Floating in the sky
A Mysterious Community by Dilshad C
In the writing of Yisroel (Israel) Ben Eliezer, most commonly known as Baal Shem Tov, he claims that Hasidic Judaism was invented by him while taking long walks alone in the forest at night where he received revelations about the Almighty God of Israel.
Mystical individuals arose, outside the Rabbinic establishment, who were known as the Masters of Kabbalistic mysticism, intervention and miracles, who sought to offer the downtrodden masses spiritual and physical encouragement, and practical healing. The image of these charismatic figures, often wandering among the people, became shaped by the Kabbalistic legend and stories.
I am, however, not here to dwell on how this branch of Judaism was created. I am here because I’ve always been fascinated by this community’s secluded life style. I am fascinated by them and by the mysticism that surrounds them, and of course their clothing, their hats and those long beards woven onto those wrinkled faces! So I decided to go to Stamford Hill, which is a little area of London with the largest Hasidic community in the UK.
I think it was one of the most difficult photo walks that I’ve ever done. Even though, when you are walking around that area you can see them all over the place, it surely was not easy to photograph them, as they move really fast and don’t like to be snapped; let alone the men, it took me two days of wandering, to say the least, to photograph a lady of the house together with its family, just to say how difficult it was.
Lady of the Family
Ovid once wrote: “There was a grove below the Avantine dark with shade of oaks and when you saw it you would say there is a deity abiding there”. This feeling of fear, awe, reverence and possibly uneasiness, which was felt by Ovid a millennia ago, was, quite earnestly speaking, also felt by me while roaming the streets of Stamford Hill today.
For the very first time I did not have the courage to stop them and to talk to them, maybe that very sense of awe and reverence stopped me from approaching them! I managed, however to have a word with one wonderful old man, who took the time to narrate to me a Hasidic story of Baal Shem Tov. The way he recounted that story was almost hypnotic and then, as if nothing had happened, he just stood up and walked away, crossed the road as if he were an apparition, with fast moving cars passing around him. He did not see them and they did not see him. He disappeared in the nothingness that our lives are surrounded by.
A Conversation Between Artists by Geri Centonze
About a month ago, Juxt posted a “how are we doing?” post on Instagram to have the community assess what we’ve done thus far and if it has been helpful. You all have been awesome and have asked that we continue the work we do in the mobile photography community. Also from this post, we found Geri and Dislhad. These two amazing artists stepped up to collaborate on this article. Geri requested that Juxt interview Dilshad as she is one of his biggest fans. When asked if she was up to the task, Geri – who has her own awesome resource for iPhoneography “iArt Chronicles,” agreed and below you will find not only a community contribution to Juxt, but a great conversation between artists from different parts of the world. This is why we believe in Juxt so much. The connection, the art, the community, and the storytelling, all make this a passion for all of us. Enjoy this article with Geri and Dilshad, and lets get to know @italianbrother more through his conversation with @gericentonze!
Geri: I don’t remember how I found your first image. But I remember which one it was. It was just so special – as if I was present in that frozen moment!
Photo Credit: Dilshad
The first image of mine that you commented on was from a Friday Free Concert.
Photo Credit: Geri
It was easy for me to snap a photo of someone performing openly, but I was captivated with your bold candid images which are so emotionally charged!
Dilshad: I absolutely remember seeing your photo. What a marvel to me! I loved it at first sight…it was great. The guy was so one of my types (photographically speaking). The first photo you liked, “Pulcinella”, is a result of what had happened a few minutes before! I was in Naples that day with the purpose to do an essay on the city. I had come out from the station and wanted to warm up, start easily, and when I did, found my subject and snapped him (below). He seriously got angry at me and pulled a knife out and started following me. I ran as if there was no tomorrow and for God knows how long.
Photo Credit: Dilshad
A normal person would have quit, but no, I kept going into the depths of the city and shooting. Pulcinella, the photo that you mentioned was snapped just after this event. I was very shaken but did not want to lose my entire day, so I continued.
Geri: So what draws you to your subjects? Are they planned shoots?
Dilshad: I don’t think…I just shoot. I see and fall in love. It’s like being in the middle of an emotional earthquake. When that happens (and it happens often), I have to shoot! I walk and look for a subject that captures my eye and I just snap him or her. If I miss the first time (unlikely), I follow as a professional stalker and then position myself further away from the subject. When they get into my frame, BOOM, done and I walk away!
