposeful processing in order to achieve a look that she calls emotional fine art photography. I just discovered her a few days ago and I don’t have a clear opinion on her ideas yet. I will need to look a little deeper and try to understand her vision and her technique. But her idea of detaching the final image from the source and of creating a new and independent piece of art in the process of development appeals to me. 

Apparently you need technical skills in order to process pictures on the computer. And according to Juliana you need particularly Photoshop skills. In the last few days I tried to get an idea of how to enhance my PS skills and I have to admit that I was not very successful. Online PS tutorials don’t give me the selective knowledge that fills my particular gaps. And I will need to take a closer look at what I need in order to develop my processing further.  And I think I will just start with the tutorials on her website and then take it from there. 

In the meantime I have tried to develop some iPhone images in Lightroom and PS. These pictures will eventual constitute a new mini series of the ‘modern world’. The development did not work well and so I eventually went back to the VSCO iPhone app and processed the pictures there. This is better than nothing but it does not satisfy me.  Still a lot to do and learn. 

 

About Gear (again)

Well, I bought a Leica camera. I must be crazy. Or maybe not?

For over three years the Leica M Monochrom has been my dream camera. I have been thinking about buying one again and again. It was the costs that put me off. But now I have made my decision, I bought a used one together with a used 28mm f2.8 lens.

Some weeks ago I sold a good part of my gear. I had enough of microchips and computers being in my way and deciding how my cameras were working. At a used-camera shop in London I sold my Sony RX1 and my Olympus OMD EM1. I believe that a camera has to be invisible to the user. It has to work like a glove that you don’t feel on your hand. It has to become a part of you seeing the world and has to capture your vision of the world without you being aware of the tool that you use. And exactly that was not the case with my previous cameras. I always thought ‘camera’ when I was using one of them.

And I always thought ‘program’ too. Do I use P or A mode? Which type of metering have I switched on? And more than once I forgot which ISO I had selected during my last shooting and for the next shooting I forgot to change it. And I never used any of those arty programs that the microchip in all these modern cameras provides.

So I wondered what if I returned to the simple craft of manual photography? To choosing aperture and exposure time manually. To finding my ISO button right in front of me on the back of my camera. And to focussing manually without any bleeping and flashing autofocus program. Well, that is what Leica rangefinder cameras actually provide. You are on your own with your motive, the camera and the light.

I convert most of my pictures to black and white. I love the mood that monochrome pictures exude. And I love processing and manipulating monochrome files trying to find the expression that I want.

And so I bought a used MM and a 28mm f2.8 lens. 28mm has been my favourite focal length for quite a while, so this decision was not difficult. Justifying the astronomic price for a used camera was. But that is over now. Done. Decision made.

And now I have been using my new tool for the last three weeks. And I love utilizing it. I love holding it. People have written about the ‘haptics of a Leica camera’. And it’s true. It feels special to hold one. Just holding it is great. I love framing with it. And I love the results.

The rendering of this camera is amazing. I can create grey tones that I never had available before. I can process my pictures and torment the files the way I usually do it without loosing tonal graduation. I can import them into Silver Efex2 and create a huge variety of different moods from one single picture. So at last I have the choice of editing my pictures exactly to my liking.

And yes, this camera blows highlights. I read about it in many articles. In bright sunlight with strong contrasts the MM is a pain in the ass. You need to underexpose the picture into nearly invisible greys in order to prevent losing the whole image due to blown highlights. And I am not really sure how I can handle this problem in the future. But apart from that issue, using it and viewing the results is a pleasure. The camera complements my style and I feel that I can develop my art further with this new tool in my hands.

And one last word about an issue that I had before I bought the camera and that I actually still have. Reading articles about MM shooters and their lack of ability to make “the camera sing” made me wonder how using a simple photographic tool creates expectations in your viewers. You need to be able to use its abilities to the full. You need to be able to make it shine, excel, sing. You need to prove that you are worthy using this extraordinary piece of craftsmanship. Well. I shoot light and shadow. Am I worthy? Bullocks!

Eventually it comes all back to personal choices and likings and fun. Yes, fun and joy. And I enjoy this new thing in my hands and I enjoy what I can do with it. Forget the money. Forget the rest. Just enjoy it! 

Living with a Cat

I live with a cat. Or, in order to put it more appropriately, I have become the servant of a feline. His name is Sufi. He is a philosopher. He ponders a lot. He sits and watches and thinks about how to direct his humans. How to make them stroke him, mainly before and during his meals. He meows to call his domestics into the kitchen. He demands instant stroking, before and during his meals. Then, if we get it right he starts purring as his sign of approval. 

