The first of May is always chaos in Berlin. Police get flown in from all parts of Germany to try and control it, but historically this has only ever antagonised this city of wild children. The punks and rebels dressed in black provoke the police, bottles get thrown, police get heavy, the party kids hang just out of the way of the wandering demonstrations, all the while playing music and drinking from make shift drink stands which pop up on every corner. And who can blame them, it is a really fun day as long as you stay out of trouble (or not… if that’s what you’re into) and the weather was beautiful.
As I live in the centre of Kreuzberg, the beating heart of mayhem, it was important for me to get back home before dark. Normally, I don’t have a curfew, especially not one that begins with nightfall. But on this day it’s important as the demonstrators will battle wills, as they do every year, against the police and if I get caught on the wrong side of that picket line chances are strong that I will either get pepper sprayed in the face or I won’t be able to get home. That point was driven home for me as after I got home I looked out of my window to see a battle line of police and furiously barking dogs, refusing to let anyone pass down my street.
Last weekend I went to see some wonderful friends in Copenhagen. Amongst all the chats over coffee and wine, cycling and getting lost, theatre, walks and other general lovely times, we also went out for lunch at the food market on Papierøen (Paper Island).
It’s got a huge selection of food, from pad thai to pulled duck burgers and it’s packed at weekends. So not only can you get your fill of food, it’s also a great spot for people watching. Plus it’s on a tiny island, surrounded by water. Super cute.
I wasn’t originally planning on doing anything black and white with these pictures. But I when I searched google for great (street) photography images, it seems like that’s a pretty popular route to go down. And after playing around a bit, I feel like it really works! All that drama, contrast, chiaroscuro… yum. Almost as good as the food 😉
Generally, the heyday of the capital is considered to be the 1930s to 50s, back when American tourism was in full force and there was big business to be made here. The mafia had a strong hold, gambling was rampant and prostitution rife. Hemingway used to come on regular visits and even bought a house. It was the ‘place to be’ for Americans and other foreign tourists, and they brought their foreign wealth with them which allowed the capital to thrive.
After the 1959 revolution however, a lot of this changed. Not only did tourism decline, but Castro implemented policies which diverted wealth away from the capital and into the rural areas. He gave the rural people better access to healthcare, implemented literacy programs and sought to improve the lives of the common folk, which up to this point had generally been neglected.
However, as tourism and trade declined because of the blockade by the United States, the wealth that had once abounded in Cuba eventually dried up. Because of this, the buildings and architecture which were once so grand, couldn’t be repaired and were left to decay. You can see signs of this in every nook and cranny of the city. The design of many buildings are left as they were before the revolution, subject only to the passage of time.
Naturally these changes were also felt by the people, and as food became more scarce a food rationing system was implemented. Certain things are still hard to come by, for instance as I was there, I was told that milk was only available to children, retirees and tourists (which I suppose had to be bought on the black market). When eggs or other rationed goods became available, you could see large crowds of people waiting to buy as many as they could, just to tide them over until the next time they would become available again.
Graffiti by 2+2=5
Cuba has been a mixed bundle of emotions. From meeting some of the most wonderful and hospitable families I’ve ever met, to having to deal with some of the most overzealous and persistent men, it seems like a country with a huge breadth of human emotions. At the very least, you can say that these people care. They are warm. To a fault 😉
Here are the two photos for me, that best sum up my trip. The first is from Trinidad. There I stayed with a wonderful family, whose little girl had the most beautiful eyes and inquisitive nature. She really loved to play with the camera, (I truly hope to see her photographs in a gallery one day!) and her family were the kindest I met in my entire trip.
The second is from Havana, where I spent what seems like an eternity people watching and exploring the streets. You see so many contradictions there, so many larger than life characters, so many kind people, so many desperate people, so many people just trying to make ends meet. It’s a definite eye opener and more than a little intense at times. The juxtaposition of the dalmatian and the zebra caught my eye and somehow sums up the coexistence of so many different colours, derelict structures and characters.
I recently went to visit one of my very good friends in Hamburg. It’s a lovely port city in the north of Germany, with lots of history and charm to boot. Speicherstadt (meaning ‘save town’), where these pictures were taken, is on the UNESCO list and it’s easy to see why. These distinctive buildings were created around 1883. At this time Germany had only recently become a country and needed somewhere to process imports. Historically Hamburg had been a tax free haven, but it was decided Hamburg should also be the site for customs’ imports and so space needed to be designated for both of these trades. A new place was decided upon for toll-free imports and for this purpose, Speicherstadt was built. Merchant ships would come in on the waterways, then unload and store their cargo in these brick buildings. Processing of goods would take place on the ground floor, which was occasionally prone to flooding due to rising water levels and therefore unsuitable for warehouse purposes, finally to be ready for transport to end destinations in Germany.
I took my photos in raw format, and in my post production I really wanted to get better acquainted with raw image processing tools. There are just so many possibilities! I wanted to start with the basics; some sharpening, noise reduction, exposure gradient adjustments and the like. I added a little colour correction later, but other than that everything you see was done with the power of raw image processing. Nifty, eh?
Cordoba was founded in 1573 by roughly 100 spanish Conquistadors and was promptly turned into a religious centre by those pious pillagers. And when I say religious centre, I am understating the obvious. The number of churches in this city is simply staggering.
In the heart of the city you will find the Jesuit block, designed by the spanish and built mainly by slaves, who they brought from far flung countries like Papa New Guinea. The Jesuits were very much dependant on these slaves to build their monuments, a fact worth remembering while you extoll the beauty and virtues of these churches. I can’t even imagine the years of back breaking labour, in the blazing sun, that it must have taken to build what is essentially the heart of the city. If you are curious about this subject and want to find out more, you might like to look for a book by Jorge Troisi Melean.
Evidence of the black population that used to make up about half the population of the city, is today sadly lacking. In the make-up of the population, it was invisible. According to some theories, the black male population was decimated in the war with Paraguay in the 1800s and the remaining women married and mixed with the indigenous and colonial population. Another theory claims that the black population were the victims of covert genocide, through forced recruitment and forced relocation to disease ridden areas. Which theory is true, I couldn’t tell you, but you can read more about black heritage in Argentina here.
With all that said, here are some photos I took of the architecture. With a little lightening, some colour adjustments and de-saturation, I think the images came out quite nicely. And I’m glad, that I could share this story with you about the people who made them.
The Jesuit Church in Cordoba.
Former Rectory of the National University of Cordoba.
Santa Teresa Church, Cordoba
This weekend, I spent the day at the Technikmuseum (technology museum) in Berlin. It’s a really cool space, which I’d been to once before for work, but hadn’t managed to see everything. So this weekend, as the government had opened up the national museums and galleries to the public in thanks for their help with the refugee crisis, I thought I would go back with my camera.
In the shipping section, there is a small corner devoted to ships in bottles. Fitting ships into impossibly small necked bottles is a tradition which apparently began with sailors in the eighteenth century, as they needed a hobby to help them while away long hours on the ship and bottles were in plentiful supply. The little ships in this museum, are kept in circular display cases with fluorescent lighting running all along the sides, which I thought would make for an interesting picture.
In post processing, the fluorescent light threw a lot of reflections, which had to be tidied up. It’s pretty time consuming to heal and stamp away all those little areas. If I had had more time, I probably would have tried harder to to take pictures from angles which wouldn’t throw back so many messy reflections. I’m not entirely sure it would be possible though. I also added some colour correction, my favourite retro gradient, adjusted saturation and a couple more steps. Let me know what you think!