German Hanami

German Hanami

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“It is spring time now! While the world looks for a new war to fight, you look for a cherry blossom to watch!  Let the stupid seek violence; you seek the elegance!” Mehmet Murat ildan

The wind picks up a plastic bag from the street and swirls it into the air. The crackly noise breaks the silence; the kind of silence that only an early Sunday morning can bring in a big city like Cologne. It’s quarter past 5am, the sun hasn’t come up yet, but the sky already has that golden shimmer. I am loading my car with cookies, hot tea and of course my camera gear. Alexandra (a friend I met on Instagram) and I are going to Bonn to enjoy a very special treat. One that only lasts for a couple of days every year.

Hanami – Japanese – “the enjoyment of the beauty of flowers”.  A word that is mostly used to describe the more than a thousand-year-old tradition that exists around the blooming of the sakura. The cherry tree.

In the 80s, when the city of Bonn decided to undertake major restorations in its city centre, they also planted cherry trees. Today, for a few days in April, a handful of narrow streets are dipped in pink.

I pick up Alexandra at the river Rhine. There is still a chill in the air but it is promising to be a beautiful day. We are engulfed in mist as we drive along the big river and then down the six-lane highway which, usually full of traffic jam, is now completely deserted.

Enjoing the silence of an early sunday morning.

As we get out of the car in Bonn we are greeted by the aroma of fresh coffee. Some of the locals have opened their windows and one of them is looking down on us while we slowly make our way along the street, our heads tilted back.

The sun rises and we begin to feel its warmth. As we turn around a corner onto the main cherry-blossom-street, we almost bump into another photographer. There they are, about ten other early birds, with their tripods and big cameras.

The things we do for a good photo…get up at 4am on a sunday!

I own a small DSLR camera with a standard zoom lens and a 50mm that I really like, but a lot of my pictures are still taken with my phone. I enjoy the spontaneity of it and that I have the result right there, ready to edit with an app and share it straight away if I want to. Apart from my phone, my other constant companion is a plastic bag. I get a few strange looks as I pull it out of my bag to get down on all fours into the curbstone.

#beautyiseverywhere Don’t you think?

The meaning of cherry blossoms in Japan is best summarized as a symbol of perfect beauty and the beginning of spring, a time of renewal. And then there is the fleeting nature of its life: a cherry blossom lasts only for about two weeks. It falls after a long maturity in the moment of perfected beauty.

An ocean of pink in a blue sky.

The Japanese cherry trees in Bonn are not plants whose fruits can be eaten later. These are ornamental cherries with many pink flowers.

As the morning goes on, more people appear on the streets. The café owners and delivery men don’t pay much attention to us taking pictures of their trees. They are used to this madness around at this time of the year.

Slow living.

Alexandra tells me about her first visit here, a week earlier, on a Saturday afternoon. “It was so busy“, she says, “people were waiting in line to reach one of the few high points in order to get a clear shot of the flowerage.” Entire busloads of tourists, couples in wedding attire taking wedding pictures one month before their wedding, girls posing for their Instagram pages…

The unknown Instagramer and her photographer.

And in fact, the crowd starts to change while we continue down the street. After the bright daylight has replaced the golden sunrise, the professional photographers disappear one by one; families, groups of friends and photographers with their models fill the air with happy chatter.

We all know what this will look like in Instagram, don’t we! 😉

The occasional car scatters the crowds onto the sidewalks for only a moment. The magic of the pink tree tunnel has us all back in the middle of the road immediately.

“In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.” Kobayashi Issa

It’s almost 10am now and my phone is about to die. Alexandra and I have walked up and down the pink streets a few times, but now it’s becoming a challenge to avoid getting caught in the different camera lenses pointed everywhere. We return to our car and head back home, leaving the cherry blossoms to the masses that will appear shortly. We will return next year.

My lucky shot. I didn’t even see them before editing this picture.

“Ah, if in this world there were no such thing as cherry blossoms, perhaps then in springtime our hearts would be at peace”. Ariwara no Narihira

Thank you to my lovely friends Alexandra and Alexandra! @alexandra.loves.cologne for being my photo walk buddy and @whisper_feather for being my editor!

For more cherry blossoms in Bonn visit the IG hashtags #kibo17 and ‘kirschbluetebonn. See you around! @tonivisual

R u capable: Self-inquiry Through Photography by Mark L. Chaves

R u capable: Self-inquiry Through Photography by Mark L. Chaves

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An Interview with Photographer Idan Golko: A Self-examined Life

In one of my prior corporate gigs, a division VP said to me, “Mark, you seem to lead a self-examined life.” I was surprised by this. I mean, I took this remark as a compliment, but did I? Did I inspect my life? Did I regularly question my existence by screening my thoughts and actions?

r u capable? © idan golko

r u capable? © idan golko

Fast-forward to mid-2016. The first time r u capable?—a photographic blog that raises simple questions with complex answers—blipped into my tumblr radar. Flashbacks of when I became more aware of my consciousness (meta-awareness) infused my thoughts. This r u capable? concept is onto something, I thought. I wanted to find out more.

“We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

The person behind the r u capable? images and blog is Israel-based photographer Idan Golko. Idan’s brilliant marriage of moody cinematic photographs with thought-piercing enquiries is a meditation on reality. His concept, reminiscent of the Socratic method, illuminates a creative approach to cleaning the lens through which we perceive all things. The lens I’m referring to here is the mind.

“The Socratic method uses questions to examine the values, principles, and beliefs of students.” – Professor Rob Reich, Stanford University

I spoke to Idan on the phone in mid-January 2017. Besides getting to know Idan, I wanted to know the reasoning and symbolism behind his questions. “If I can answer these questions, then I will be a better person,” says Idan. He continues, “then my family will be better. People will be better. The environment will be better and so on.”

r u capable of not feeling alone?

r u capable of not feeling alone? © Idan Golko

The Interview

“I find moments of peace and quiet when I take a good shot. “ – Idan Golko

Mark: When did r u capable officially start?
Idan: 2012

Mark: What inspired you to create r u capable?
Idan: A very depressive day. I was in the middle of a big (stressful) project. I wanted to express my feelings and distress in the best way I know–through photographs and words. But before this dreaded day – in fact, several years earlier when I was living in Tel Aviv (in a very urban state of mind) – a friend of mine had asked me if I was capable of intimacy.

Well, this “are you capable?” question had a specific tone and meaning along with a repetitive nature. And, the question stuck with me—it popped up again on that depressive day while I was looking at my photographs. I knew I was doing meaningful things in the world, but I was not doing my thing, and I was asking myself the general question: r u capable? Just like that—black and white, yes or no, and the answer was yes. Three hours later, the blog was on the air.

There is a stronger side in me that chose to live and chose the bright positive path. But that side comes from the dark with a lot of struggle. These two contradictions inside me were a great inspiration as well to create r u capable.

r u capable? © idan golko

r u capable of taking responsibility over your soul? © idan golko

Mark: You met your wife about three and a half years ago. Was this event the catalyst for your life change?
Idan: Yes. The main change for me was when I stopped expending most of my energy for others. Then I was free to put energy into my projects. My wife gave me courage and strength to make this change and focus on my things in the best way.