Anna brought Sufi into our relationship. She had been serving him for the past three years and very early in our liaison she started teaching me how to do it right. I mean, he had demanded from her to educate every human male that enters his personal space. That is what we call a flat but in reality it is the space where the cat resides. The place that he has taken possession of. The place that he defends against invaders and mice. With a purr. With a slight stir of his whiskers. With a silent glance. 

He doesn't require a loud or shrill voice. Some soft meowing, some purring, some elegant steps along his servants' legs will tell them what to do in order to be of use to him. And of course he doesn't thank us. Cats never do. He eats, expects the nutritional stroke, turns his head in disapproval if the stroke comes not frequently enough. And then, abruptly, he decides to leave the place. Up he goes, no thank you, no final purr. And he  leaves his servants sitting on the floor looking at each other in puzzlement. "What about us?" You don't ask this question when you have become the servant of a cat. It's futile. 

But there is one more thing that you need to know. I will tell you my secret, but only if you promise not to pass it on to him. Promise?  Ok.  I know catish.  Yes, I really do. I understand his language. And I know how to speak it. And that's why I leave him after some strokes sitting in the middle of the room. Or fondle him a tiny little bit too roughly. Or let him wait for my caressing hand for a few seconds longer than expected. And guess what - he adores me.

Yes, I speak catish. 

Merry Christmas!

I wish all of you, all friends and visitors of this website a Merry Christmas. Enjoy your days off and have a relaxing and contemplative time.

All the best to you. Enjoy the light. 

Christian

Saying good bye

How do you say good bye? How do I say good bye? How can I go after seven years? What is this? What is this doing to me? To the others? To my children? 

After seven years I am leaving New Zealand. After seven years and the initial certainty that I wanted to stay. Maybe for good. 

And now I am leaving. In a little more than two weeks my plane is departing for Athens. It’s a farewell and a new beginning. Sure, there will be new challenges. But that is not what I am talking about. First of all this is a good bye. Today I had my farewell event at my hospice. And I didn’t know what to think and what to feel. They asked me about my excitement for my new adventure. But I just felt weird. After seven years you don’t say just good bye, turn around and go. 

You invest. You invest yourself into a place. Into a work. Into the people you are together with. You build a house. Step by step, brick by brick. And all of a sudden you stop. And the building has not been completed yet. And you decide to go and leave it to a new and different builder. This is weird. 

How do you say good bye as a father to your children? Can you ever do that? Can you ever go away? I am not explaining this here in public. That doesn’t make sense. Only thing - there is no answer to that question. And it will never be over. 

The farewell to the people, the country, my work, my photography in New Zealand is more real. I do have new challenges. There are new plans, new wishes, new ideas. I am curious, I am flexible, I am seeking new opportunities and I am excited. Greece will give me plenty of all that I am wishing for. 

And new love. A new love that changes everything. That turns my life around. A new love. Today, tomorrow and hopefully for the rest of my life. 

This is a farewell letter. A leaving letter. But also a new-beginning letter. An arriving letter. A hope letter. A pain letter. How will it be? How does a life develop? We will see. Yes, we will wait and see. 

Abschied nehmen

Wie nimmt man Abschied? Wie nehme ich Abschied? Wie kann ich gehen nach sieben Jahren? Was ist das? Was macht das mit mir? Und den anderen? Mit den Kindern? 

Nach sieben Jahren gehe ich fort von Neuseeland. Nach sieben Jahren und der Gewissheit zu Anfang, dass dies der Ort ist, an dem ich verweilen will. Für immer vielleicht. 

Und nun gehe ich. In etwas mehr als zwei Wochen geht mein Flug nach Athen. Ein Abschied und ein neuer Anfang. Und ich rede jetzt nicht von “neuen Herausforderungen”. Ja, selbstverständlich ist es das auch. Aber zuallererst ist es ein Abschied. Ein Abschied von einem Traum. Ein Abschied von einem Land. Von einer Arbeitsstelle. Von der Familie. Und vor allem von den Kindern.

Wie nimmt man Abschied von seinen Kindern als Vater? Kann man das? Ist das überhaupt möglich? Ich erklär das nicht weiter. Das macht keinen Sinn in der Oeffentlichkeit. Nur - es gibt keine Antwort.

