In a refugee camp even the smallest petty crime is a serious offense. To lose two bed sheets or some old clothes may seem like nothing for most people, but not if you have nothing else. However, does this mean that the thief should be treated inhumane? See the whole story on Øystein’s and my blog; Untold Stories.
Life for girls in Fugnido camp on the border of South Sudan isn’t easy. They are cooking, sweeping, fetching firewood, carrying water and looking after their siblings; women’s duties in the traditional Nuer culture. My colleague Øystein and I write and show more photos about girls’ life in the camp in the latest post on the our blog Untold Stories.
For kids in the developed world having fun means playing with Playstation, computers, cell phones and what not of technological gadgets. Not so in the refugee camps around the world, such as in Funido in South West Ethiopia. All it takes for these kids is a bit of creativity, and creativity definitely is fueled by the lack of toys and other amusements. For the whole story and more photos, please look up the blog post Øystein and I have made.
My colleague, Øystein, and I arrived in Addis Ababa yesterday without knowing it was on the Ethiopian Christmas eve. Today we have continued on to Gambela close to the border of South Sudan, but not before we were able to spend the morning at a Coptic church in Addis were people gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For our full report look up our Verdensglimt
It was never an obvious choice that I would become a professional photographer – despite finding the love of photography early in my life. I never had that eye-opening experience that many photographers talk or write empathically about, who grew up in the old analogue film-based realm. When they recall the first time they saw a picture emerge in the darkroom they speak about it as a revelation – and knew from then on there would be nothing but photography. The fact is I never thought much about the work I had to do in the darkroom, I deemed it tedious and boring. So that wasn’t it. In addition I had set a different course for myself when I began studies at university level.
So how come I became a photographer, after all? Was it purely coincidental; random events that set the course for me – or would it eventually have happened any way some time? Did the fact that my grandfather was a portrait/studio photographer have any influence – despite the fact that I never saw him at work as a photographer? Was it friends that indirectly persuaded me to sway from my set course? Or was it after all my own mind and soul that led me to choose the path of photography, albeit a little late. Would my love for photography have emerged no matter what? And would it have directed me towards a professional career at some point even if I started out heading in a different direction?
How do we become what we are? Is it random? Is it fate? Or is it predestined in some way or form?
I began photographing very early in my life. My first camera I shared with my sister. It was not love by first sight. I think I took less than a couple of frames with the camera which I don’t recall what was, besides a simple plastic camera shooting 120 film. As far as I remember I already lost interest after the first roll of black and white film, and then let my sister take over. My first camera I owned myself was a Christmas present from my before mentioned grandfather. It was an Agfa Iso Rapid, the back then German giant’s equivalent of the Kodak Instamatic easy film system. I was 10 at the time, and the simple camera didn’t do much to push me in the direction of discovering the beautiful world of photography. It wasn’t the camera’s fault, though, I used it in holidays and such – and was happy with the result.
The first step into discovering the magic came with a friend of mine. It was some years later and both of us shared a love for nature. We ventured out early and late, and in our teens we were already pretty savvy outdoor enthusiasts, by now for instance backpacking in the high mountains during wintertime. It was probably only natural that one of us would make the connection between nature and photography. It was my friend. He was a paper boy and for the money he made he bought an inexpensive SLR produced in former East-Germany. Strangely enough I still remember the brand to this day; a Praktica Super TL. Still with my Agfa Iso Rapid and he with his Praktica, we started venture out into nature with the pursuit of immortalizing its splendour.
Soon after, my grandfather once again came to my help pushing my photography into the next level. He gave me a used rangefinder camera for 35 mm film. It was an Arette IA – and now I felt like a real photographer. But of course my rangefinder camera couldn’t compete with my friend’s SLR. When it came time for my confirmation (despite the fact that most Norwegian don’t take their Christian faith very seriously, most kids do their confirmation; I believe because of the presents involved). I was very clear that I desired a SLR camera. And not just any brand, but the 1000 Mamiya DTL. It had a double exposure metering system; you could choose between average metering and spot metering. That’s was grand! I did get it – and suddenly I was not behind my friend any more when it came to gear. I was 15 then and equipment matters at that age. The Mamiya was an awesome camera, but compared to today’s electronic cameras heavy as a brick – it was nothing clear of a mechanical monster. But for the time it was a dream come true. It used what we called automatic lenses; it automatically closed down the aperture when the shutter was triggered. Which meant that we could look through the viewfinder at full opening and not only try to make out a dark image on the viewing screen. That was technical wizardry. Of course today all SLR lenses are automatic in this sense – but nobody even knows. Automatic film winding? Forget about it. Auto focus? Are you joking? Or even exposure meeting at open aperture? No way. This would all be imaginary science fiction – unthinkable.
