Friday, August 31, 2007

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Quote by Anais Nin

The more I experience life, the more I realise how right Anais Nin is. And it is so hard for us to see the truth, because as we see the world as we are, we are distracted from ourselves. The truly innocent eyes are those of a baby, too young to comprehend what he or she sees. Once the person starts to comprehend what is being seen, the people around the child start to colour and alter the mind's eye. Family background, ethnic roots, religious beliefs, peers, marketing, mass media, and just plain life's experiences, cause us to formulate ideas and reactions to life. But no one has perfect knowledge and at some level our deductions are bound to be wrong. What is more frightening to me are people who do not question and challenge their beliefs. It is inherent in our lot that we lack knowledge and make mistakes. And we all do. So we have to be forgiving of others and ourselves and be willing to change ourselves for the better throughout our lives. But this is a hard and tiring task.

We have already seen on news items children being trained to be soldiers in third world countries. We have also seen Muslim fundamentalists displaying much anger and rage. And they are frightening. Tonight I watched Jesus Camp, where there are churches in America indoctrinating children to be God's army. And in their intolerance and refutation of science, that is frightening. There will be a battle in America between the religious moderates and the religious fundamentalists. And if the fundamentalists win, the consequences for America and the world will be staggering.

I am told that I should respect other people's faith and beliefs. And I am pretty happy to live and let live. But when people are willing to die and kill for their beliefs, when they are willing to refute science and teach their children that creationism is the only logical explanation for life on earth, it frightens me. I mean early Chinese history dates back 8000 years. The Creationists believe that the earth is only 6000 years old as calculated in the bible.

I am afraid that religious belief, especially for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is mutually exclusive. You either believe in their god or not. How is this a message of love? Why should I not expect religious fervour to ferment wars? Religious war already exists in the middle east, in Ireland between Catholics and protestants, in Indonesia and now in Thailand. Religious tolerance does not come from within the religion, it comes from secular community which wants to have a peaceful life and prosper. The United Nations is not a religious organisation. It was formed by world governments sick of seeing the world in the chaos of war. Christian backed George Bush launched two invasions of sovereign states, and got United Nations approval as an afterthought. When you look at the Chaos and suffering of the Iraqi people, somehow I am unable to see a loving God condoning such suffering.

I see the world as I am, a person who dislikes confrontation and aggression. And the stress and intolerance that I see in this world makes me uneasy. And I am dubious of beliefs that divides groups of people into us and them. I want the world to participate in activities that bring people closer together, not ones that create tension.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Symptoms of Low Self Esteem

Just the Photographs Maam'...just the Photographs.: The Symptoms of Low Self Esteem

I was just surfing by and saw this article on low-self esteem. I can sympathize, but I realize that I am powerless to help other people with low self-esteem.

Andrea Meislin Gallery - Barry Frydlender

Andrea Meislin Gallery - Barry Frydlender

I came across Israeli photographer Barry Frydlender in Aperture. He uses digital composites to create densely populated scenes reflecting a perceived reality.

Christian Dating Spam

I am used to the Viagra, porn and gambling spam. I am wary of people phishing for my bank details or trying to transfer huge sums of money from Africa. This is the latest spam in my mail box. Christian dating. A paid service, for people living in America and Canada. Just how Christian and religious is that? Sending spam to a non Christian who cannot even use the service because he is not in the country. Well, this is spam just like the Viagra, porn and gambling spam.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Physical Laws: Mathemeticians Figure Out What Makes Women Beautiful - Gizmodo

Physical Laws: Mathemeticians Figure Out What Makes Women Beautiful - Gizmodo

I know that Jessica Alba is supposed to be perfectly beautiful in mathematical terms, but she still cannot act. On the other hand, she still looks beautiful...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Womad 2007 Dancer