Der Abschied vom Land, von den Menschen hier, von der Arbeit, von der Photographie in Neuseeland, all das ist realistischer, greifbarer, verständlicher. Ich bin flexibel. Ich bin neugierig. Ich liebe Herausforderungen. Ich möchte Neues erleben. Und Griechenland wird mir von all dem reichlich geben.

Und Liebe. Liebe als Herausforderung. Auch davon mehr als genug. Und die Hoffnung, dass es hält. Ein Leben lang.

Dies ist ein Abschiedsbrief. Und ein neuer-Anfang Brief. Ein Hoffnungsbrief. Und ein Schmerzensbrief. Wie wird es sein? Wer kann das wissen? 

The Narratives of our Lives

In the last three days I attended a psycho-oncological conference that happened in Invercargill right in front of my doorstep. The topic was the art of collaboration as health professionals.

The most important talks in this conference were about the stories of our lives. Our lives as human beings, as patients and as health professionals too. What constitutes a good and fulfilled life? What makes the life of a doctor, a psychologist, a palliative care nurse a successful professional life? It is connectedness. Being connected to people. To family, friends, colleagues. And to patients and their needs if you are a health professional. 

What makes a doctor in Palliative Care be a better doctor? What makes him a doctor that makes a difference for patients and families? Among a few other things it is probably him recognizing the need and reality of people to be connected.

In health we often assume that everything concerning a patient’s disease circles around how we, the professionals organize care. That we give the tact. That we make the decisions. But this is so far away from reality as it could ever be. Peoples’ lives circle around their social network, their Whanau (the Maori word for wider family), their lives in the context of being social beings.

And of course this is just a reflection of how everybody’s life works. We are all connected. In our private life, with our hobbies (for example the Flickr community for photographers), with our families. When you become a patient with a severe illness this is not changing. You remain connected. Your social life continues. It will be different. Something falls off and you need to grieve for it. Something is being added that might give you strength. But after all you remain a social being with social connections.

And in this social context the story of our lives unfolds. Our life is a narrative. A story that we can tell. That we live and tell at the same time. About past and presence and maybe future. A story that links us to our ancestors. To our grandparents and the people that lived before us long ago. And our children and their children will continue this story even long after we have died.

Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand live this narrative very consciously, very intensely. They draw the essence of life from these life narratives. And they are attached to life through the narratives that link them with the past and future.

Life is a story. A story that we write. Each of us has his or her own, unique story. We are storytellers. We are story-livers. And we are embedded into the story of this life, this earth, this history. This is beautiful. And it gives consolation. We are not alone. Even if we feel so. We can relate to what was. And to what will be. However long or short that may be.

the answer

and that is all
that is
that counts
that makes us move
and smile
and walk on
day by day
that is all
that we need
and all we call it
is one name

About Light. And Darkness. And Light.

Light is life. Light generates life. And light makes photography possible.

I would like to write about what light means to me as a person and as a photographer. You might have noticed that in my photography I use light in a particular way. I juxtapose light with darkness. With a lot of darkness. A specific term for creating a space of darkness around light is ‘negative space’. I know a little about the theory of negative space. But when I take my photographs I am not applying any rules or theories. Light and darkness come intuitively to me. 

Over the years the meaning of light and darkness has changed to me. Was darkness a scary and menacing experience in the past so has it lost it’s frightening aspect. This has probably to do with my inner self that feels stable and in a light and bright space.

I know darkness. And its threatening aspects. And I have seen many people in desperation because of the darkness that they are wrapped into. But my personal experience is much more positive. Particularly over the last few years light prevails. 

Photographically I want to see the light. I want to make it visible. And the best way of making light obvious is to juxtapose it with darkness. The usual contrasts that the eye sees seem to be boring to me. I am just not interested in a scene with the usual tonalities of light and shadow. My eyes want more. More light. More contrast. So I create pictures where light becomes the dominant feature although it is surrounded by a lot of darkness. 

Often I work with electronic viewfinders that give me a real time image of the way the light behaves in the pictures that I am taking. And I adjust exposure time (and sometimes aperture) according to the impression that I have in the viewfinder. This is not the good old way of taking pictures and it is certainly not how I learned photography. But it is a very nice and direct way of assessing light and its effect on a picture.

My color association of light is ‘white’. To me it is a bright white light that shines on us, that guides us and that fulfills us spiritually. In photographic terms I am talking about high key. Very high key. The spirit of light to me is very, very bright. So high key pictures with only little shadows or darkness are a field that attracts me too. That is why you find high key pictures next to strong light / darkness contrasts in my work.