Mark: What is the central message you are trying to convey with r u capable?
Idan: To raise the awareness to the possibility of choice through confrontation with your shadows. If you are capable of healing your soul wounds, the impact of that in the world is much more significant than you can imagine.

r u capable? © idan golko

r u capable? (no i can’t, not today) © idan golko

Mark: What is the philosophy behind r u capable?
Idan: The philosophy behind r u capable is quite simple: to recognize your soul’s defaults, and to sincerely ask yourself if you can deal with these defaults. The questions are simple; I’m not inventing anything. I’m just bringing some thought or emotion to another level of awareness. I want to be a better person to my daughter, my wife, my family and friends, to Earth, and to myself. To recognize our bad defaults is half of the problem, and to solve them is the other half. I’m trying the best I can on both ends of the spectrum. I’m not trying to survive only mentally, but also to be content with my reality.

I have no idols, but I’m inspired by many things and people, such as Ian Brown (Stone Roses fame), Thom Yorke, Nick Drake, Dark 80’s, Monty Python, Serge Gainsbourg, tattoos, drugs, world climate, violence, justice, hope, love, the sea, smell, and so much more.

I feel that in today’s world, everything is “bubbling.” I want the good to win. What is the good? I can’t point one finger at it (there are many), but I do know and feel what is happening in the world today is almost the opposite of good.

Mark: Why photography?
Idan: I find moments of peace and quiet when I take a good shot. The images help me to deal with myself. I find answers in the images I take and I especially find comfort in them. It gives me a short break from all the mass inside me and around me. The photographs I take reflect my mental state. I’m looking outside in order to understand better, to learn more about myself, and to improve – that is, to be a better person (to be more human). I use only secondhand cameras. I never use long zooms

r u capable? © idan golko

r u capable of healing urself? © idan golko

Mark: Define what a “good” shot is to you.
Idan: A shot that makes me feel something whether it’s the person, the scene, the mood, the light – my heart needs to feel.

Mark: What does it mean to be more human?
Idan: It is easier to start with defining what is not human. Being disconnected with the reality around us is not being human. Often, reality overloads our senses with too much information. We can react to this overload by disconnecting. But, that makes us feel less human. To be more human, we must keep our hearts open and build trust in the mysteries of life. The ultimate goal is to have harmony between the external reality and our internal reality.

r u capable of being patient? © idan golko

r u capable of being patient? © idan golko

Mark: Why only secondhand cameras and no long zooms?
Idan: I love things from the past. Using secondhand cameras, for me, is sustainable. I also like the low-tech aspect of the older digital cameras. I guess I am a bit of a technophobe in this regard. I use a FujiFilm x100 and Sony fF28. These cameras are not old, of course, just secondhand.

Long zooms are a big advertisement that you are taking pictures. I’d rather not be noticed because I want to capture something meaningful that is undisturbed.

r u capable? © idan golko

r u capable of entering ur dark sides in order to find some light? © idan golko

Mark: What do you “normally” do when you are not taking photographs?
Idan: For many years I found myself doing different things in order to survive financially. I worked many jobs, from being a bartender to a business development director to brewery manager to art dealer and collector’s assistant. When I met my wife, three and a half years ago, I stopped “selling my soul” to others. Since then I’m focusing on my photography and writing and also doing other things, such as dealing with music and cinema memorabilia and secondhand items. I love old stuff, I love the rhythm of the analog.

These days I’m also running a very private documentary project, mostly in video, with a well-known senior actress in Israel. It’s been running for almost a year and it will keep running for another year at least.

I’m also a curating a photography exhibition for an Israeli photographer who died 14 years ago. He was photographing street and portraits in Israel during the late 70s and early 80s. The exhibition is planned for May 2017.

So after almost three years of incubation, I’m finally doing my things.

Mark: Do you have future plans for r u capable? If so, please share.
Idan: Yes. I plan to continue what I’m doing and to expand in many forms of creativity. To find and later on to create other platforms that can serve as a vehicle for r u capable?.

r u capable of looking deep into reality's eyes and understand that u need to cooperate and not only observe? © idan golko

r u capable of looking deep into reality’s eyes and understand that u need to cooperate and not only observe? © idan golko

Conclusion

To sustain his projects, Idan has a few irons in the fire. He is working on a documentary project and he is generating revenue from his photography. Wait, there’s more. Idan also creates a signature product he calls “analog-i” where he takes rare music posters and mounts them with vintage frames that he discovers in flea markets. “I am now back on my feet and beginning to see the flowering from the seeds I planted a while back,” Idan says in gratitude.

Is there a lesson in all of this? Has Idan found the holy grail of what all artists seek – liberation from the chains of stereotype? Idan’s photography has an edge and gladly offers a fresh reprieve from the saturation of trillions of cliché images. More importantly, this edge slices through perception, and it perforates our default mode of thinking – our default definitions of what is beautiful and what is ugly.

If Idan has found all the answers, it’s because the revelations came from within, by pondering a simple question—r u capable?

r u capable of being connected to others as well? © idan golko

r u capable of being connected to others as well? © idan golko


Find Idan on:
Website | Tumblr

Hailing from NE Ohio, Mark is a photographer, writer, and consultant based in Bali, Indonesia. Before morphing into a freelancer, Mark slung some code and managed web development teams for Fortune 500 companies. Mark’s favourite meditations are a good book with a cappuccino, feeding stray cats and dogs, and wishing to be a rock star in his next life. He would be very disappointed if you were in Bali and didn’t meet him for a coffee. More of Mark on his Website.
Rediscover Dubai by Geny Villareal Baluyot

Rediscover Dubai by Geny Villareal Baluyot

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Dubai is rich in history and outstanding architecture. One of my favorite places to visit and to photograph is Al Ras, a small district in Deira near the creek, which means “the cove”. Each time I go to this place, I always discover something new.

A few months ago, I visited Al Ras with a small group of local photographers. “How did you find this place?” a local asked me as we entered a rusty elevator in an old building in Deira. In this building we found an interesting window. The geometric patterns on the concrete wall created the perfect frame for the busy market outside. For most photographers, it’s always a challenge to find new places to photograph and to create something new. “I got lost in the market, that’s how I found this.”

One of the advantages of doing a photo walk with locals is that it’s a lot easier to approach strangers for a photograph. Not that I’m shy, but I usually struggle asking people for a photo. But as the day went by, I got more comfortable taking pictures, while confused onlookers watched me from the opposite side of the street. This was a good day for me to practice portraiture.

We entered a blue door on a narrow alley and found ourselves in the middle of an old villa converted into small apartments. There we met Ali, a Pakistani worker who happily posed for a few pictures.

The place is also famous for the Deira Covered Souk, where you can buy anything from gold, textiles and spices. One can’t get enough of the incredible number of things that you can find here and the fascinating people you meet in this local market.

