Spiral Scratch

Damn. Pete Shelley gone. Woke up this morning to Rain and Wind and this very sad news. The Buzzcocks were and are a big part and firm favourite of mine, and I was fortunate to be able to meet with Pete a few times and tell him so.

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Pete used to call at our flat in the early 80s at Old Lansdowne Road Didsbury Manchester. One of the girls I shared with was Carole Morley and Pete had a crush on her. Whisked her off to Paris at the drop of a hat. I remember him so well as if it was yesterday. A real Northern Gent. I lost touch through the years and this image is the only one I could find in my archives. I am often amazed that not more get lost through moving house, county, city, country. I remember when I first arrived in Manchester and Homosapien was one of my favourite records. I also recall that XL1 had some sort of floppy disk to use with a Sinclair ZX. The original release was packaged with a computer program which featured lyrics and graphics which displayed in time with the music. Non amazing now, but was a big thing then. Travel on well punk pioneer and ace Mancunian songsmith.

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R.I.P., Pete.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Fear

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The truth – I have always been afraid. It is a painful feeling, fear. It sits deep in the bottom part of your stomach and hurts. But it is the energy of survival. I have always been afraid of fear and at the same time grateful for it–afraid of its pain and grateful that because of the pain I can take steps to eradicate it by overcoming that which frightens me.

One who is afraid reacts to it as any animal. If one is a rabbit, one runs into one’s hole and hides. If one is a turtle one pulls back into one’s shell. We have all known people who react to their fear in this fashion. Some call them shy. Some, wrongfully, call them cowards.

But some people react to fear as a wolf reacts. We get angry. It is easier to be angry than to be afraid. It is less painful. The frightened wolf attacks whatever frightens him. But it is fear, nevertheless.

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Fear has been given to us so that we may recognise that which endangers us in this complex world. To avoid injury of one kind or another we need to recognise the danger, whatever it may be. Fear permits us to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of and to evaluate it. It gives us an opportunity to say to ourselves, we don’t need to be afraid of this person or that situation. It is something we can handle. It gives us an opportunity to understand that the other person may be as afraid of us as we are afraid of them. It gives us a chance to deal with our fear.

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Fear is also the stuff of courage. We cannot be brave without fear. One who faces unreasonable danger is not courageous unless that person has first felt fear and overcome it. He is only foolish. I know of no persons who are brave who are not first afraid. So, at last, fear is our friend. Listen to it. It speaks loudly to us. It is not to be ignored. It is to be cherished as our protective partner.

In the end, fear is a gift.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

A Place To Feel

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Photography to me is an emotional endeavour. I am a pretty rational, analytical and logical person, or at least I try to be.

I do love to think and analyse things, situations and people. It is not that I am unemotional; I just value analytical and rational thought in such times over emotional thought.

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But that changes when I get out into the world with a camera. As I said above, photography is an emotional activity for me. I try to photograph based on feeling rather than reason, emotions as opposed to logic. Sure, some analysis is necessary, I still meter and do the requisite math to calculate the long exposures I am fond of, but I get that work done as quickly as I can and it is only a means to an end. I don’t aim to make photos that represent technical achievement or superb rational execution. I like to try to make photos that reflect how I felt in a certain moment and that usually involves photos that contain some sense of the wonder I see and feel about the world when I am out in it as a photographer.

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Perhaps that is why I have taken so well to pinhole and the old world photography processes. These types of photography are less about analysis than they are about intuition; they are less about documentation than they are about a slightly ethereal memory of being somewhere. It is then easy to dream, and dreams tend to be driven by emotion.

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Anyway, the idea for this reflection came about due to a thought I was having regarding the difference between looking at the situation rationally versus emotionally. I was leaning towards the rational perspective, unsurprisingly. Then I sit down at the computer and start editing and looking at images and realised that they showed a very different version of me looking at the world and I found that interesting.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Marketday And Other Stories

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Thursday morning and we were greeted by a beautiful Rainbow to bring in the day. Running low on supplies and a needed trip to the chemist for potions and lotions due to my encounter with the Giant Hogweed, we headed for Castelnuovo Berardenga. Thursday is market day.

