Archive for October, 2009

On David duChemin and his eBooks

October 26, 2009

Drawingtheeye

I feel that David duChemin is one of the best photography writers out there today. Perhaps some may think we’re conspiring by praising each other on our blogs every now and then, but what can I say – I respect the man as a photographer and I absolutely love the way he writes. Is that so wrong? 🙂

One of the things I love most about David’s writing is that while he talks about the philosophy and theory behind photography, he always keeps things very practical. After reading David’s stuff you can go out and apply the knowledge to actual, real life situations.

When I first saw the title of David’s latest eBook “DRAWING THE EYE – Creating Stronger Images Through Visual Mass” I thought, “Geez that sounds a bit heavy and abstract” but I was pleasantly surprised. Well, perhaps not surprised, because I have come to expect at least a certain amount of brilliance from the man and the last eBook is certainly no exception.

drawingtheeye-preview

I won’t go into a detailed explanation of what the eBook is all about, I’ll simply direct you to David’s BLOG, where you can read David’s own description as well as what other people are saying. I will mention this though; if you’re ready to step it up a notch and to really begin creating images with impact and some thought behind them, rather than simple snap-shots of exotic places and faces then “DRAWING THE EYE” is a must. As David says: “It’ll change the way you look at your craft”. Agreed. Even if like me you already look at your craft much the same way David does I always find that David’s eloquent and humorous writing really hammers home whatever thoughts I had in the back of my mind. He’s able to express his ideas so well and so clearly, the final message, along with the images just inspires you to push yourself a little further each time you lift the camera to your eye. For that I gotta thank the man. 🙂

ddebooks

Before I go, I absolutely have to mention David’s earlier eBooks “Ten” and “Ten More” . Again, read about them by clicking on the hyperlink titles. These two eBooks are particularly useful for those in the early stages of their journey into photography, but as is the case with all of what David writes about, anyone can get a surprising bit of inspiration and food for thought from his words. The best part about it all, these eBooks are knowledge that is accessible to almost anyone around the world. At $5 a pop, the price is something that you simply can’t complain about.

You can get all of David’s eBooks RIGHT HERE.

Now a brief word about me. I’m back in Minsk, getting over an annoying cold and finishing some of Tanya’s paperwork to go to Europe. I’ll make one more trip to the region of Braslav for a week or so, finish off some logistics in Belarus and if all goes right, in early November I’ll drive towards Romania, a country, which I have been curious about for too long not to visit it.

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The fishermen brigade of Braslav (and some miscellanea)

October 22, 2009

fishermen2

A couple of days ago I finally managed to hang out with the fishermen brigade of Braslav. What a bunch of characters! My initial impression was that they were rude, mindless brutes. I’ve met people jut like them in India and Indonesia, but never felt the same, perhaps the fact that I could understand everything these guys said formed my opinion.  Every second word was a curse word, every joke was explicit and I think at least a couple of them may have had a good drink during the  work day.

It would be easy for me to look down on them or to get frustrated with their attempts to poke fun at me at every opportunity, this happened even more after they found out I was from Australia. “You have ostriches there right? Instead of fishing do you go crocodile hunting, right?” When I tripped, while moving around in my boots (which are a few sizes too big), one fisherman who found it particularly delightful to laugh at my expense said – “F-ck, watch your step, this isn’t f-cking Australia where the ground is all even and nice!” I found his comment funny and almost beautifully ignorant. I smiled and laughed. I guess that’s something I’ve learned to do regardless of circumstances, over time. As a photographer you almost can’t afford to have an ego, to get angry or to lose your temper, at least not while you are working and especially not while you are photographing people. You have to get a feel for those you are “working” with and while that’s happening, it’s better to shut up, smile and keep shooting.

When I got that feel for the fellows in the boats I realized that despite their brute nature, they were quite decent folks – simple people who work hard and get paid very little. They make the most of the situation and poke fun at each other almost as much as they poked fun at me. Me being with them was a somewhat fun departure from their regular schedule and so they couldn’t resist directing all their “enthusiasm” in my direction.

I guess I passed some sort of test by not negatively reacting to their jokes and just smiling and laughing all the way. They did do some funnily stupid things, one of the older men almost turned over a boat and nearly filled his boots with icy cold water in a desperate attempt to get to shore for a smoke. About half way through the whole fish catching process they stopped poking fun, I got more comfortable and started jumping from one boat to another and lying down on the wet nets, to get a better angle. The jokes turned to amusement and then, dare I say to something close to respect, they realized that I was working pretty hard, just as they were.

The images I got were not as “pretty” as I’d like them to be, the light became flat half way through and stayed that way for almost the entire shoot. They do however give you a bit of an idea of what the process was like. In any case, I’m hoping to get another stab at shooting this thing before I leave Braslav and head towards Romania.

By the way, if any of the blog readers live in or around Warsaw or Krakow, Poland, somewhere on the way to Romania in Hungary or in Slovakia,  then I’d love to meet you for tea/coffee and chat. Just email me from my website or post a comment.