 

In the souk we met a Pakistani guy who sells scarves. At first he was hesitant to do the photo shoot, but after seeing how much his friend was enjoying the photo session, he also joined and allowed us to take his portrait.

We rushed into the old parking building in the souk to catch the sunset. From the rooftop you can see the busy market, the colorful trade boats and the glistening water of Dubai creek. We stayed there for about half an hour and admired the beautiful golden sun disappear behind the light blue horizon. No matter how many times I visit Deira, it will always be a place worth exploring and admiring.

Geny is a Filipino designer and photographer based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. You can see more of her work on Instagram.

Sybil: An Autobiography with Lisa Acton Smith & Sophie Smith

Sybil: An Autobiography with Lisa Acton Smith & Sophie Smith

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I walk to the edge of myself and peer into the great abyss that lives behind me.

1. A dirty blond-haired girl with eyes the color of raindrops plays a childhood game of hide and seek. Her name is stamped on her forehead – Unbalanced. She has been saddled with it since birth. Unbalanced climbs into a shiny green-and-white Ford parked in the yard, scorched by the noonday sun, and plants herself on the floorboard. It’s her favorite place to hide. Her imaginary friend, whom she has affectionately named Protector, counts in an emphatic voice. ONE Mississippi, TWO Mississippi, THREE… She runs straight for the shiny green-and-white Ford parked in the scorching heat. She knows this routine by heart. Pieces of her friend lay on the floorboard.

Gathering her up, she carries her inside. She’s done this eight hundred and ninety-five times before. Always picking up the pieces of her broken China doll friend and putting them back together again. A day and a half later, they play this game once more. Protector counts while Unbalanced hides. As usual, she heads straight for her familiar hiding place. She is greeted by remnants of bone and flakes of sallow skin on a crimson stained floorboard. She looks straight into the eyes of the discarded matter.

She doesn’t flinch.

2. A coming-of-age girl, with the body of a fading orchid, stands alone in the bathroom – her mouth wired shut. Pieces of barbed wire are wrapped around her head. Mocking voices of laughter barrel their way down the crowded corridored walls made of concrete block and shove open the bathroom door. She doesn’t know these intruders anymore. She turned her back on them long ago.

She also abandons Protector.

3. A girl, taking up residence in a woman’s body, finds a new Protector; everyone else calls him by a different name. To him, she is a mystery. To her, he is stability. She loves him like a life raft in stranded deep. He loves her like a buried treasure of rings of gold, so they run away together. She doesn’t know how big dreams can be. He cradles her in his arms as her white satin dress, with the white butterfly appliqué on its train, slides to the floor. They move into a house trailer on Wilderness Trail. Sunshine keeps the clouds at bay. Two years rush by.

4. Then they come in succession:

One
Two
Three
She cries upon their arrival. She’s never felt love like this before. For the first time, she wears the name Protector.

She can barely catch her breath. Lullabies. Late night feedings. Faces flushed with fevers. Giggles. Wide-eyed wonder at some newfound discovery. Bicycle rides and skinned knees bathed in kisses and bandaged with tenderness.
Some days she feels a sliver of herself slowly being shaved away.

5. Thirty looms overhead like a billowing sky of blackened clouds. Old Man Winter seeps into her bones and unpacks his bags, setting up housekeeping. Lullabies and kisses are replaced with deathbed vigils and reassurance from kids wearing old people faces, their wide-eyed wonder slowly robbed of its innocence. She answers to the name Unbalanced once again.

Some days, she summons the courage to stare death in the face. She comes out of hiding. She showers the man, who loves her like buried treasure, with soft kisses. She rides bicycles with the kids behind their house on Maple Street, their sweet, cherub faces returning with rapturous laughter tumbling out of their mouths. They make a soundtrack full of songs like this.

6. She puts pen to paper and writes the story of someone else’s life. Unbalanced names the protagonist Euphoria. Her deep brown eyes perfectly match her long locks of hair that sometimes trail the clear, blue sky. Euphoria plants a Rose of Sharon in her garden. She waters it and watches as it blooms in the shade of flushed cheeks. After spring and summer fade, Euphoria grows tired and lays down on the cool earth blanketed by her locks of long brown hair. With Songbird on her lips, she drifts off to sleep. Unbalanced hides away the unfinished story under her pillow.

7. For Unbalanced, moods bounce up and down like a basketball. Number Four is born. Her birth brings joy and new life into the house on California. That doesn’t keep Unbalanced from bouncing. Summer, autumn, and winter roll into spring. She goes to bed for two weeks with her lips glued shut. Her mother becomes a surrogate. The man who loves her like a buried treasure drives her to appointments and feeds her prescripted medications.

8. Mostly, she stops bouncing and learns to walk a straight line. Sometimes she gets off track. She develops a deeper love and appreciation for the man who loves her like a buried treasure. Occasionally, she pulls out the soundtrack of bicycle rides and laughter on sweet, cherub faces. They decide to make a new one. Its songs sound just as sweet. She buys a camera and tells stories with her pictures. She pulls out the unfinished novel from under her pillow and lets her words flow from pen to page. She fills in the blanks with dreams that are vast as the heavens and wide as the sea.

She climbs to the top of the abyss, arms outstretched. I meet her there.

Lisa Acton Smith and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Sophie, share the gift of artistry. Lisa is a photographer and writer, while Sophie is a photographer and musician. They live in Brookhaven, MS.

If interested in learning more, you can find Lisa’s photography on:

Poetic Images of Multiple Truth by Jussi Kapanen

Poetic Images of Multiple Truth by Jussi Kapanen

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Spring Flowers, 2016 Tampere

Images of Multiple Truth Along the Way

Why do people want to photograph strangers in a public space?

I am a middle-aged father of three children and an art teacher living in Tampere, Finland. I did my master´s degree at the University of Arts and Design in Helsinki (now part of Aalto University) in 1998. Our oldest child moved away from home to study architecture in the autumn 2015. Later that fall, I decided to carry out an idea I had cherished a long time. I bought a micro4/3 camera system, and began systematically shoot on the street. I wanted to refresh the experience of making art, something I lost little by little after uni. Could it be spontaneous, intuitive and surprising still? Could it be part of life outside of my daily work at school? Yes and yes.

Stripes, 2015 Tampere

I have always snapped with my compact camera and earlier with analog SLR. It has been part of family life and travels as usual. One image changed my idea of taking pictures. In Florence at the end of February 2015, while waiting for the order outside of Pizzeria Toto, I turned my camera onto a purple-dressed ”nonna”.

La Viola, 2015 Florence

Purple (”La Viola”) is the city´s symbol color and the nick name of the soccer team. After I took that picture, I had a serious adrenaline peak. I was amazed and confused. Is it okay to do so? The question is valid. My graduation work in the 90´s was a documentary graphic novel based on video material, a story of a man who had lost his girlfriend because of random violence and living on the edge of the society during the economic depression. The project took years, and I got familiar with the questions one has to face in making documentary. But eventually I´ve solved the dilemma of photographing strangers.