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I decided to take the Rolleiflex, loaded with Kodak Portra 800 and Berrger Pancro 400, with me. Boy did that caused some interest. The Tuscan folk really appreciated this camera. Words like “fantastico” drifted my way wherever I went.

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A little crowd gathered and examined the old machine. Several wanted to have their photo taken. I felt very humbled and enjoyed the little place very much.

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Buying supplies from the market.

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Supplies bought and a quick hello to the local baker and we were on our way.

 

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Tomorrow we will be heading south. The day I looked most forward to on this trip.

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We also finally found Abbie’s resting place. We gave Abbie to our good friends James and Penny and she lived with them here in Tuscany until the ripe old age of 14 ½ years. She was a special dog and seeing her place under that Olive Tree made the whole trip even more special.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

From The Beginning

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Back to front, I know. Maybe the morning is the end of the day after all. My previous post was about our last day in Tuscany and this one tells about our first full day, the waking to a wonderful sunrise with sunbeams of warm light caressing the mist beneath the olive trees. The silence, just birds singing, a gentle warm breeze with the promise of a brand new day.

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The awe-inspiring drive down the Cypress Avenue heading towards Siena and the touristy bit to tick off first.

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I dislike being a tourist; don’t like sightseeing popular/famous/fashionable places, traipsing around with other foreigners.

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I like wildness, oldness, natural places, authentic life, the path less travelled, which will come next.

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And yes I made some touristy snapshots. I wouldn’t call them art, rather a reminder of what I saw.

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We all need snapshots, but the ones that matter the most to me are the images not photographed uncountable times.

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So we headed for the Piazza del Campo, did the touristy bit and found ourselves in Contrada della Torre. Siena has 17 Contradas and 10 take part in the famous Palio.

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This district was gentle and removed from the madness of tourism.

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We aimed for a corner cafe to get some water and coffee.

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Across the small piazza was a Restaurant high with activity. Italian sing songs, uncountable hurrahs and a dance by an older couple very much in love. A most humbling experience to be able to witness this anniversary celebration.

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So back to the Piazza del Campo

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the hustle and bustle.

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Find our car

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and back to the Hills of Wine and Olives, ready to discover what tomorrow will gift us .

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

 

Destination Curiosity

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A couple of thoughts on curiosity, and how it drives and influences how I work as a photographer.

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The effects of my curiosity are both sweeping and subtle, in regards to the decisions I make with my cameras and where it will take me.

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One aspect of it is that I am always trying to do something different, or looking back on things I once experimented with but never explored thoroughly before heading off in other directions. So I make a point to come back and revisit some of those ideas.

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Recently I decided to start working more with the very basic Daguerreoytype Lens and an unusual new film. Ferrania P30.

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I am always curious about rendering the world through such images as opposed to images that are familiar in both sight and photography.

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This is easy enough to do, and these images aren’t the point. It doesn’t really matter if a photo is any good or not. In this case it was about being curious, asking myself questions and then answering them by making pictures. Hoping to capture that elusive lost Image.

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Sometimes I get the shots, sometimes I don’t but ultimately it is not why I am there, nor is it why I pull out that camera. Which itself might sound crazy.

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I don’t solely use my camera to make photos, I also use my camera because it is a sort of meditation and a justification to linger a bit longer.

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Sometimes we get so hung up on how best to make the photos and we fret and worry and ultimately distract ourselves.

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I know this is very abstract and I also know it is easier to say when you have several decades of experience doing as much photography as I have and I know it is easy to claim not to worry about the pictures when you have a whole hard drive full of images you love. I know abstract advice isn’t easy, but for me this is my driver. And maybe that truth doesn’t work for anyone else. I cannot comment on other photographers approach, just my own.

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I can offer insight based on that, invest myself in being there with a camera in hand. I make photos, and by the time that shutter fires that goal has been met, my destination has been reached and the story has been told.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

A Dream Within A Dream

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I am plagued by sleeplessness, and usually drift off sometime between midnight and 1 am. Lucky for me, my body is used to this by now and I woke as usual at about 6. None of this is terribly important info, it is just providing a bit of context for I awoke from a dream; and dreams that get interrupted by waking always seem to stick with me a bit more clearly. Generally I have weird dreams that make me look dubiously at myself when I actually remember them. This morning’s dreams weren’t so weird. I was having a dream about being in a conversation with someone regarding why I use film. I know, I know, maybe I think about film photography so much that it permeates my dreams. But it was actually kind of refreshing to awake with a whole series of explanations laid out in mind. Or at least it was refreshing that that was what I woke to. There are many worse things for one to wake up thinking about right now.