I went to Womad tonight. It has become a yearly affair for me. I really love the energy there of the people and the music. I have taken my camera a couple of times to Womad before. I have posted some of the images on this blog, but I am now more inclined to leave my camera at home and just enjoy the evening. However, this enthusiastic audience dancing prompted me to take out my NV10 and take pictures of him enjoying himself. Power to the people.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

road trip: psyched

road trip: psyched

David Alan Harvey describing his apprehension before a commission. It is so comforting to know that even the best need to prepare themselves. We have to learn to prepare ourselves to overcome obstacles on a shoot. And the other thing is that obstacles are normal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Passing Gas

American-Journal Magazine - Gary Gladstone's Portraits from the heartlands

Here is an excerpt on American Journal of Gary Gladstone's book Passing Gas. He chose towns with interesting name and took some interesting portraits of people in the American heartland.s The images are a little tongue in cheek, but full of warmth. The story brought a smile to my face.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ha ha ha

Back to the Usual postings

I have been mixing my images with my postings recently because it made sense to write about my trip and show the images. But the images really look nicer by themselves and larger. So I am shifting images back to pond images.

lens culture photographer interview: Anders Petersen

lens culture photographer interview: Anders Petersen

Anders Petersen does not have his own web site, but this small collection of images on lensculture is accompanied by a superb audio interview.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Yes. I have heard this one before!!

1DS MK III - Official Announcement

About Canon: Press Room >1DS MK III Press Release

Here it is folks. 21.2 mega pixels with 14 bit colour depth. Blow my socks off man.

Canon's 21.1 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark III: thanks, Amazon - Engadget

Canon's 21.1 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark III: thanks, Amazon - Engadget

The Jesus DSLR??

But wait, if you really want a kick in the guts!

The Sinar Hy6

Some Portraits from Tuscany

Andreas Bitesnich

Sussane Wuest

Herve Mudry

Andrea Astesiano

I have no idea why, but I started taking a lot of portraits in my last week in Tuscany. I was tickled pink to be able to convince Andreas Bitesnich to be my subject. Susanne is his girlfriend. she has this amazingly glowy skin and I just had to take her portrait. She was very obliging. She is an actress and was very generous during the shoot. Herve and Andrea are class mates of mine.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tuscan Sun Fried Brains

Reality is a big bluff. - Anders Petersen

For the first few years of my career, I struggled with the technicality of photography. Knowing the cameras, lighting and composition. With the digital age, learning has become a constant companion. The cameras, computers and software keep evolving, and one has to work hard to understand bot the basics as well as the esoteric advance possibilities of image capture.

Then I took a workshop with Paul Elledge, and he showed me how to connect my emotions with my images. And this is the struggle that I have been engaging with for about four years now. This battle to command all the technical and compositional aspects of photography to create images that evoke an emotional response from the viewer. And to a certain extent, I think I have succeeded. There are always improvements to be made and lots to struggle with, but I feel that I have at least begun to make the connections.

But I am a restless soul. It was nice hearing compliments from people at the workshop in Tuscany about how beautiful my images are. But I know that my images are a little too 'perfect'. They have a studied, arranged beauty. Which is okay in itself. There is nothing wrong with pretty pictures, but it is eye candy, not a visual meal.

Philippe Pache pushed me in the first workshop to reveal less in my images, to find a way to deepen the dialog between my images and the viewer. I guess it is like seeing a semi-naked woman, it is more sexually charged than going to a nudist beach and seeing everything revealed.

I must admit though, it is Anders Petersen who haunts me, who has left a crater in my brain. He has not only challenged my notion of photography, but my notion of living. By using my camera to create beautiful images, I am kind of living vicariously through my lens. To Petersen, he is not interested in photography, he is interested in life. Don't take pictures of what you see, take pictures of what you feel.