I admit, at first the thrill was good enough for me. I fished a lot when I was younger, and I recognized the feeling. The process provided by fishing (as well as by hunting) is similar to the process of street photography. All starts from the equipment and a plan. Then you just have to go out. Senses will awake little by little. The Mind settles, and you´ll live in the moment. There will be a small catch, then maybe bigger. It all depends on the experience, the mind and mrs. Fortuna. And the biggest fish is always waiting somewhere else. You know it for sure. You are patient and walk… finally heading home. At home the catch has to be gutted. Eventually, the fish ends up beautifully prepared and served onto the plate.

The Point of No Return, 2016 Tampere

Conquering Space, 2016 New York

So street photography requires some hunting instinct. People move actively and with interest examining their environment. The Camera comes along in the pocket. Documenting interesting things visually is a direct continuation of the tendency of telling stories, gossiping. Visual narrative applies same laws as stories. Photos must be able to accomodate in Aristotle´s Poetics of a good drama. And like good stories, good images will rise emotions. In a way, we all are telling the same story. The Status, angle and the mood of the story differs. The Grand story deals with us, humans, and our path in this world. The story has always been told, and so it will be in the future too.

Burden, 2016 Tallinn

We are living curious times. Democracy has been questioned, population growth and the climate change threaten our very existence. Such exceptional times had always had an impact on artists and their work. That is happening now in photography with fierce fury. Visual cultures around the world collide and fertilize each other. New factor groups with a new voices show up. They produce a fresh, new art on its own merits. Techniques, contents and themes will be revised.
However, the sense of standing on a cliff fighting against vertigo is overwhelming, caused by the fear of a global climate disaster . And behind our backs humankind grows. Manipulative authoritarian regimes here and there seize the day trying to repress people under their one truth. All of that effects serious art and photography. Me as well.

Vertical Solitude, 2016 New York

How would I describe last year 2016? Surrealistic? Nightmarish?
I´m offering a non-nationalistic and pluralistic, nordic point of view from Europe and EU too. I’ve always been into both politics and sosiological issues, as a teenager I did my political graffiti in Berlin Wall when it divided the city. A Lot is at stake right now. Here in Finland we have faced the unexpected behavior of our neighbor Russia, refugees from Middle East, the rise of the right wing extremists, Brexit and snowless winters. My visit to the USA in the middle of presidential campaigns was a thorough introduction into the irrational division of the country and segregation based on the system itself. Dark forces are on the move and they are living their life in our common consciousness.
But I dived into the world of Instagram too, and found out the barrier of distance, that earlier separated people, had collapsed. The Concept of ”international” diluted. There is no need for ”Paris” or ”New York” anymore. We all are there, constantly, enjoying the jungle of multiple truth and free voice.

Jazz Singer, 2016 Brooklyn

And my ways to see and do things have changed. Having chance to see such a brilliant photography, occasionally strange and uncomfortable, sometimes just beyond my dreams, have forced me to do things better, more planned, more focused. And I´m assured my case is not an exception. I think all of this can be seen in my images.

Mermaid, 2016 Prague

Image and the process around it has always fascinated me. I imply here specifically
an image in general, not photos particularly. Photography for me is primarily a picture making, using camera as a tool.
How, then, visual arts background is reflected in my images? In street photography it´s common to try to find funny coincidences and interesting visual similarities or gimmicks. Humor is a trade mark of many quality images.

Urban Dream, 2016 Prague

Sure I take a picture if I see a humorous coincidence or scene. But at the same time I feel very drawn to images providing the viewer several possibilities of interpretation.

One + One, 2017 Tampere

The aim is to offer humanity as a whole at a time when the picture is taken. I feel that too specific event or a visual coincidence converts image into a pictogram. A pictogram is a picture that has only one meaning (or one truth, so to speak), such as a coffee cup on a roadside signboard. The best photos can be viewed on forever, and their internal splendor won´t disappear. Of course, the best images can be humorous, and in any case they are always compassionate.
So I´m taking pictures of people, who happens to be along the way.
I feel that my photos are documents of the time I´m living in. My view to the documentary is poetic and interactive. These modes are based on the work of Bill Nichols, who have named six types of documentary films.

Waiting, 2016 Tallinn

At the heart of poetic documentary mode is to encounter the subject by subjective process, interpreted by author. The author will be recognized from visual aesthetics. Visual aesthetics means here the whole subject, and visual processing. The traditional narrative content does not mean much. People and events do not develop. It´s a question of juxtaposition of time, space and the subject.

Private Space, 2016 Tampere

On the other hand, I feel reflective documentary mode close. For me, it has always been clear that the reality is difficult to talk about. How to take an image, which corresponds to reality. I solved it by creating ”street setups” with a sense of artificiality. It´s a way to lower the sense of truth, to express that the image is a subjective product. It forces the viewer to understand that the image is the result of a some one´s mind set as well as it tells us something about reality. If viewer suspects the authenticity of the picture, I´ve succeeded.

So what do I want to say with my images? This is a question that puts the author in a difficult position. I feel that my images are first and foremost documents of this time and people. My goal is not to present one truth, more like several of them. On the other hand I do not feel just plain aesthetics productive, but important enough to seduce the viewer.
We all are linked to the great story of humanity with communication. It´s a never ending path, and nicer to walk with camera.

Centuries Watching, 2016 Rome

In the Middle of Car Dreams, 2016 Tampere

Survivor, 2017 Tampere

Adapted, 2017 Tampere

Find Jussi on :

Instagram | Twitter | Website 

Whistling Echoes: Women of the Sea by Donna Garcia

Whistling Echoes: Women of the Sea by Donna Garcia

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They plunge to the bottom of the frozen sea, holding their breath, blinded by the murky abyss, searching not only for pearls, octopi or abalone, but also for freedom.

What would happen if their line were to break? Would the men comfortably sitting above in their boats, gleefully singing songs, try to save them? It doesn’t matter. The Japanese Ama defy the ridged confines of gender expectations because they are driven by a unified sense of purpose – to live free.

For the Ama or “women of the sea”, their faith is not in men but in nature. After all, the sea itself is an intoxicating female entity. Its creatures are the Ama’s allies. Their destinies are woven together like a fluid tapestry.

As the divers rise back to the surface and slowly exhale, the bay rings with the whistling echoes of their gentle gasp, and with it, reverberations of strength, autonomy, courage, stamina, and beauty.

The Ama are one of the most interesting elements of Japanese society. They are the female divers who, since about the year 750, have been diving for pearls, abalone, octopi, and lobsters, as well as harvesting seaweed along the coastline of Japan.

There are many fables of the Ama, including the story of Princess Tamatori, depicted in a Japanese block print from 1814 titled The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, by Hokusai. It is an example of Japanese erotic art called Shunga, popularized during the Edo Period. The divers were often represented as erotic, simply because in Japanese culture the sea is seen as a female entity.

