Sunday, December 20, 2009

Photographing Berlin

Bringing a camera bag with me on my trip to Germany was a last minute decision. I hadn't done a proper photo shoot in over a year. 


The morning of my flight, I tried to assemble a small kit. Usually I shoot medium format colour and 35mm black and white. Both of my Minolta SLR bodies had dead batteries so I had to settle on my old Canon rangefinder for 35mm. Naturally, I also brought my small semi-pro digital camera with me, lately, the real staple of my photographic life.


For the first part of my trip in Mannheim, my camera bag sat by my bedside. On my last day there, I decided to bring by digital camera with me to take a few snapshots to send to my son as a way of visually explaining that I was in a different place. Perhaps some photographs of the cars, streets or signposts. But I photographed nothing and promptly forgot about my camera. 


The next morning on the way to the train station, I realized that I had lost it.


Strangely this was to be a good omen for me. Over the last few years I've become increasingly dependent on my digital camera at the expense of serious shooting. The digital camera is it's own medium different from both the medium format colour and the 35mm. To date, I mostly have only been able to understand how to photograph my family and take photographs of landscape installations with my digital cameras. Ultimately, the searching that underlines my photographs changes with the medium.


The digital images are so near to life and immediate they seem to say: "this is what is here now in front of me." Visually, there is a richness that can extend the appreciation of that moment, but in effect, the digital pictures are an expression of my subjects relationship to their environment. Really, overwhelmingly they map the relationship that my children have to the spaces they inhabit.


The black and white 35mm pictures are deeply steeped in metaphor. They seem to say, this is what it feels like to be here. They tend to embrace the subjective, some are transient documents that stand as small examples of the way that the world is. Others have a larger scope and speak to a convergence of movements in space trying to articulate the generalized sense of what it feels like to travel in the physicality of this world.


Finally, the colour medium format images are largely an exploration of the relationship between geometry and socialization. How is the physicality of our world constructed and how does time mark it's change? Here, scale is of importance, the contrast between the small impermanent fragments that litter our lives are placed alongside the overriding architectural features that maintain the landscape. Both are expressions of entropy, expressed in differing rates of change. People's lives breaking down, as societies fall and rebuild. 


Without my digital camera with me in Berlin, I was able to move back to the underlining questions of my analogue work. My head raced as I observed and felt, trying to document both an intellectual understanding of what Berlin seemed to be as well as how Berlin felt to me.


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