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I have answered this in a lot of different ways. I generally preface it by saying it is a longer, more complex answer than people might be expecting. Perhaps they would be better off continuing the conversation in a dream. Ha. But it is something I think about and I am constantly trying to refine my answer to adequately convey. I witness friends and strangers alike making countless photos with their phone. Instantly created, instantly posted, and instantly forgotten. I do not own a phone camera, and I cannot feel any emotional connection to a phone itself. If I did I think I would be repelled by the notion.

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But let me explain some of the reasons I generally hold or give out. The first is that I love the cameras. My Hasselblad, my Nikon, my Leica, my pinholes, my Rolleiflex. I seem to create much more of a connection with these pieces of machinery than I do with any of my digital equipment. But my Rolleiflex is something else. I often introduce the camera as being the same age as I am (it was made in 1961) and it will live just as long as I will, if not even perhaps longer. Knowing it won’t be made obsolete by new technology (it has already faced that distinction) and replaced in a few short years helps. But it is more than this. I like the mechanical nature of my film cameras. I like that they don’t have a library of menus that present a solution to every problem I might face. I like that they don’t show me immediately whether my guesses and calculations were right or wrong. Nah, they are true companions, they listen to me, they share my vision, they chip in with their perspectives but it is an easy-going partnership. It is hard to explain, really. I think using a film camera like a pinhole or a Hasselblad or a Leica is something you cannot really understand till you have tried it. There are tactile qualities that just cannot be expressed. There is a change in perspective that escapes a verbal or written explanation.

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And speaking of tactile, I really value producing tangible results. Negatives I can hold in my hand. True, I scan all my photographs into a digital format, but I always keep the file of negatives. If you told me that a member of my family might someday show their grandchildren the pages of negatives that these images reside on, I wouldn’t be all that surprised. But if you told me that one day they would show them the digital file of this image, I would be surprised. Is it honestly reasonable to expect the generations that come after to maintain the digital archive I have created of my generation? How long will my hard drives last? And unless someone takes care to transfer them to new media they’re lost. And what happens when that person no longer cares to? And that is not counting the chances of computer failure. I don’t place much stock in the permanence of digital media, especially given the habits of the average photographer when it comes to backing up and printing their work, me included. And so my film is my best hope for future children to see the life I lived and the images of the world and their ancestors. I put a lot of stock in this. There is a reassuring quality to being able to hold a negative up to light and see the image frozen there in your hands.

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And if I were to limit this to just three reasons, you know what the third would be? The cost. I use film because it costs me money. Some claim that digital is great because the photos are free (after you buy the camera, those lenses, a computer and an Adobe CC license, of course), that you can make as many photos as you want with no charge. And this is an advantage in its way, but so is the cost of film. I load up my Rolleiflex and each shot costs me somewhere between 50p and £1. The photos aren’t free at all but because they have a cost, I assign them more value. When something costs you, you care about it more as a resource. I think about each of those potential images a bit harder and more carefully. I make the shots count. And it makes me a better photographer for it. Sure, I move slower. I make fewer photos. I am more deliberate and disciplined. These are not bad things. I can take my DSLR and easily make 400 images, but how much do I value each of those images? Not much. The majority of them are disposable and when I am making them I treat them that way. I don’t really care about 95% of those photos. And as I said, there are times that they are advantageous. But when I carry my film camera I care about each photo I make much more. So using film teaches me to care about each image.

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There are other reasons, but those I think are the big ones. I could talk about the aesthetics of film, particularly black and white film. I could talk about dynamic range. I could talk about the delayed gratification of it. These would all be good topics to discuss further. One thing I don’t think you will ever hear me talk about interestingly enough is quality. I don’t go down that long and murky path despite using medium format film. For me it is still too contentious an issue and one that too many spend too much time arguing about, does film make a better image than digital? As if it is all about sharpness, pixels and detail. It just isn’t that important to me.