It is believed that the print depicts the story of Princess Tamatori, a figure highly popularized during the Edo period. The princess was a modest shell diver or Ama, who was searching for a pearl stolen from her husband’s family, the Fujiwara Clan, by Ryujin, the dragon god of the sea. Vowing to find the jewel Tamatori dives down to Ryujin’s underwater palace and is pursued by the god and his army of sea creatures, including octopi. When she finds the pearl, she cuts open her own breast and places the jewel inside; allowing her to swim faster in her escape. After reaching the surface the wound proves fatal, and in her death she is forever viewed a heroine.

The Ama were and still are, women who sought independence and community. There are many Ama who continue to dive passed the age of 90. It is one of the few professions dominated by woman and where there were no restrictions on their freedom.

Men would occasionally dive, but it was thought a better job for women, as it was believed that women had an additional layer of fat to keep them warm in the frigid waters. The original Ama would dive nude wearing just a loincloth and a protective scarf on their head. Streamlining their bodies in this way allowed them to swim faster and it was easier to warm up without wet clothing clinging to their skin.

An experienced Ama diver could dive as deep as 30 meters and hold her breath for up to two minutes at a time. These courageous women would dive from rocks, the shoreline and boats, with rope strung around their waists, and men would wait in the boats above to pull them back to the surface.

The whistling noise that they emit when resurfacing is called “Isobue”, or “ocean whistle,” which helps regulate their breathing. At one time, their whistling echoes would fill the bays of Japan. The entire free-diving process allows Ama to develop an extremely large lung capacity — a characteristic that many then pass on to their children.

In the 11th Century a noblewomen, Sei Shonagon, wrote The Pillow Book, a collection of her observations. She had encountered the Ama during her travels: “ One wonders what would happen to them if the cord round their waist was to break.” She goes on, “the men sit comfortably in their boats, heartily singing songs…they do not show the slightest concern about the risks the woman is taking”.

Even though socially the Ama’s labor was certainly less valued than that of men, they were unique among the female population. During a time when women were considered the subjects of men, a woman that could earn her own living, and also dictate the migration of her entire family, was unequivocally liberated. Their positions in society existed on almost a surreal plain.

The Ama are inspirational to me, as an artist and a woman, for many reasons, but foremost because what they did was just what they had to do, regardless of risk or reward. Even more remarkable to me is how they did it; breaking traditional rules within the confines of an existing system and still preserving their individual authenticity along with the connection to their culture.

My series, Whistling Echoes, explores the mythology of these women. Through the use of metaphor and symbolism, my visual interpretation explores the relationship that these women had to the sea and it’s creatures and how it not only shaped their destiny but also allowed them to live free.

Donna Garcia is a Fine Art Photographer from the United States.

To see more work and get more information on the artist please have a look at her Website or Instagram

I Am My Mother’s Daughter

I Am My Mother’s Daughter

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I Am My Mother’s Daughter: My Journey in Photography

My love affair with photography began with my mother. It was not love at first sight. My mother was always taking pictures. Always. Her camera held permanent residence in her handbag, and our lives were put on instant play-pause whenever she was inspired to take a shot, which was often. As a young child, I never thought about this as her passion, but only as an assigned pose to be endured for as long as it took for her to rummage through her purse to find the camera, get the camera out of its case and then get the shot she was looking for. Full disclosure: I was not in the least bit cooperative. However, I was eventually pulled in by all the photos she took, and I began, not only to appreciate them, but to look at them with a more critical eye. I never offered outright (what I thought of as) constructive criticism of my mother’s photos (an action that would have resulted in any number of unpleasant outcomes…. as a very good-looking and somewhat spoiled woman, my mother was more than a bit vain in all areas of her life).

In my mind, I might have been thinking, she should have turned us more towards the light, or away from the light or taken a few steps forward or backward. My interest was piqued, and for my 8th birthday, my mother bought me a Brownie camera of my own.

Of course, at first, I began shooting any subject that was close at hand: including my hand, my dolls, my clothes, my record player, my dresser, my closet door, dust bunnies under my bed, whatever struck my young fancy. In those pre-digital days, I was allowed two rolls of film and one pack of flash bulbs per month, as the film, flash bulbs, developing and printing all had to be paid for out of pocket. I quickly learned to become more selective in my photographic endeavors as not to waste those important resources on frivolous subjects. Time passed, my cameras became more sophisticated, I took classes, I poured over photography books by the masters and I discovered that photography was as much a passion for me as it had been for my mother.

Fast forward a good number of years, into the digital age of cameras. No longer was I bound by the constraints of finance: I could take as many pictures as my memory card would hold! It was a wonderful thing, very freeing. I could take more photos, more photos than I ever had in my entire life. I could experiment more, the possibilities were endless. The drawback, at least as far as my family may be concerned, is that the circle was unbroken: I had now become my mother, only more so. Someone closed their eyes? Delete and retake! Is the composition a bit off or the light not quite right? Delete, reposition and retake! Sunlight streaming behind everyone through the trees? Take one shot head on, move to the left and shoot another, move to the right and take a shot, shoot low, shoot high; take as many shots as your heart desires. It’s a photo junkie’s dream come true.

Enter the mobile phone with its ability to take photographs using a built-in camera. A mobile phone (or as I prefer to call it, my camera phone) that can be taken wherever I roam. This little bit of wizardry (or little bit of heaven) is nothing if not easily portable. This has opened up a whole new world, negating the need to have an unwieldy camera hanging from my neck or a heavy backpack full of lenses and equipment slung over my shoulder unless I choose to go shooting pics old school. Taking photos no longer needs to be a delicate balancing act. As I did when I first began, I can simply point my camera phone and shoot. And, as my mother before me, I now carry my camera in my purse (or in a pinch, in my pocket.)

It might have ended here if not for all those glorious photo apps. I could go on for days, but prefer to focus on my favorite camera app, Hipstamatic. I discovered mobile photography and the Hipstamatic app within months of each other in early 2012. Left reeling from the deaths of my father, my father-in-law and my mother within a three month period in late 2011, I desperately needed an all-consuming distraction. My first iPhone (4S) and the Hipstamatic app fit that bill to a “T.” I believe I was drawn to Hipstamatic because it’s a neat little app designed to recreate photos produced by the so-called toy cameras of the 50s, 60s and 70s. It’s so much more than that, because along with numerous combinations of lens, film and flash filters, there is a full editing suite, which taps into my creative side. I can play with its features in so many more ways than I could with the actual toy cameras I once owned.

Now that I am retired, I am free to wander the countryside, happily snapping away to my heart’s content. The child who wanted to shoot photos of every conceivable subject has been redeemed. There’s a big, beautiful world out there, just waiting to have its picture taken. I take enormous pleasure in snapping shots of a favorite tree or bridge in the different light of day, in different seasons. Every hour of every day presents a new photo opportunity. It’s a new view of an old friend with every click of the shutter. Ironically, I cannot stop taking pictures of my children and my grandchildren. I am in constant stealth mode, camera phone in hand, hunting for the perfect candid moment. My mother would have gotten a big kick out of this.

