I was strolling through the winter-sunny city this morning when I spontaneously went to the «Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium» and had a look at some paintings ( a great hangover-Sunday activity, I think).
Some where in the Museum’s catacombs (I think it is on -6) hangs this great triptych by the Belgian Painter Léon Frederic (1856-1940). Titled “The Chalk Sellers” it is a fascinating social reportage on the life of hawkers in the suburbs of Brussels of the 19th century.
Down there in the basement of the museum, I was standing staring at this painting. Its pure size and «secularly sacred character» (from the explanatory comment) create a presence of the painting’s protagonists in the space that is literally stunning. Their direct looks towards the spectator give the painting additional power.
Multimedia is mushrooming. Most photographers play with slick modern cameras and their video capabilities and produce plenty of what used to be called a slideshow. Only rarely exciting things happen.
Balazs Gardi published some first multimedia that are part of his ongoing project «Facing Water Crisis» and it is stunning. I never saw such a seamless integration of video and photography before and it is much more powerful than the gimmickry so common. It is visually strong, cutting edge, and surprising – perfectly getting the message across.
Have a look:
Today, on assignment in Maastricht, I passed this shop window on the way to the station. I couldn’t believe my eye – all that was for sale were all different kinds of creams: hand creams, foot creams, sun lotion, and so on. Gazillions of them, all – one by one – on display.
The only customer was in her 80s (and completely camouflaged in the old school shop design) and the shop keeper busy sweeping the windows. What a sight!
I got nominated for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass 2011. Yeeha!
(c) Robert Frank: Americans, Steidl, 2008
For me, Americans 72 is the greatest of all of Frank’s pictures.
All of the photograph, the total of its meaning and its power is caught in the sceptical, even almost aggressive look of the couple into the camera. You can literally feel the racial conflict of the America of the time. Such a tension, so well caught by Frank. It is such a misconception that looks towards the photographer weaken pictures and this photograph is the final proof.
The rule of mainstream photography is that subjects should look «natural» and that the photographer should be «invisible» – «candid» is what good pictures have to be, so they say. Instead, I say, photographers should be honest and reference the relationship between themselves (mostly white Christian males) and their subjects (more often than not members of a different class, race, or culture). Only in some but mostly strong cases, it is exactly the awareness of the subject of the photographer that makes the photograph. Robert Frank’s Photograph from San Francisco is a great example.
I’m back in Istanbul – and it feels great. Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten how lively, how thrilling, how inspiring this city is (yet November was the last time I’ve been in town).
It also feels cold, wet and cold. Though scientifically several degrees warmer than icy Brussels, it’s Istanbul that makes you shiver first. It’s raining, raining, and raining. The dampness creeps up your bones, your fingers are clammy, and your soaking-wet shoes covered in mud and filth. Istanbul in winter.
A hot wind dishevels my hair. It snarls, rumbles, and grows to a full roar, pulling on my cloths and pushing in a blunt attempt to knock me over. I cling to the handrail, carefully taking a step forward. So, here I am. Socotra! Ahead of me: the gangway down the aircraft, a short stretch of eroding tarmac and further in the distance – one of the most magical places on the globe.
Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, up north of the Seychelles, due east from the Horn of Africa, far out in troubled waters circled by Somalian pirates, this very island is paradise and hell on earth. It ranks among the top ten places with the most extraordinary endemic wildlife. But, being subject to Yemen, a crumbling state that was birthplace of al-Qaida, it also ranks as one of the scarcest and poorest places on earth. The mysterious Dragon Blood Tree, the Socotra cormorant, seven kinds of frankincense and an otherworldly landscape all add up to the great bizarreness of Socotra.