One of the strongest statements from Petersen is 'No pictures without longing.' And like any other human, I long to be loved and accepted. But my relationships have left emotionally scarred. I have been taking happy pictures, desperately running away from the pain that makes it hard for me to engage fully with people I am attracted to. And then I realise, the pain, fear and insecurity are part of me. And it is alright to have fear. Petersen says he is very shy and has fear, but he does not fear to have fear. And I realise we are all scarred, and I should not be ashamed. To connect with people, I have to be as vulnerable as my subjects.

I have been sharpening my skills as a photographer for eight years now. And I was beginning to wonder if all I had ahead of me was the practise of my photographic skills. And now I realise, that the only way to become a better photographer is to become more human. To go out there and really live life, to stop hiding behind my camera.

My personal work really needs to change. My brains really fried.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

International Photography Awards 2007

I was just awarded third place in nudes for this image by IPA. I have quite a few honorable mentions as well.

I finally win an award and all I can think about is Anders Petersen telling the class in Tuscany, 'Be careful, this is a photographic warning, you will win an award.' Petersen has a very low impression of photographic awards unless it is the Hasselblad prize. But if other people who win IPA awards are like Paul Elledge and Nadav Kander, I can live with it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Third week- Andreas Bitesnich

After doing Anders Petersen's course, some people advised me not to do Andreas Bitesnich's course and continue doing personal research with Lorenzo Castore. Fifteen males had signed up for Bitesnich's course and I was tempted to change because there would be so much male testosterone around. But the Bitesnich course was the first reason why I decided to go to Tuscany this year. And after doing Petersen, I was interested in finding out more about what Bitesnich had to offer. I wanted to see the other side.

Andreas Bitesnich has a talent for shooting nudes. When I asked him what his motivation to shoot nudes was, he simply replied that it was his job. I find Bitesnich disarmingly honest. The other students in his class were in awe of Bitesnich, but they were all looking for his technique. For me, he had little to teach me, I knew most of the lighting techniques he used and the photoshop techniques he used. But what he did teach me was how the techniques can be refined and pushed. For example, in his photoshop editing, he said that he liked doing extreme edits where formally, his histograms are not full, but his end results look good and if the result is good, who gives a fuck.

I kind of went into over drive mode this week. I knew all the other students would be doing nudes. These guys palms were sweating when they were photographing nude female models. Cupped breasts, the sexy curve, the intense come hither look. Whether you like Bitesnich's work or not, at least it is not tacky. But after learning about being close to life and death in photography, I could not just make pretty pictures. I needed something more. So I did a series of diptychs, of a nude coupled with a still life of countryside or a factory site. I tried to explore the juxataposition of man's structures and nature's structures. Bitesnich was open to what I was doing and thus I had a good week.

I am sorry that I am not posting images right now. I realise from last week's postings that my images are coming out too dark on windows computers. My images were edited on a Mac and they have much more shadow detail. So I will have to edit my images again before posting. Brighter images like those I did in the first week with Philippe Pache look fine on a PC screen, although the originals have a lighter feel. But my images are much darker now and loose a lot of texture and feel if the shadow detail is lost.

Am off to the airport to fly back to Singapore now. Will be back real soon.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Second Week - Stomach Photography with Anders Peterson

It's hard for me to submit myself to reason in photographing. I want to be unprotected, with the eagerness of a child. My thoughts come before and after. - Anders Peterson

I came to Tuscany looking for inspiration and beauty. This was the week I was supposed to take a course with Antonin Kratchovil, but his wife is pregnant. So I took a course on personal research with Anders Peterson. Anders looks like a jovial, bigger version of Richard Avedon, but what a cuckoo genius Anders is. Anders' workshop is the seventh workshop I have taken in my life. This was the most challenging workshop in my life, and it was not because of the photographic technique, it was because Anders made me confront my dark side, my sexuality, life and death. I took very few pictures this week. Part of it was because Anders showed a large amount of videos, but also partly because I was frozen with fear, unable to shoot.