Kat Meininger can be found on Instagram: mobile photography as @kats_eye_phone & DSLR photography as @kats_eye_images ; as the founder of @hipsta_crazy & Admin of @photomafia group of photo sharing galleries.

Here Today Gone Tomorrow

Here Today Gone Tomorrow

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“Here Today Gone Tomorrow – The delicate balance of sand, water and life.”

I have been drawn to a thin spit of sand and scrub pine for the past 20 years. The landscape is shaped and re-shaped by storm after storm. Sand dunes, sculpted by the wind and sea, slowly shift, creating an ever-changing mural. The quality of light is otherworldly. Sand, water and weather are the key – high and low pressure fronts change so quickly light becomes ephemera.

The Cape Cod National Seashore comprises a majority of the landmass on the Outer Cape. It is shaped by vast stretches of dunes, bogs, ponds, forests and beaches – all accessible to anyone willing to hike in. The delicate balance of sand and water is a tug of war between the land and the sea. It is a powerful, yet fleetingly beautiful place.

My wife, Ellie, is an impressionist painter. She is a student of the Cape Cod School of Art, established by Charles Webster Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1898. We spend our time together in the dunes and beaches of Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. We hike in and find a spot. Ellie sets up her easel, spending hours on one painting.  As she works, I wander, studying the landscape. This change of pace has taught me to slow down, be patient, have faith in my composition and wait for the light. More often than not, the storm clouds persist, the light stays flat and nondescript. But on occasion, one is given the gift of a moment, the clouds break and the landscape erupts in beauty.

I visit these haunts ritually, photographing and re-photographing the landscape. It is a form of meditation, a cathartic experience where the quality of the light transforms the familiar to the unreal.

As vulnerable as this habitat is, it pushes back against human attempts to protect it. Snow fences, erected to slow the movement of sand and inevitable erosion, are buried and crushed by the constant flow of wind and water.

Concrete piers and stone breakwaters are eventually broken by the tides, washed out to sea or left upended, a relic from the past. These crumbled and submerged forms are a testament to the natural powers that ravage the land.

The forces of nature are hard in the dunes. Flora is stunted and twisted, a wonderful contrast against the windswept sand. Competition between species, the perpetual fight for patches of fertile soil, creates a visual pallet of color and form. Natural boundaries between salt water species and fresh water species forge delineated lines that crash into a swirling patchwork of hue and texture.

It comes down to water. Frozen water formed the Cape. Glaciers deposited their till, forming the landmass. Water grinds the rock to sand. And water will eventually reclaim this thin spit of land, sucking it back into a dark and hidden tomb. One could say, what the water gives the water will take.

But for today, it’s the water that charges the light, opens the shadows, pushes the weather and gives the gift of this mystical place.

Thank you for taking the time to read and look at my photographs.

To see more of my photos, please visit me on: Instagram | Website.

‘Fishing in the abyss’ by George Pavlopoulos

‘Fishing in the abyss’ by George Pavlopoulos

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I grew up next to the sea and I felt that I had everything: an endless summer, the song of the cicadas, a bunch of faces that refused to grow old and the taste of watermelon under the pine trees. The sea resembled an uncultivated field, where childhood was constantly being reborn and rewarded. I don’t remember all the faces I met, but I do somehow recall sudden expressions and fleeting images: the talk of older people before sunset, the whispering lips of women, the sweating foreheads of busy men, the agony for the coming winter, as well as the promise that a triumphant summer will conquer our lives again.

Then I lost the sea and the transition was violent. Entering the next phase of life kept me occupied but I could hardly somehow manage to return back to the early days. I wasn’t nostalgic or pessimistic; I was just longing for some sort of simplicity, a way of life based on spontaneity, on free will and on outspoken truths. Adulthood did not arrive as a blessing but as the fulfillment of a dreary prophecy. All the potential punishments of our childhood became our daily adult routine: “you’ll be left alone” or “you won’t get any money” or even “you are not allowed to go out”.

The legendary summers looked like shipwrecked boats; they couldn’t set sail because they were too damaged, nor could they reach the shore and start all over again clean. I equipped myself with artifacts, some long existing objects, humble in their existence, easy in their use. Technology has altered them but it didn’t taint their soul. They seemed to have been always there, on that remote planet, as a way of expression and their purpose was to create worlds that we’d probably never visit.

“Yellow Balloon”, Athens 2016

A family of sorts, Vilnius 2016

At first it was a pen and a paper, then a typewriter and later a laptop. Despite its technological evolution, the soul of the written word did not change and there will always be someone willing to lock his body -but not his spirit- into a silent room and start writing. Respectively, at first there was a smartphone, then a compact camera and later a bigger one. Contrary to the ancient belief, images do not consist of a thousand words; they consist of all the words we were not able to write.

“Wrinkles and movies”, Bologna 2016

“Far Away”, Berlin 2017

I can never afford to lose people, but when I started dealing with absence it seemed to me that there was only one way back: the narrative. Through writing I felt I could re-visit, through photography I felt I could re-see. The return to childhood has nothing heroic in its heart and I could never identify with Proustian moments. It was simply that old longing for simplicity sending me to the white paper or the black film.

The white paper and the black film are always an interpretation of a narrative that fails to be resonated: words that fail to be written deliver always a white paper, while photos that fail to be taken deliver always a black image. The eternal battle of the two irreconcilable colors is not only a clash between light and darkness but also the inability of self-expression on a given day. If the creative adult is indeed a child who has survived, one can only imagine how painful a white paper or a black film really feels.

“No man’s land”, Berlin 2017

“The Letter”, Athens 2017

I can’t recall most of the faces of these old summers. They seem to be lost in a sea of oblivion and they are only allowed to emerge for an instant every now and then. Nowadays I spend less time in front of the sea and I am not that spontaneous anymore. I’m spending most of my days in big cities, where History adds an extra weight on the already long faces of the Europeans. Sunny days are good for the body, but only the cloudy ones make me feel really productive. I’d wake up rather early and I’d write until noon; then, I’d take my camera in hand and go out.

The city is crowded and I’m searching for dark corners, spots where the contrasts are magnified. I’m standing there for twenty, maybe thirty minutes. I’m waiting for a face to appear from the darkness, somebody that will remind me of the people I used to know: faces from past summers, lost loves, absent friends, people I rarely see. Some days no one appears, but I live for the day that a familiar face will emerge from the darkness. This is a re-connection of sorts, a short return to the simplicity of childhood: a person, an expression, a scene. The memory is finally serving its purpose, which is to remind us who we really are: we are nothing more than a patchwork of all the people we ever met. For a dense moment I feel like being in front of the sea on a warm summer afternoon. I am extremely young again, I am revolted against oblivion and I’m fishing in the abyss.

THE END

George Pavlopoulos is the author of three novels. He has also written several travelogues and short stories. You can see more of his work on his Website as well as on Instagram.