Yes, light is life. And it expresses hope and development. That is the intuitive force of my current photography.

(Thank you very much Noël for your comments that lead to these thoughts about light and darkness. The link to Noël's Flickr stream  https://www.flickr.com/photos/macnikon/  ).

Political Poetry

Alexa commented on one of my recent pictures on Flickr saying it was ’political poetry’. The picture showed some sheep wool entangled in a metal fence. This image reminded her of the situation of political refugees in Europe. 

I had to admit that neither taking the picture nor processing had triggered in me any political consideration nor a single thought of refugees and their fate in the current exodus from Syria and other countries. But after reading Alexa’s comment I had to think of political implications of art generally and photography in particular.

Does ’innocent art’ exist? Can we create a picture that reflects just what we see without any further consideration and thoughts of other environments and a meaning that our art might have in these environments? Or are we even obliged to think further when we create art? Is depicting ’innocent reality’ ok when every piece of art could have multiple layers of meaning that allude to current political, environmental or other problems? Do we have a responsibility to ’go further’?

All these questions have been asked extensively before. And they have never been answered. And this is simply because every artist defines his vision, his perception of the meaning of art in a very unique and subjective way. There is not one way of defining the obligations and duties of art.

To me Alexa’s question came as a surprise. And she caught me in a situation where I am in transition between one world I became used to and a new and very different world that I am going to be immersed in in the future.

I spent the last seven years in New Zealand. NZ is a country far away from all crisis epicenters of the world. But New Zealanders still have have an awareness of the events that happen in the rest of the world. However whatever happens some ten thousand kilometers away from them does not affect Kiwis that much. So the direct impact of all these events is quite low.

On the other hand have I spent several weeks in Greece over the last year. And in Greece you feel and perceive ’crisis’ in a very direct and unmitigated way. Refugees stream into and through the country in scores. And politically and financially Greece has been in dire straights for at least five years. As a political being I have been aware of all the events and their meaning for the people of Greece in recent years.

And then I produce ’innocent art’. And somebody makes me aware of the possible political meaning of my art. So what? Does that come as a shock to me? As a hint to change my attitude? I actually don’t think so. I can and we all can produce our art according to our personal feelings and needs and to our political and artistic inventiveness.

I think in the future I will be more aware of what meaning my pictures can have. And I know that the refugee crisis requires political art.  It is utterly unacceptable what is happening to people that seek shelter in Europe from unbearable conditions in their home countries. They become victims of political interests. And as artists and human beings we need to raise our voice.

Alexa Alyssa Aufmkolk's Flickr Stream
https://www.flickr.com/photos/135995201@N05/ 

Walking Meditation and Photography

Over the years I have been getting a little deeper into the practice of meditation. I started quite early with some attempts as a student when I found myself sitting cross-legged on a kitchen table late in the evening at my students' dormitory. And I was hoping nobody would pop in and discover me. 

After the early attempts I left meditation for quite a few years however turning to some infrequentpractice attempts every now and the. In recent years I re-discovered meditation, joined a Buddhist group and tried to get a better understanding of both Buddhism and meditation. I am in no way profound but I enjoy the experience of meditation. 

So where is the link to photography? Well, I found that I would love to have a more intuitive approach to photography. One where I m not "composing" pictures but where pictures "are occurring" to me.    I admired the early attempts of my daughter Lucia who at the age of 11 shot some wonderful abstracts out of nothing in my flat. And she just did it. She wasn'tconsidering any rules of composition. She let her intuition guide herself. 

So why not me as an adult? And I was wondering if I could combine my experience in meditation with the attempt of composing pictures in a more intuitive way. So far so good.  But how do you do that? And how do you remember to try it out? This was my first stepping stone. I just forgot about my plan when I started shooting. I got in my usual shooting mode and after the shooting session I was cross with myself when I hadn't tried the new plan. 

But one week ago it happened. I did think of it when I started shooting some flowers. So I tried a walking meditation in the park with my photographic targets. And then I let my feelings guide me into what and how to shoot. It was not spectacular but a very satisfying experience. It felt round and full and right. I have not reviewed the results yet as I want to have some distance to the shooting process before I do this. 

I will keep you posted. 

And for sure, I will try it again. 

My Old Canon Camera

For many years I owned a Canon EOS 10D camera. And I have to say that I never really developed a relationship with her. I found her too technical, too bulky, with far too many buttons that I didn’t understand how to use. So she lived her life mainly on a shelf. Until some months ago. 

