Monthly Archives: June 2011

For My Monochrome Love

My Adidas sneakers, my favorite dress, the Exile On Main Street album cover, the Ramones, the Kills, Robert Capa and Robert Frank, Anton Corbijn, Stephan Vanfleteren, Sieff, Avedon, C’est Arrivé Prèt De Chez Vous, Pi, Notorious, Casablanca, the covers to Ginsberg’s Howl and Kaddish, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity,13 Tzameti…

– Black & white love –

When I first started as a photographer, I was a dedicated follower of black & white film. As a matter of fact, I only switched to digital and color 4 years ago. Besides the occasional holiday snap in full color, it was life in grainy monochrome during dark room filled days.

I found a job at a local music magazine pretty soon after I got my first SLR. Analogue, naturally. I remember being nervous about having to show my work to  the graphic designer, but my b&w image of Supergrass got me in. The next three years were spent in gritty clubs while trying to make the low light and “saturated, loosing all detail” paper the magazine was printed on work for me.  I tried out all sorts of film, before I finally settled on Kodak T-Max 3200 ASA, which was mainly due to having to shoot bands in dark clubs. I needed the sensitivity to light that came with that particular film. Fortunately, I loved the grain that came with it as well, it fitted my favorite subjects perfectly. I also preferred the roundish grain of Kodak to the flat/square grain of Fuji Neopan, and chose Kodak paper instead of Ilford as the blacks were more beautiful. The whites on Ilford were prettier, but ja, I never needed a whole lot of white.

I looked at every Charles Peterson image I could find, signed up for a course in American Film Noir at uni and subsequently watched 2 film noir movies a week, and attended lectures with black turtle neck wearing professors. Even after graduation, I stuck to black & white, photographing a dance company in Antwerp, Low in Paradiso or Anouk in Utrecht. When I had the opportunity to photograph CocoRosie a few years ago, I brought my SLR loaded with Fuji Neopan b&w film. Something had slowly changed though, as it was the first shoot to which I brought a digital camera as well. A tiny Sony Cybershot at that, obviously not a true convert yet:)

There’s something about black & white images that makes it modern and classical at the same time. I suppose it’s the ‘abstractification’ of reality that brings an excitement and tension with it that is different from what one achieves with color. As color falls away, your eye looks for other things to connect to; light, contrast, shape and composition. The monochrome also often gives a graphic design kind of feeling to images which I love.

Today, years after I showed my Supergrass photo to the designer, and after I switched to digital *and* color, I find myself extremely excited when I open the morning paper and see a two-page spread of photos that Stephan Vanfleteren took of Anton Corbijn. Two of my contemporary heroes in glorious grainy monochrome.

And now I know it’s true what they say, first love never dies.

  1. Tshepo Moche | Yesterday’s Still | The Posies | Tonik |
  2. DJ Akio | Bianca Cassady CocoRosie | Maarten | Donovan Copley 
  3. Nynke | Tshepo Moche | Maarten | Verity Price 
  4. Face Tomorrow | Tristan Waterkeyn | Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Show Don’t Tell

Noor Images

Noor Images is looking for photographers. You can find more information here:

And I only recently discovered the blog of A Photo Editor. There are interesting photos, interviews and opinions to be found there. Should check it out:)
Am also a big fan of the British Journal of Photography, definitely worth a look.

Looking For An Icon

What was supposed to be a 40 minute train ride turned into a 2 hours trip. Not the fun extended, unexpected “go for coffee with a friend but end up with different friends on a beach you never knew existed” kind of trip, but the “leave home on your bicycle to catch the train, but get caught in a thunderstorm only to find out there is no train so you wait for the bus, miss the connecting train in the next city, wait some more in your soaking wet clothes, everyone talks too loud, walks in front of you and generally every flipping part in this city is ticking you off” kind. That kind.

  All I wanted to do is pay a visit to the Dutch Doc Days, a new three-day festival celebrating Dutch documentary photography. I had checked the program beforehand and wanted to attend a debate, catch a movie and see the exhibition. I only saw half the exhibition and never quite made it to the debate but did see the movie (documentary, I should say) which was the thing I really wanted to see anyway.

I enjoyed the documentary even if I was slightly disappointed after I learned they were screening a 4-year-old documentary but in all fairness, that has nothing to with the contents of it. Anyhow, Hans Pool and Maik Krijgsman documentary Looking For An Icon was made in celebration of World Press Photo 50th anniversary. The idea was to find out was goes into the making of an iconic photograph as well as why does one photograph become part of our collective visual memory while another doesn’t. They interviewed photographers several photographers (Eddie Adams, Charlie Cole, David Turnley and OlivieroToscani), editors, publishers and historians. Oliviero Toscani was highly entertaining with his razorsharp insight that everything is for sale somehow be it religion, news or art.