“Only the inventors survive”, Athens 2016

“The journey of sand”, Bologna 2016

“The man who could not dream”, Berlin 2017

Kings in water, Budapest 2015

“Ghosts”, Athens 2016

“Early summer”, Athens 2016

 

 

 

“Christmas”, Berlin 2016

Towards the future, Berlin 2017

 

Sea spray, Walk along the Sea by Tiphaine

Sea spray, Walk along the Sea by Tiphaine

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Rainy day in Saint-Malo, Brittany, French West Coast. Cloudy sky. Sea spray. Soft and salty droplets carried by the wind. Walk by the sea on a rainy day and smell the perfume of the sea. The Ocean breeze.

Sometimes umbrellas are open. Dark or light spots sprinkled in a seascape with grey tones. The black and white come alive; the texture arises and catches the eye. Slowly. The umbrellas swing, quietly, to the rhythm of wandering walkers.

Stormy weather. Sometimes the weather is less clement, the sky changes, the wind rises, dark clouds are running in the sky, walkers hurry to shelter from the rain that arrives, from the wave that splashes, from the sprays that sting. With the high and low tides, the weather changes quickly by the sea, the sun comes back, it illuminates the landscape and the walkers, it warms the colors, it dries everything, and the umbrellas close again immediately.

My umbrella walkers are often alone. Contemplative. Lost in their thoughts. Looking towards the horizon. Immobile or in motion, anchored in a marine landscape that offers every day a new way of looking at it, even in rainy weather. Whether on the beach, in the cobbled streets, on the Sillon, the floor offers a different light to photography. Black and white act as a poetic revealer. It reinforces the effect of loneliness, accentuates the melancholic or meditative atmosphere, tells an unfinished story, a story to be written.

Go out and take pictures on a rainy day. Walk with the rain, or against it, feel the wind, the raindrops, the spray on your face. Observe the sky and the surrounding landscape, slow down and feel.

A walk through the rain and maybe a photo at the end of the road. This is the path that I follow on Instagram with no specific purpose. At random. Black and white photographic peregrinations written with commas and dots. To be continued…

I warmly thank Grryo for letting me share some of my Brittany here with you. Thank you for this beautiful lighting. Let the beautiful part of photography, writing, creation, documentary, art, a visual aside that opens the eyes and heart, congratulations to them. We are Grryo.

Tiphaine, @tiphdiadel, in real life, works in publishing ; on Instagram, walks with a smartphone ; founder of @bnw_bretagne : a photograph and a story, another look on Brittany.

Embruns. Balade en bord de mer, chapitre 2.

Un jour de pluie pluie à Saint-Malo. Ciel chargé. Embruns marins. Gouttelettes douces et salées portées par le vent. Se balader en bord de mer, un jour de pluie et sentir le mélange des fragrances marines. Air marin. Parfois les parapluies sont ouverts. Taches sombres ou claires parsemées dans un paysage marin aux tons gris et délavés. Le noir et blanc s’anime alors, la texture surgit et accroche le regard. En douceur. Les parapluies se balancent, tranquillement, au rythme de la marche des promeneurs.

Temps orageux. Parfois, le temps est moins clément, le ciel change, le vent se lève, des nuages larges et sombres courent dans le ciel, les promeneurs se hâtent alors pour se mettre à l’abri du grain qui arrive, de la vague qui éclabousse, des embruns qui piquent soudain. Avec la marée, la météo change vite en bord de mer, le soleil revient, il illumine les paysages et les promeneurs, il réchauffe les couleurs, il sèche tout alentour, et les parapluies se referment aussitôt.

Mes promeneurs au parapluie sont souvent seuls. Contemplatifs. Perdus dans leurs pensées. Le regard tourné vers l’horizon. Immobiles ou en mouvement, ancrés dans un paysage marin qui offre chaque jour une nouvelle façon de le regarder même par temps de pluie. Que cela soit sur la plage, dans les rues pavées, sur le Sillon, la texture du sol offre un éclairage différent à la photographie. Le noir et blanc agit comme un révélateur poétique. Il renforce l’effet de solitude, accentue l’ambiance mélancolique ou méditative, raconte une histoire inachevée, une histoire à écrire.

Sortir et photographier par un jour de pluie, en bord de mer. Marcher avec la pluie, contre la pluie, au gré de la pluie, c’est sentir le vent, les gouttes fraîches, les embruns sur le visage. Observer le ciel et le paysage alentour, ralentir le ryhtme, sentir.

Une promenade et peut-être au bout du chemin une photo. C’est le sentier que je suis sans but précis. Au hasard. Des pérégrinations photographiques en noir et blanc écrites avec des virgules et des points de suspension. À suivre…

Un immense merci à toute l’équipe de Grryo de m’avoir accueillie une nouvelle fois. Laisser la part belle à la photographie, à l’écrit, à la création, au documentaire, à l’art, une parenthèse visuelle qui ouvre le regard et le cœur, bravo Grryo.

Tiphaine, @tiphdiadel, dans la vie, travaille dans l’édition ; sur Instagram, jse promène avec un smartphone, a créé @bnw_bretagne : une photographie et une histoire, un autre regard sur la Bretagne.

The Female Gaze in Street Photography by Lauren Louise

The Female Gaze in Street Photography by Lauren Louise

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While perusing my photographs from the last year, I was surprised to notice that I had started photographing women much more often than men. But not just women in general, it was women who seemed to be preoccupied or burdened by something, suspended in their own quiet space, within the milieu and movement of the city around them. How had I developed such a pattern photographically without even being aware of it?  It was only in writing this story that I began to explore why I was drawn to these solitary female figures in which I saw subtle expressions of the same anxieties or unease that I had felt at varying stages throughout my life.

Of course anxiety or unease is not confined to women alone, and I have been attracted to photographing this quality in men as well. But the sheer volume of female subjects over the last few months suggested to me there was something more to it and I began to explore the tensions and dichotomies in my own life that had been sources of anxiety, but were also related specifically to being female:

I have felt empowered by being considered youthful, attractive and seductive, yet disempowered by being objectified and undervalued.

I have felt empowered by being independent and career focused, yet disempowered by being judged for being single or not having children.

I have felt empowered by finding love, getting married and settling down, yet disempowered by my single female friends who felt I could no longer relate to their struggles.

I have felt empowered by being older, wiser and more confident, but disempowered by the stresses of family and society’s changing view of me in the face of physical ageing. 

I use the word empowerment because in all of these women I have photographed, I see an underlying strength, a steely persistence beneath the expressions of concernment or vulnerability which outweighed and outplayed any feeling of ‘disempowerment’.

I began thinking about Laura Mulvey’s infamous writings on the ‘male gaze’ in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Mulvey argues that Hollywood cinema, for the most part, follows the patriarchal ideology of society and (without realizing it) places the audience into the perspective of a heterosexual man. “In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female”, denying the woman her human identity and objectifying her. As a female street photographer in a primarily male dominated photographic medium, my focus on women then becomes twofold—I am inherently interested in women because I am one of them, but I am also able to challenge the philosophy of the male gaze by finding those women that project expressions and personalities that force the spectator to look deeper, beyond the surface— in other words, I want to photograph women because they have a story to tell, not because of their inherent ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’. To be sure, the story they have is one which can only be guessed at and one which will be intrinsically shaped by the viewer’s own worldview and experiences, as I demonstrated in the abovementioned examples.