Over the last months I realised that my photography is lacking one component. With my current cameras and lenses I can’t get closer to my objects. I am not able to shoot details. And I can’t compress images to enhance the effect of my objects. And I currently don’t have the money for a tele lens. :-)

So I remembered my old Canon camera with her 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 tele zoom lens that I had bought some time ago. And I took her from the shelf, checked if the batteries were still working (and to my surprise they were) and took some test shots. And I liked what I was seeing. So I took her with me to some photo shootings and I started using her more regularly. And i have to say that I love the effect of the tele lens. These pictures are very special to me. 

And of course is this camera technically completely outdated. 6 MP sensor. Every point and shoot has more nowadays. And ISO doesn’t go higher than 1600 and if I use it at that level the camera creates incredible noise. But converting the pictures to b&w and using the noise as a stylistic element doesn’t let it appear too distracting. I can even crop pictures a little. And as long as I am not trying to print them I am fine. And after having used other cameras in the past few years that have similar technical features (that feel exactly the same redundant as the ones on my Canon) I didn’t find her too daunting anymore. And I use her regularly and I thoroughly enjoy the effect of pictures shot with a tele lens. 

And maybe one day when I have saved enough money I will afford a Leica M camera. For simplicity. And peace of mind.

Ancient Hellas

You come to Athens and you find chaos. Worries. A future shrouded in doubt. But that's not the picture I had of Greece before the crisis struck. Greece is the place where western civilisation was born. The cradle. The place where culture, language, rites developed. The place I learnt about at school. Dates about battles. Emperors. The development of democracy. How was it with the Romans and the Greeks? The Persian wars? And Alexander the Great? 

And then you come to these places. To the Acropolis. The hill where over 3000 years of history were written. And you share it with about 5000 tourists in the searing sun (stupid idea to go there at lunchtime...). :-)

It is fascinating to imagine how people lived here in 500 BC. And you wonder how everyday life might have looked like in those days. The ruins don't tell you very much. 

And then your personal guide (thank you Anna, thank you so very much!) takes you to the Acropolis Museum. And to the Museum of Cycladic Art. And you find explanations. In these museums you find descriptions of how the old Hellenes were educated, how marriage looked like and how they were trained in sport in order to become warriors. 

And the Spartans. Men and women were educated to defend their city. Both genders were involved. An ancient place of emancipation. 

It helps to have a historically savvy guide. But all museums have very good explanations in both Greek and English language. And if you like you can go deeper and go to education sessions or ask historians that are available at the Acropolis Museum. 

History turned alive. I loved it. And I want more. 

And here are some links to websites around ancient Hellas in Athens:

http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acropolis_of_Athens 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenon

http://www.cycladic.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=node&cnode=1&clang=1

 

Olympic Grounds

Greece hosted the Olympic Games in 2004. And as usual plans were made, infrastructure was improved, a new suburb was created and architects had the opportunity of fulfilling their dreams and wishes. About 10bn Euros were invested in buildings and infrastructure.

And already in those days people in Greece were sceptical about the outcome and the question if this huge investment was worthwhile. And after the games, 10 years onwards not very much is left of the impressive architecture and the benefit that politicians promised their people. 

The Olympic buildings are not being maintained. When you walk the grounds where the games happened you find deserted buildings, weeds and decay. And you wonder why not even the attempt was made to maintain at least some of the sport grounds.

A whole velodrome is crumbling. Inside seats are waiting for visitors and spectators that never come. Swimming pools are full of water that nobody ever uses. Archery targets are rotting in the sun with weeds spreading all over the place. 

You wonder why these grounds are accessible at all. They don't give you an impression of the games, of the atmosphere and of competitions that athletes were striving for to win. This is decay and the symbol of a country that is struggling to survive. I was sad and angry when I left this place. 

Athens

I am in Athens. In Greece! At the cradle. Where our culture started. Where the wars were fought that determined how the occident looked like over centuries. Where museums and ruins tell the stories of ancient splendour and power. And where people now worry about every single day, every single week to come. 

What a discrepancy. Here the powerful heritage that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. And there the worries and utter despair of a country that is facing economical disaster. 

And yet life is wonderful here. The climate is exceptional with warm days and mild nights that invite us to stroll the city and spend evenings in cafes outside on the trottoirs. People are friendly and inviting and full of humour and warmth. And the city is buzzing with vibrant life. Yes, it is noisy and chaotic and sometimes puzzling. And if you don't speak the language (like me) it is not always easy to understand first hand what is going on. But everything is interesting and everything arouses my curiosity. And everywhere are new discoveries to be made. 