Another thing, one of my images should be on display at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo (Nat Geo Traveler World in Focus Contest) in New York October 22-24. Apparently I won something, but I have not been informed exactly what, maybe it’s just the chance to be exhibited. In any case, it’s quite exciting. 🙂 If anyone from NY will go to this thing, perhaps you can tell me if I actually won a prize and whether my image looks decent in print.


fishermen3Sasha (middle) is the leader of the brigade, he does a lot of moving around and probably more cursing than anyone else, I guess that’s part of the job.

fishermen6 Sasha collecting fish from the nets. The young folks in green coats are picking out the fish which is smaller than 27cm (approx) putting them in the wooden box and tossing them back out into the lake. Such is the law.

fish7 This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

fishermen5 When all is said and done, the fish are placed into wooden boxes, loaded into cars and sent off to the fish factory.

That’s all for now folks. More to come soon.

The lonely Yosef Dorozhko

October 16, 2009

In-the-darkAbout a week ago we met a wonderful man by the name of Yosef. I spotted him from my car while he was pushing his bicycle up a hill. Immediately I wanted to photograph him. I turned the car around, caught up to Yosef and asked him if I could take a few photos. He smiled and said to go ahead.

We spoke a bit, after learning that Yosef was 81 I was a little shocked. His bike journey wasn’t an easy one, even for a young person (there was lots of pedaling up hills to be done) and here he was carrying on very casually. I sorta invited myself over to his house and asked if I could take a few more photos there. He didn’t mind.

And so began our friendship with Yosef. It turned out that his life had taken a very unfortunate turn of late. He lost his wife and both of his sons fairly recently. He also lost his apartment in the neighboring Latvia, because the cost of all the bills exceeded his meager pension. Yosef had to go back to Belarus, to live in the house where he was born 81 years ago. To make his story more sad, the house where he now lives is fairly isolated and ever since his parents built it, there has never been any electricity. Yosef makes light with Kerosene lamps and instead of watching TV, he reads, prays and talks to his cats.

The crazy thing is, he never really complains about anything. He doesn’t drink uncontrollably, like many younger and much more fortunate people in the neighboring villages. He just goes on about his life the best he can, still managing to crack an occasional smile along the way. Yosef inspired me by his resilience and it seems like our visits to his home have given him a reason to crack that smile more frequently. Tanya and I have gone to talk to the authorities and hopefully he will have electricity some time in the not too distant future.

Dedulya-working-2 Yosef has a horse. It was time for him to work on the land during one of our visits and of course that presented a great photo opportunity.RainbowI got pretty lucky during my little photo-shoot. It had been raining most of the day, but soon after I arrived at Yosef’s house there was an opening in the sky. I got some good light and even a rainbow.

By-the-ovenYosef adjusts fire-wood in the oven which he himself made. He was heating up a kettle to make tea for us.

Braslav_MG_2484

Tea time. Yosef sets up the tea glasses and the food for his guests.

Meeting people like Yosef again reminds me of how lucky I am to be doing what I do. These countless chances to meet inspirational people are something I enjoy immensely and when there is an opportunity to have a positive impact on the life of someone like Yosef, that’s sort of like the essence of being human.

More images to come.

The Gypsies of Vidzy

October 8, 2009

Cigane-2The other day was yet another reminder of why I love what I do so much.

I can be pretty cynical, but in general I’d day that I am very optimistic and positive. I like to see the best in people until I am proven the opposite. I don’t see the point in stereotyping and prejudging entire nations, tribes or any groups of people for that matter. What have we got to gain from that?

In any case, it’s no secret that gypsies have quite a reputation around Europe, not necessarily the most positive one by any stretch of the imagination. Belarus is no exception. When I visited the village of Vidzy, one of the more fascinating places in the Braslav region (because of its’ multicultural population) I was given mixed impressions about the gypsies living there. Some folks said that all’s good, everyone lives peacefully and the gypsies are decent people. Others told me not to visit them with all that photographic equipment, because one way or another I’d “loose” it. One young man even told me not to visit them at all because I could be greeted with a punch in the face.

Nothing could be further from the last piece of advice. In fact after visiting three gypsy houses, I found them to be the most hospitable people I’ve met in Belarus yet. If there’s any truth to the theory that gypsies came from India, it was manifested through the instant invitations of the guests (us) for tea. I know that tea probably wasn’t around in India when (or if the gypsies) came out of that region, but still, the hospitality was all too familiar. When we met the local gypsy leader, the “Baron”, as they used to be called, he even offered us lunch, which isn’t so usual these days, at least it’s not offered to total strangers, not even by the very kind village people of the Braslav region.

To be honest I didn’t think anything negative of the gypsies in Vidzy even before I met them, but I also didn’t expect such level of hospitality and their eagerness to share whatever they had left of their culture. We spent about 4 hours just chatting to families and shooting a few frames along the way. The whole trip was another proof of why preconceptions should be left at home when we deal with real people, this is especially important if you’re a photographer.

Cigane-1 The gypsy elder; 78-year-old Ivan Yanovich, his grandson Jan and his great-grand niece Xenia. Xenia was very playful and I wanted to show that through her pose/movement in the images, she just couldn’t stay still.

Cigane-3 I couldn’t resist shooting a few more frames when the cat came into the middle of the doorway. Again Xenia is squirming and wiggling.

Cigane-5Another variation of the image from the top of the page. Because my wife Tanya and our local friend Anna were doing a lot of the talking with Filip and Vera (pictured) I had the luxury of just watching things like a fly on the wall and photographing whenever I saw a good shot.

That’s all for now folks. More images coming soon along with some stories.