While my friend early on began exploring black and white in the darkroom I quickly discovered the grandness of slide films (which of course also has to be seen in light of what I just wrote about darkroom work). My preferred film in the beginning was Agfa CT18. The digit 18 referred to the speed of the film, which of cause was stated by the German norm DIN – Deutsche Industrie Norm. 18 DIN was the equivalent of 50 ISO or ASA as it was called back then, so I got used to low light sensitivity. Imagine how delighted I am today when I with my digital camera I can use 400 ISO as a standard. The Agfa CT18 was inexpensive, well, relatively at least, and included developing in the price. It was only years later when I started shooting with another friend of mine I found out how bad it was. He used Ektachrome which had more muted and real colours as well as much less grain. I swopped, of course. The Ektachrome later became Kodachrome, before at the end of the film era I got to use Fujichrome. I loved its muted colours.
It was yet another friend that got me interested in the finer creative details of photography. He recruited me to start subscribing to the Norwegian photo magazine Fotografi. I was for a long time undecided about it, because the subscription was quiet expensive for me at that time (I was still not in high school). But when I received the first issue I suddenly discovered a whole new world of possibilities and imagery. It was really from then on my love for photography caught on.
Eventually I started delivering papers as well, and my first wages I saved to be able to buy a Soligor 300 mm. Remember back then it was all nature for me, and I needed a long lens to be able to photograph birds. Of course today I have gone in the other direction; it’s all wide angles for me, but then of course I am not so much a wildlife or nature photographer any more. But that Soligor was another dream come true. Today it would probably not been regarded as anything but junk, but I was in cloud nine nevertheless.
By now it should be clear that I was heading towards a professional career as a photographer. But no, it didn’t even strike my mind. Instead I fancied an academic vocation. As the nature lover I was it was given that I went for natural science studies with biology for my master’s degree. The change, though, came during the master study. The before mentioned friend, who made me change to Ektachrome, and I were together doing research on the bear population in Western Norway. What seemed like a blow back then, turned out to be our lucky strike. One year we didn’t get founding for the research. We got so mad, both of us quit. We could have pulled it through, I am sure, but in a later perspective, it would have taken us years and years of work to compile enough material for a thesis. My friend moved to Denmark and became a renowned studio photographer there! While I, well, I was slowly starting to see a different course for myself as well.
Let me add that in the mean time other incidents had happened. Between high school and university I spend the whole summer working in an aluminium factory. I made a hell of a lot money – but of course the work itself was not exactly a dream. But I brought my camera into the dusty and polluted factory halls, and when I was done working there, I got a big story about the factory published in one a weekend addition to one of the major Norwegian newspaper. During my time at the university I worked as a photographer for a student paper and got other stories published in major papers as well. One, for instance, was about whale hunting. As a major in biology I was chosen to be an inspector onboard one of the whale hunting vessels during the early summer season, and it lead to several published stories.
Anyway, by the time me and my friend’s bear study crumbled other students friends of mine, studying media, had noticed my stories in the various magazines and papers. Some of them starting playing with the idea of establishing a news agency and asked me if I wanted to join. Eventually I did. In the end the agency went down without ever flying, I believe because we were young and naïve, and didn’t have enough contacts in the media world. But it set me going in the direction of journalism – more specifically photojournalism.
Would I have ended up here anyway? I don’t know. It’s still interesting to think what would have happened if things had happened in a different way. Again, would I have discovered photography at all if it hadn’t been for my friends? Or a professional vocation as a photojournalist?