Geri: I know that feeling. You describe it as an earthquake, I just feel an adrenaline rush and hope that I can capture the moment before it’s gone forever. Why did you call the image Pulcinella? I’m not familiar with that name.
Dilshad: He reminded me of Pulcinella (an Italian Commedia dell’arte character). He was walking and making strange gestures. I asked the people in the area about him and they all knew him. He was an actor in his younger years, not famous, but he made people laugh. After his short-lived career, he started roaming the streets of Naples, playing his character and stopping at local coffee shops for an espresso. For each espresso he drinks, he pays for a second one for whoever comes after him. I think I have enjoyed one of those coffees!
Geri: You are so much braver than I am. You talk to your subjects and inquire about them. I just snap and hightail it out of there. Most often I get an image that may not look like much in the beginning but then the challenge for me is to turn it into something by using a painterly technique like this one.
Photo Credit: Geri
This was a woman I saw at the local IKEA store…I transformed her into something saintly. But you have the REAL stories behind your photos. Like this series, what is their story?
Dilshad: Geri, your photos are amazing! What you manage to do is to allow us to imagine the story behind! Yes, I love talking to my subjects, when I can and if they don’t want to stab me… this one in particular was near a tube station in London, Tottenham Court Rd Station. There were a young lady and a homeless man sitting which is nothing too new but I had a gut feeling about them. Something was happening. I started talking to them. Hanna, the young woman, a Londoner from Chelsea is a banker. She was running to work because she was late but saw Tommy, a homeless man. She stopped and decided not to go to work and to sit with him instead. I arrived ten minutes after their first meeting. When I asked if I could take their photos Tommy replied that I had seen the “beauty and the beast”. While I was snapping away, Hanna started caressing, hugging and kissing Tommy. She was in love! He smiled and you could see happiness on his wrinkled face! I don’t know if it ended “happily ever after”, but I was there to capture that moment which will last forever through the images and through my memory!
Geri: You have mentioned before that you took a 5-week course in mobile photography. Can you tell me a bit more about that? What were your assignments like?
Dilshad: Ah, yes! That was the beginning, it all started from there. About three, maybe four months ago I was just roaming the internet and I came across a fantastic iPhoneography course (5 weeks, 3 hour per week) The lecturer, Richard Gray, @rugfoot on Instagram, a wonderful person and now a very good friend of mine, gave us homework too. It felt like being back at school… insane, and yet I loved it.
The course started with a short video by the great Koci, @koci on Instagram. This video just changed me completely. I had goose bumps and wanted to go out and snap the world and that’s precisely what I did and have been doing every day since. In regards to the assignments, each week we would start our session by looking at what everyone had snapped during that week and we would analyse the story, composition and edit of those photos. Then we would look at specific apps, such as Filterstorm, Scratchcam and many more, learning the best way to use them. @rugfoot is truly a great facilitator, he would explain to us how to get the most from what we had in our hands and we would practice in class, snapping and then editing. Finally, he would give us a topic for the upcoming week and homework! Each week the topic changed and varied from Buildings and Architecture, Street Photography, Portraits, Colours, and so on… Utterly loved it! And, quite honestly speaking, if I hadn’t met @rugfoot, I would not be here writing this!
Geri: I was hoping the course you took was available online – darn! It is amazing to me that you mention Koci as an early influence because after I discovered the painterly work of Karen L. Messick, I began scouring the internet for more on iPhoneography and ran across a video introduction to mobile photography by Koci and I was hooked too. Small world!!
Can you tell me a bit about your process after the shoot? Most of your images have a gritty, dark mood. How do you achieve it?
Dilshad: I know, right! I wish @rugfoot would do a phase two of the course, an advanced level, that really would make my day! In regards, to the online course, I have come across these guys: http://mobilephotoworkshop.wordpress.com they seem pretty cool, and I am definitely going to do one of their online courses!
Dilshad: Koci’s video is just extraordinary, I recommend it to everyone to go and check it out! It’s a love letter to photography, and he is such a great person, and incredible Maestro of the art! We often talk and we have become friends, I so feel honoured about this!