                         Authority that exerts power has to create an icon

He also chatted about a photo shoot he did years ago while with his then girlfriend. She was a model at the time and was wearing a white bridal gown. They had been working all day and were quite chuffed with the way it had been going. The assistant suggested at some point he’d take a picture of Oliviero and his girlfriend. Oliviero was wearing jeans and a shirt, she was still in the white dress as they stood side by side. They were married from that moment on. No one believed it wasn’t a wedding photo and to this day, his mother keeps that picture in a frame as proof of their union. The couple did eventually get married but according to the world they already were and people weren’t all that interested. “We believe the image, not the truth.” 

What was fascinating was seeing the frames before and after the iconic image, and hearing the photographers talk about what went in to making that photo. Charlie Cole was running out of film as the resistance at Tiananmen Square went on longer than expected, and his famous image was on frame 34 or 35 on his last roll of film. He became quite emotional when he talked about the man standing in front of the tanks and explained how he felt obligated to show the world this image as it was proof of the guy’s heroic act, one that he probably lost his life over, “they didn’t run him over them, but I am sure they did later on”.

One of the connoisseurs explained how we in the west are raised in biblical, Greek and Roman traditions where the individual can make a difference; David vs Goliath, George slaying the dragon and men fighting the gods. The image of Tiananmen Square find resonance in that tradition. This may not be the case in f.e. Asian cultures where the collective is more important than the individual. An image, therefore, may become iconic in one culture, but not in another as it doesn’t refer to the same collective stories, myths or traditions.

The documentary does not really answer the question what makes an image iconic or what is iconic to begin with. What it did explain is that iconic photographs often lack context; time and space are slightly kept out of the image as that way it provides more room for the viewer to fill in part of the story or to project one’s own emotions onto the image. And that they often side with those who have lost; lives lost, friends lost, innocence lost. Even if we tend to believe in the good of mankind we are generally lazy. Iconic images show us that “the other person” has stepped up or suffered on our behalf. The image requires nothing of us anymore as it is the end already. We can view the image, feel the pull on our heartstrings as it connects to our personal emotional history, feel a sense of right and wrong rising within us while we have our morning coffee and get ready for work. We don’t have to act anymore, someone did the job for us already.

We bought some drinks and enjoyed our beer or rosé in my friend’s beautiful garden while the sun was slowly setting behind the trees. The images still linger in my mind’s eye and stories are still ringing in my ears. Photojournalists are often criticized for glamorizing war or being sensationalist. Sure, out of all the people you can find some are, most aren’t. I think most work from a place of compassion and even if an image hardly ever really changes the world, they do contribute to our understanding of a situation and remind us of our humanity.

Tim Hetherington, Chris Hondros, Anton Hammerl recently lost their lives wanting to do that. That can not possibly have been in vain.

200 Young South Africans

The Mail & Guardian published a list of 200 promising young South Africans last week. Congratulations to Sally Partridge for making it onto the Arts&Culture list and Sam Wilson for getting onto the Science & Technology list.

Feeling proud you’re taking part in the Swimming Upstream project!
You can see the full list right here:

Black Lips and coffee

Yesterday was a good day. I hung out with my friend Suzannah on her new rooftop terrace, while sipping Savanna’s in the late afternoon sun. This is always a good thing, obviously. That was after I met up with another friend for coffee and before I met up with Miss P from the Beyond Culture Foundation about a possible collaboration on my Swimming Upstream project. It looks promising as we are both interested in collaborating. I just need to figure out how to tie it all together. And when.. I got home tired and cold as it seemed to be below zero on the train at 1.30 am.

As for the rest of the week; finished editing a photo shoot, entered the Ernest Cole Award competition, sent out my project proposal, submitted work to different magazines, ran 50 km’s and am backing up my files as we speak. I’ll pay a visit to the Dutch Doc Days tomorrow.  I am interested in seeing Teun Voeten‘s documentary on ‘Tunnel People’ and the screening of ‘Looking for an Icon’.

The sun is out, I’m listening to the Black Lips ‘Arabia Mountain’ and sipping coffee. It’s a good day to sit on some ideas before I make decisions next week.

The photo, btw, is of the talented dancer/choreographer Marijke de Vos from Teddy Shouldn’t Smoke.

Have a cool Friday all.

The Pop Culture Issue

Yesterday saw the publication of Coup Magazine‘s Pop Culture issue and yay, my photo of couturier Hendrik Vermeulen was featured in the Creative Space alongside Jeremy Nell, Conrad de Jong and several others.

You can find a mini bio on each participant on page 40.

Been listening to the new Death Cab For Cutie album ‘Codes and Keys’ as well as ‘Smoking in Heaven’ by English band Kitty, Daisy and Lewis.