Having observed and admired the work of other street photographers who find ‘scenes’ to photograph – whether it be two or three people interacting, or a person caught amidst diverse elements in the environment (for example a bus going by, a bird flying into the frame) – I persist with trying to capture the person, and only the person.  In isolating the solitary figure, and highlighting their expression, the viewer is prompted to look within, rather than around, for the story.

In the same way I had begun to think differently about the female faces I had been photographing, I also began pondering my series of ‘faceless’ women. I had taken a number of these, never staged. I was fascinated by the way their expressiveness came through in their posture and that there was always a narrative to be found not in their gaze, but in what they gazed upon. It felt like all of them were searching for something, and looking cautiously but optimistically ahead, again suspended for a moment in their own contradictions. What were these contradictions or these struggles? What were they searching for? The goal of street photography is never to deliver answers but to raise questions.

Lauren Louise is a street photographer based in Chicago, IL.  You can find her on : Website | Instagram

Ode to Winter

Ode to Winter

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I  remember, as a child, fumbling in the complete darkness of my bedroom. The clock having just struck my morning anxieties, and myself heading toward the window to summon the day into the room. Rolling up the night around the slats of the blind, the picture of the wakening day gradually unfolding before me. I usually paid little attention to it. A glimpse that made me feel both reassured that the world was still out there, and worried my school was too.

Some mornings had a different feel though. As soon as a glimmer of daylight crept into the dark, I already knew at its particular brightness that the day would hold different promises. It had snowed and perhaps it might keep snowing!

When I reminisce over the snow days of my childhood, I cannot single out or describe this or that particular day with its own distinct facts. Yet alive in me are a set of moments spreading from this time, grouped in my mind by a similar naïve joy, etched with such emotion that my memory has decided to gather them into one souvenir.

And I can see myself, pulling a chair by the window and watching the snow come down slowly over the wet plain, settling silently in the hollows, on the roofs, seizing the roads and the alleys, covering the ugliness brought on by the day. Then, having made everything even, everything level, it is forced to accept it must fall on itself. At this point, one’s attention is no longer drawn to anything and ceases to recognize. And now one can only see one’s own images projected on the white screen offered by the winter.

Or, I was outside. Snow had stopped  and I was trying to identify parts of the scenery, my playground, my bicycle under a bump. And it was like attempting to read a book in a foreign language, familiar enough to follow the story line, yet not the details.

To this day, I prefer winter to any other season. Not only the snow, but the cold that enlivens or numbs. The fury of the wind when it blows the leaves off and gives them back to the earth, which later chews them and gobbles them up. I enjoy this harshness and this severity. People meet and get to the essential, because it is too cold to linger and tell more.

I enjoy the monotonous landscape. The nature when it depletes, gathers itself, and mourns. The ground that is brown then grey then white then dirty. The flight of the birds that is shorter and heavier. The way they suddenly flock into bands, ruffle the trees and the electrical cables. The ones that decide to remain lonely.

I enjoy watching the night as it awakens the day with the city lights turning on one by one like fireflies on a summer night. The shadows are longer, more present in the home. Our lives languish, it is a slower time, allowing us to look backward. As when walking in the snow, we have to stop and turn around in order to see our own tracks.

And last, I enjoy winter when it shies away, out of breath, and suddenly gives way to perpetual renewal, to the sweet illusion we call Spring.

Anne Closuit Eisenhart is @lesfifoles on Instagram

 

Ode à l’Hiver – Par Anne Closuit Eisenhart

Je me revois, enfant, avancer à tâtons dans le noir de ma chambre. Le réveil venait de sonner mes angoisses matinales et je me dirigeais vers la fenêtre pour convoquer l’aube dans la pièce. Tandis que j’enroulais la nuit autour des lamelles de mon store, se déroulait à mesure devant moi le tableau du jour qui s’éveillait. Je n’y prêtais d’habitude aucune attention particulière. Tout juste un regard qui me rassurait car le monde était toujours là, et qui m’inquiétait car mon école aussi.

Certains matins, il en allait différemment. A peine un rai de jour se glissait-il dans l’obscurité que je savais déjà, à l’éclat spécifique de la lumière, que la journée tiendrait d’autres promesses. Il avait neigé et peut-être neigeait-il encore…

Quand je me remémore les jours de neige de mon enfance, je ne peux bien sûr pas décrire telle ou telle journée précise avec ses faits bien à elle. Mais continue de vivre pourtant en moi un ensemble de moments s’étalant dans ce temps, regroupés dans mon esprit par une même joie naïve, inscrits avec suffisamment d’émotion pour que ma mémoire décidât de les réunir en un souvenir. 

Et je peux me voir, tirer la chaise près de la fenêtre et regarder la neige descendre lentement sur la plaine humide, s’installer, silencieuse, dans les creux, sur les toits, s’emparer des routes et des chemins, recouvrir la laideur amenée par le jour. Puis, quand elle a rendu tout égal, quand elle a tout nivelé, se résoudre à tomber sur elle-même. Alors le regard n’est plus arrêté par rien et cesse de reconnaître. Et l’on ne fait plus que voir ses propres images intérieures se projeter sur l’écran blanc que nous offre l’hiver.

Ou encore,  j’étais dehors, il avait cessé de neiger et j’essayais d’identifier le paysage, mon terrain de jeux, mon vélo sous une bosse. Et c’était comme tenter de lire un texte dans une langue étrangère suffisamment familière pour qu’on en comprenne la trame pas assez cependant pour qu’on en saisisse tous les détails.

Aujourd’hui encore, je préfère l’hiver à n’importe quelle autre saison. Pas seulement la neige, mais aussi le froid qui vivifie ou engourdit, la fureur du vent qui arrache les feuilles des arbres et les rend à la terre qui les mâche puis les engloutit. J’aime cette rudesse, cette âpreté.  Les gens se croisent et se disent l’essentiel car il fait trop froid pour en rajouter.

J’aime le paysage monotone. La nature qui se dépouille et se recueille. La terre brune puis grise puis blanche puis sale. Le vol des oiseaux qui est plus lourd et plus court. Cette façon qu ‘ils ont soudainement de se mettre en bandes, d’hérisser les arbres, les fils électriques. Ceux qui décident de rester solitaires.

J’aime guetter la nuit quand elle réveille le jour, et regarder les lumières de la ville s’allumer une à une comme des lucioles un soir d’été. Les ombres sont plus longues, plus présentes dans la maison. Nos vies se traînent, c’est un temps plus lent, fait pour regarder en arrière.C’est comme quand l’on marche dans la neige, il faut s’arrêter et se retourner pour voir ses pas. 

J’aime enfin l’hiver quand il se dérobe et, à bout de souffle, cède la place à l’éternel recommencement, à la douce illusion qu’est le printemps.

Anne Closuit Eisenhart est @lesfifoles sur Instagram

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