Dilshad: Coming back to my style, what can I say? I am a bit heavy handed, to say the least. I very much feel like as if I were a child in a candy store without the storekeeper around… sometimes I know I should stop, and yet I keep going on and on with the editing. I really enjoy it..
Dilshad: I usually take my photos with the native camera app of the iPhone, sometime I use Camera+ or ProCamera. Once I have taken the photograph I transfer it onto my iPad and start with the editing process that usually, always begins with Camera+, where I would select a scene, most of the times the Clarity tool would do, but I do try them all before settling down. Then, always in Camera+ I would square crop my photo, so that it’s nice and ready to fit into my Instagram feed; and maybe I might give it an FX touch too. From here onwards it’s all about app-stacking! I might end up using BigLens, After Focus, or BlurFX, for the blurring and the aperture and to give a Bokeh feel to my photo. Once done with the blurring, it’s texture time – anything from Phototoaster, Lo-mob, Wood Camera, Picture Show, PhotoForge or Qbro, could pop in to help me out. It is a shame, however, for the latter, I really loved Qbro, but since the iOS update this app has stopped working!
Dilshad: In regards to what I like to capture, well, I love the unspoken London, the untold London, with heavily blurred background! I usually tend to destroy the background, focusing on my main subjects: Men with big, long beards and hats! Characteristic and peculiar faces! I see, I shoot and I go! It is difficult to analyze the why behind my subjects, or to describe my favorite subjects. It is very much like when you fall in love and you feel the butterflies. Yes, that is exactly how I feel when I see something that I want to shoot. Iphoneography and street photography have given me the power to tell my stories, what I see and what touches me!
Geri: You recently participated in your first exhibition in London. How was your work received? What was the response to images being created with an iPhone?
Dilshad: Amazing! Good God, what an experience…completely sold out! The visitors loved it! Although, there were some that pinched their nose when they heard that it was all iPhone taken and iPad edited… But all in all, a wonderful response to it and I have another one coming up near Chelsea. This one organised by @rugfoot and it will be only for iPhoneographers!
Dilshad: I have to say, however, that there still is a stigma attached to iPhoneograpers, people tend to think that we are just playing around and it’s not serious photography. They assume that we can just crop and edit and change it to make it look good. I would like to answer these people with something that Koci has said quite recently: “Photo apps won’t magically give Jane the smartphone photographer a better sense of composition, or lighting, or framing. The apps and filters only change a photos look and aesthetic feel. That doesn’t make it a better photo. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.” What I mean by this is, if a photo is good, there is nothing you can do it is just good, regardless of the medium it is taken with!
Geri: I so agree with Koci’s statement about iPhoneography. I suppose when digital cameras first rolled onto the scene the film photographers turned up their noses. Now the iPhone is the “new kid on the block” and I suppose it will be a while before it is embraced and accepted. I know you’re currently working on a series of images from the Hasidic community. Can you tell me more about it? Is it difficult to shoot there?
Dilshad: Yes, I am fascinated by them! Stamford Hill is a little area with the largest community of Hasidic Jewish people in the UK, and when you are there you can see them all over the places, fantastic! It surely is not easy to photograph them as they move really fast and don’t like to be photographed. For the very first time I haven’t had the courage to stop them, it’s very much a sense of awe and reverence that stops me from stopping them!
Dilshad: I managed, however to have a word with one wonderful old man, who took the time to narrate a Hasidic story of Baal Shem Tov. The way he recounted that story was magnificent and then he just stood up and walked away, crossed the road as a phantom with fast moving cars passing around him. He did not see them and they did not see him.
Geri: Finally, what are your plans for the future? Where would you like this journey to take you?
Dilshad: The dream would be exhibiting and photographing all over the world! I would love this to become my main career! I am so much in love with photography that is taking all of my time! We shall see!
Geri, thank you very much for this lovely conversation and a special thanks to the guys at WeAreJuxt for this amazing opportunity!
Links for Dilshad
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/DilshadCorleone
Tumblr: http://italianbrother.tumblr.com (work in progress, watch this space!)
About.me: http://about.me/italianbrother (coming up shortly)
Links for Geri Centonze
Geri Centonze, a former professional sci-fi sketch card artist has given up her Copic markers to pursue mobile photography. Her blog, iartchronicles.com is dedicated to that journey.