I have always said to people that one must live life well so that they can take photos full of life's experiences. And this has allowed to put emotions into my images. But Anders is the extreme logical conclusion of this. He is not a photographer, he lives. Photography is like a by product of living, like eating and shitting. In his first break through project, Cafe Lehmitz, he practically lived in the cafe for two and a half years. He was not an outsider taking the photographs, he was an insider, taking family portraits.

But are Anders images reality? Not at all. Reality is something that Anders is highly suspicious of. Within the frame of his image, a fantastical drama unfolds. His photography is direct, raw and brutal. He told us repeatedly that in the act of shooting, one must be horrible. A photographer has responsibilities before and after the act of taking an image, but in the act of shooting, it must be a direct animal act. His preferred medium is black and white tri-x film. He heavily manipulates the print, creating a dark, surreal world that is his own. And in spite of the blatant act of fantasy, his images are honest and authentic. His interactions with his subjects are collaborations. Within his image creations, a conversation on existence ensues. Life, death, sexuality, humanity, anger, love, all stare you in the face.

Some students grappled with interacting with strangers on the street. How we are all so polite. But approaching people on a street is not something I have problems with anymore. I grappled with my emotional fears. There was a stunningly beautiful student in another class, Marina. I have to freely admit to being attracted to her. I asked to my room to model for me. After a few normal portraits, I asked to pose topless for me. I did explain that the exercise was to show the possibilities. And she did so because she was willing to help me with the course work. Even though I have shot many nudes before, this was the first time I have done so under such circumstances. And I got much more than I imagined. You can see a little scar under her arms. She is twenty-one and she has had a life threatening disease. She was not shy of her sexuality I think, but shy of her scar. I showed Anders the image and he was not satisfied. 'This is an interesting scar,' he said. 'Was she shy?'. Anders wanted me to take a straight forward image of Marina and her scar. I had to explain this to Marina and she was so kind to allow me to shoot her scar full on, but she told me that I could only show it in class. The act of photography is brutal, but one must take care of the subject before and after the image is taken. Although this image of Marina is probably the most powerful image I have taken in my life, I am not able to show it to the world.

I also decided to explore the issue of male sexuality. Although I have friends who are gay and lesbian, male sexuality is something that I have always been uncomfortable with. I asked a German student, Benjamin to model for me. Once again, I took some normal portraits, and then I asked him to strip down to his underwear. Benjamin who is also a photography student asked why? When I explained to him the concept, he said ok, but not nude. And once again I got more than I imagined, he had scars on the side of his body. He also had a life threatening disease, where his lung was enlarged and pressing against his heart. He was operated on to release the fluids in his lungs. This was the second amazing encounter in one week.

I also took the most intimate self-portraits in my life. And last night, after the course is over and most of the students had gone home, I had one more extraordinary shoot. There were two Italian students who stayed an extra night. One of them, Peira, was doing a series of pictures of the ghost of a woman who used to stay in the monastery. Through out the week, she had been shooting ghostly images at night. And I told her that we should shoot in the cemetery at night. She had shot in the cemetery in the morning before but not at night. She was frightened. She loved Anders' work and what she had seen of mine in the slide show. I told her how can she shoot a ghost story in the monastery but not shoot in the cemetery at night. We both confronted our fears and I helped her shoot a ghostly image in the cemetery. I took her portrait nude in the cemetery.

I did not shoot many images this week. But by breaking some of my personal fears, I have managed to shoot some of the most important images in my life. I have not overcome all my fears. But Anders says that it is alright to fear. We all fear. But how do we lead a life without fear and without losing ourselves?

But Anders is not just special because he lives his life completely. He is also very intelligent and very learned. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the photographic world. He has studied what makes a photographer compelling. In the printing and taking of his images, he has very clear technique. His shooting technique avoids 'photographic' technique. His technique creates an intense interaction between photographer and subject. All his images and manipulated in the darkroom.

This work shop with Anders Peterson forces me to re question photography, fundamentally. Whether I agree or disagree, whether I am willing to continue breaking boundaries or keeping to beautiful images, the world has changed forever.