Yes, I love Athens and I find it fascinating. 

RX1

I'd like to write a little about my Sony RX1 camera. This website is certainly not intended to be a gear review site. There are thousands of others doing this and I am not the right person to follow them suit. But I'd like to tell my story with this camera and why I am using it now again. 

The RX1 was the first camera that I bought after I had re-discovered photography some two years ago. Steve Huff (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com) had written enthusiastic reviews on this camera and I found the concept appealing. Small, light, full frame, versatile and with a real good Zeiss f2.0 lens. So I bought it. And tried it. And kind of failed. 

A 35mm lens is very universal. And I wanted to use it for multiple purposes. I was particularly keen on trying it as a street photography camera. And honestly - as such it sucks. AF is much too slow, screen reflections are awful in bright sunlight, you can't turn off magnification on the screen when you focus manually. It is a disaster. And Sony are bold enough not to update the firmware to allow us simple and normal manual focussing. I was flabbergasted. This thing was really expensive and it fails in such details. 

For landscape 35mm often is not wide enough. So I found the camera not very fit for that purpose either. And portraits with a 35mm lens - hm, you can do that, but there are certainly better ways of pointing out the beauty of your models' facial lines. 

After all I didn't know what to do with this camera after some months and so it ended up in a drawer very much to my annoyance. 

Until - well until I had this camera with me when I went out for a night photoshoot some few weeks ago. Winter is coming in New Zealand and the days are much shorter now. So it's night photography season again. 

And all of a sudden I realised what a beautiful night shot camera this is. You can bump up ISO to 6400 or even 12500 and shoot it hand-held.  It creates an interesting grain that you can easily work with in processing. Colour rendering is nice and interesting in the dark. And the lens gives amazing details that you can use very nicely when you process the shots. 

So after all it turned out that Steve was right when he praised the night shooting qualities of this camera in his reviews. (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/10/09/night-time-street-shooting-with-the-sony-rx1-amazing-high-iso-samples/) It took me only two years to find that out.... :-)  You can certainly call it luxury to have a "night-shot only camera" available. And I would certainly not buy this expensive thing for that purpose only. But as I am having it anyway I will use it and enjoy taking pictures in the dark. 

Please take a look at my recent colour night shots on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisrsouthland/) and in the "urban" section of this site. They are all taken with the RX1. 

Palliative Care

I was wondering if I should write about Palliative Care in my blog. This is a private website. This is about art, taking pictures, about writing, poetry and finding expression. And now Palliative Care? Why should I write about that? 

It is true that I make a clear difference between my private life and my profession. I try to leave my work at my work place. But working in Palliative Care  has an impact, has an influence on my art. Not in the way that I find my artistic topics in that field. But working with dying human beings enhances your sensitivity. It tells you about the worth of life, how precious it is and how fragile. And this influences your artistic expression, if you want this or not. 

What does dying mean? What is happening when we die? We are in one moment. And in the next moment we are no more. What happened? Physically it seems to be clear. The heart stops. The breathing stops. The brain stops working. But can we really explain what is happening? Why is this "machine" arresting on that very moment? Not sooner, not later. What makes all this happen? What is cancer doing on our body, what old age? And no, we can't explain this.

And what happens to our mind when we die? To all the knowledge that we accumulated over the years. What happens to our memories, to our feelings and to our soul? (Soul - what is that?) Is it all over? Extinct? Gone?

Every person has his or her own opinion about this. We call it believes. We call it religion. Or we call it philosophy when we are a little more matter of fact. We believe. We disbelieve. We find answers in believing because we don't know.

It is a mystery. Huge, impermeable mystery. And even if you have seen many beings dying you still don't understand what is happening. 

I am realising that I am writing question after question. But no answer. The quintessence after 15 years in Palliative Care is that I don't know about the mystery of death.  And I am probably not the only one who doesn't know. 

Let's return to art and photography. Does the fact that I create very often dark images have to do with my work? Maybe a little. I have ever been interested in the dark side of life, in our shadows, our ghosts that haunt us. Palliative Care has not changed or enhanced that. But it has sharpened my sensitivity. And it has helped shaping my personality. So this is my way of expressing myself. 

This was a first attempt of writing about Palliative Care. About death. About the borderland between life and death. Maybe I will write more one day.