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So I am trying to use the computer and social media less, and just focus on real life and the people I love and my art. Of course I am not going to be fully off the grid, because as you can see I am publishing this post. At times my head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so distorted there is almost no longer any tangible truth. I feel there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our news and important information, and more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth. Finding hope in places like the Forests or beneath the big Sky, finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love. And using good old fashioned film to capture this beautiful world of ours.

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Well there you go, a glimpse into my head this morning from my first few moments of consciousness.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Paradise Discovered

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Susan photographed with the Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens.

This photo has nothing to do with Vivian Maier, but this post does.

Who was Vivian Maier? Nobody really knows. She was born February 1st, 1926. She lived most of her life in Chicago, working as a nanny. She was a bit reclusive, never married nor had children. She died in 2009. She was an avid photographer. Some 100,000 of her negatives (many as undeveloped rolls of film) were purchased in 2007 by a fellow named John Maloof from an auction house after they had taken possession of them from a storage facility after Vivian had failed to make payments on the space.

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Much of the haul is street photography, much of it Chicago from the decades of the 50’s through 70’s. The images, without question, are lovely. At some times warm and empathetic, at other times a bit more distant, but no less engaging. Her story is almost like a fairy tale in a way. Or a story of paradise lost (but doesn’t it all tend to become paradise once we have lost it?). Or maybe it is paradise found, at least that is how the world of photography is treating it, and I am not sure quite why. It is almost like we were hungering for something like a Vivian Maier. And it cannot just be the story of her obscurity, discovery and Mr. Maloof finally identifying her and tracking her down only to find she had died just days previously. There is a quality to the work that just isn’t easily found these days. Perhaps it is because of the subject matter. We are drawn by the notion of the good old days, even when that grass wasn’t as green as we always think it was.

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I think her meteoric rise does have something to do with the story though. I think it strikes a chord in many of us photographers, the fable of toiling away at our art to be near-magically discovered one day. Or the belief that the work of our photographic lives will continue to carry meaning even once our mortal lives come to an end.

Or maybe it is that in this age where everyone is connected digitally, we can tweet, text, e-mail, facebook, tumble, digg, pin, and instamatic all our friendships down to a digital shadow of what connection once meant, maybe some of us photographers hunger to make work that touches audiences, moves them, connects them to us, in a way that Vivian’s work has done. Of course, it would seem that Vivian herself wasn’t interested in that connection. She never showed anyone her photography. She was a bit of a loner and a keep-your-distance type of woman. Without a doubt she had a voice to speak with, but it apparently carried no further than herself, her subject and her camera. Maybe Vivian never wanted that audience, or maybe she was all the audience she needed. Perhaps this is something to consider too, especially in comparison to today’s world where it is common practice to not only barrage your audience with dozens, if not hundreds of images at a time, but then to post the same stuff across Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, 500px, and every other social site to insure maximum saturation in this already saturated world of imagery.

Maybe the answer is there is no answer at all, just a bunch of questions to ponder and consider. I don’t even know how I feel about Vivian Maier. I love her images, but am uneasily uncertain about the story. Is its popularity just a combination of fad and sensationalism? Will we still care about her in five years or ten? How long, after all, can a photographer’s work survive their death? I don’t know the answer to this either. Nor do I care to need to know any of these answers.

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Ultimately, what it all comes down to, as it often should, is that her photos move me, and that to me is reason enough.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Arriving Somewhere

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To the Bone, Arepas, Tapas and flying Catalans

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I took the red eye to Barcelona to see Dominic, enjoy some Barcelona culture, some cuisine; and experience the magic of Steven Wilson in Concert. All in a 36 hour visit.

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One of those impromptu trips that has greatness written all over it, but could also move slightly off course.

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This one didn’t drift astray, not for one bit.

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Dominic was the perfect guide and we had a ball. We ate, drank, talked and talked and then drank, talked and ate some more.

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And then we sat down and had something to eat and drink.

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As the evening turned magenta we made our way to the auditorium to take our seats for the most wonderful musical experience. If you have the chance to see Steven Wilson – do not miss it.

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I was in my element.

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Thank you Barcelona, Dominic and Steven.

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A day I shall treasure for all time.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/