Let me end here. And let me end with an apologue for my indulgence into myself. I guess it was a way for me to celebrate my 250th post with this blog. Thank you for your patience I might add.
I would love to hear how you got interested in photography. Do you think it was coincidental or would you have started photographing anyway at some point (well, who doesn’t photograph these days)?
During the photo workshop in Villajoyosa, Spain, Terje I. Olsson focused on the economic recession in the country for his photo project. The economy in Spain has been under pressure for the last many years. It has translated into hardship for most Spaniards; unemployment, uncertainty, unrest, uneasiness and deprivation for too many. The first area to be hit by a recession is the housing market, which was very evident in Villajoyosa. Everywhere houses and apartments were being announced for sale or rent. That was what Terje captured with his camera. His images show beautiful houses, closed down and for sale, they show rundown house that has been on the market for a long time and his images show buildings under construction where the work has been stopped in the middle because of the recession. There is a glooming quietness in his photos, a telling contrast between beautiful colours and an almost lifeless atmosphere and his images convey a sense of downfall and almost death. His visual language is subtle, but all the more poignant.
For her personal photo project when attending the eWorkshop I taught earlier this year, Angeline Muñoz found courage to face a trauma that had hit her family severely the year before. As she wrote on her blog her «daughter’s marriage was crumbling, and the man, who had promised ten years before to love her always, snapped and set fire to their home. The shell of the house remained intact; the interior was utter devastation». While contemplating what kind of theme she should pick for her personal photo project, she just one morning woke up knowing she had to go back to that house and make this her essay. The house was then being torn apart to begin reconstruction – and with some initial hesitation Angeline started to document the state of the house and the work being done. It was a very emotional encounter for Angeline and I can only say I was very impressed with her courage to face her own demons from that traumatic experience. It became a very personal project indeed, and not only was the result outstanding and very touching, but I think it even somewhat appeased Angeline’s own thoughts of that dark day last year. Her images of the house being demolished are soft spoken, but very intense. In all the sadness behind every photo, there is still beauty in the way she captured – and processed – the photo essay, which only enhances the sense of a tragedy behind the literal subject of those photos. Her images touch the viewer with their honesty and the way they directly speak to viewers. They speak of discernment and sincerity as well as of courage.
It’s time to present the work of another participant from the eWorkshop I taught earlier this spring. Anita Otrebski focuses on her fellow human beings and on human conditions. Those of you who follow her blog have seen a lot of strong portraits and captivating street photographs by Anita, particularly from China. For her personal project in the eWorkshop she once again turned her camera towards her favourite subject. This time she had found a group of seasoned loggers that came together once a week to keep up with their traditions. They clear forest and chop logs down to firewood. Her images captured their casual and playful spirit. The images also show that age is no limitations when it comes to hard work. As a viewer you can really feel the joy and their enthusiasm for what they are doing. It’s simple work, it’s hard work, but it’s theirs. This is work they enjoy and not the least men amongst men who enjoy themselves more than anything else. There are a closely related group of friends. Anita has captured their strong connections and trusting relationships. We sense that they don’t necessarily and openly show their emotions, but nevertheless do feel strongly for each other. And underneath all the hard work, there is humour and light-heartedness. Just look at the last photo. Doesn’t it say it all?
Time has come to showcase the first work by one of the participants from the workshop I taught in Villajoyosa in Spain earlier in May this year. As mentioned last week I will alternate between showing participants’ work from respectively this workshop and the eWorkshop that finished up just before the workshop in Villajoyosa.
Erik Waage was clear from the beginning that he wanted to work with religion as a theme for his personal project during the workshop in Villajoyosa. And he set out with a determination that was impressive. Already from day one did he return with strong and telling images. There is an immediacy and a respect in the way he approach his theme. The viewer feel connected to the event taking place in his photos, whether it’s of the deepest religious nature or of a more unrestrained joy. Erik Waage is the observer in the classical sense of a street photographer. He waits for the moment, and captures this moment when it’s most telling and at its peak. His images are quiet, but show profound sensitivity. It doesn’t matter if it is people dancing or artefacts of religious value; Erik Waage captures the essence with a direct and magnificent expression. His colour palette is gentle and gracious, just like the way he portrays the world as he sees it.