Wednesday, 17 September 2014

One + One = Three: Berlin Family Portraits

Mother, Father and Baby Portraits in Berlin


My customers give me great ideas all the time.  As a professional photographer who specializes in portraits, I have photographed many couples and families over the years.  But this year I was pleasantly surprised when a mother in the U.S. hired me to take photos of her daughter Ashley and her daughter’s boyfriend, Alex, in Berlin—both before and after their baby was born.  I provided a portrait gift certificate, which she in turn presented to her daughter as a gift.  In a world of selfies and endless photos of newborns, it is really a special gift to take time out to hire a professional photographer to get some really classy shots.

The portrait shoot was to be divided into two sessions. Part one of this little family documentary began one warm day in May of this year.  We had the majestic beauty of Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, a mother great with child, an anxious father and some clothing props.  I like to take time to talk to my clients before, during and after the portrait shoot.  In order to get natural, relaxed portraits I find it is best to communicate as much as possible.

Sanssouci Park is the perfect place for portraits.  It is spread out over a monstrous amount of green space filled with little palaces, fountains, lakes and enchanted grottoes. As the former stomping grounds of Prussian royalty, the gardens and grounds were laid out in grand scale and style.

We had many natural and architectural backdrops to choose from, which is every photographer’s dream.  I am one of those photographers who has turned his back on traditional ‘stuffy’ studio shots with fake backgrounds in favor of location photography. I believe there is no artificial substitute for nature
and the great outdoors. I really enjoy choosing the right location for special portraits.

As is usually the case, I got too many good shots to share in one small blog space, so here are just a few highlights of our two portrait sessions.

And Baby Makes Three

As you can imagine, the arrival of a new baby makes life hectic, but in early July we managed to set up a time for part two of the portrait series.  I suggested we use the gardens around my little cottage in order not to tire out mom and her new baby with excessive walking.  When I mentioned our trees, grass, garden furniture props and a big silver bear statue, Ashley said ‘You had me at big silver bear statue.’

Babies seem to really like me—or are at least they are not afraid.  I am fortunate that I don’t have to wave toys, squeaky dolls or do any dances—babies just look at me with some sort of natural curiosity, as if to say ‘Who is this large, goofy man with the camera?’

After a brief bout with the bear, we took our time relaxing and taking shots in different places around the property. After an hour or so, we parted ways feeling that we had really done the ultimate before-and-after shots—with a big silver Berlin bear thrown in to boot.

Schedule your Berlin family portrait session today by contacting me here.  Or give the gift of photography by ordering a portrait gift certificate.  Your family will thank you!  ;)

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

3D Printers, Computer Tumbleweeds, Squishy Robots

Notes from a ‘Silicon Allee’ Event Photographer in Berlin

After finishing my third tech-related event in Berlin I have seen a glimpse of the future: 3D printers make lifelike human skulls, computerized tumbleweeds roll across vast deserts gathering data and robots are squishy.

The RE.WORK Tech Summit in Berlin on June 19-20 brought cutting edge creators to ‘Silicon AlleeBerlin to strut their stuff on the lighted stage.

I love technology.  Not in a nerdy, worship-the-algorithm sort of way.  Give me better tools, I say.  I remember the excitement of getting my first digital camera:  no more photo chemistry fouling my lungs and ruining rivers.  And no more hours spent in darkened rooms; ah, the joy!  And then there’s the instant digital gratification of fast results.

This puts me in perfect company at a tech summit.  I enjoy listening to the exhibitors enthusiastically explaining their inventions at the exhibition stands and on stage.  This last event got me thinking:  most of the people on stage are not polished speakers—they are real people, and as such I kept in mind my presence as a photographer.  I didn't want my snapping camera and firing flash to put them off their cues.  I took care to choose my moments and put a lot of space between shutter clicks.  I don’t want a young inventor geek guy full of coffee thinking of his marketing pitch to be thrown off his game by my firing flash.  I also strive to capture the most natural moments in any event, where the people look relaxed and natural.  I've seen other photographers' shots of speakers who look tired, strained or nervous because the photographer didn't wait for the right moment.

And catching the 'right moment' is what photographing people is all about.

For price quotes on event photography in Berlin and beyond please contact me today.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Kreuzberg Street Art Walkabout

The street art scene in Berlin is one of the best in the world.  And no neighborhood in Berlin packs more street art per square meter than Kreuzberg.  Just take a stroll in the area between Oberbaumbrücke and Schlesiches Tor U bahn station and you will become a believer.  Spray can statements writ large encompass entire sides of buildings.

On a rare clear January day in Berlin I hit the streets of Kreuzberg to add some more street art shots to my growing collection.  Last summer I began a personal project on street art and street artists in Berlin.  In pictures and words I aim to document the vibrant street art scene in Berlin and show the importance of street art as a form of communication, protest and/or city beautification.

As I was fixing my camera’s focus on a particularly colorful wall, I heard the familiar sound of the English language nearby—explaining the very street art I was about to photograph.  I stood my ground as a small group of a dozen tourists flowed past me pointing and snapping pictures.  The last words I heard from the tour guide was ‘and this piece is by ALIAS…’

I waited for the group to soak in the spray can scenery before I proceeded to take my own photos in my own time.  Just around the corner a table loaded with spray cans stood in front of a sleepy café.  A spray can artist popped up from behind the table and bombed the wall with blasts of colorful coffee cups and trees with oranges dripping juice.  I looked around and noted the neighborhood pride:  many cafes, shops, bistros and kebab joints were festooned with urban art and spray painted motifs.


On the river end of Cuvrystrasse is an abandoned field with three painted behemoths standing guard.  The entire sides of the two buildings behind the field were covered with five-storey tall figures by globally-famous urban artist BLU from Italy.  One of the iconic pieces—a headless businessman adjusting his tie while his hands are bound by twin gold watches and chains—is even featured on a Hard Rock Café Berlin collectors pin (among no doubt hundreds of other pieces of unofficial tourist tat).

 A wide open gap in the wall surrounding the field beckoned me inside.  As I walked further into the field, the random piles of rubbish began morphing into mounds of building materials crudely lashed together into the shape of shacks.  A large teepee stood to my left and I heard voices and laughter near some curling smoke.  Moments later I encountered a couple sitting around a fire amid piles of tastefully arranged skip furniture.  They asked me to join them with a warning not to take photos.  They pointed to a sign with the international symbol of a crudely drawn camera with a big red line through it.  I agreed to their reasonable terms and they invited me to join them by the fire.  After a quick run to the nearby market, I procured portable potables for us to drink around the fire in the field.  They told me the story of their community, their struggles and their commitment to sleeping outdoors in the winter.

We discussed the economic state of Berlin, the closing of almost every beach bar, jam space and artist community along the River Spree.  YAAM, the last of the Mohicans, is apparently on the chopping block as well.  I once interviewed the manager of YAAM for a story on Berlin’s beach bars.  He told me the outlook is grim for anyone who takes an abandoned space and makes a thriving community from it, because the developers are always poised to move in and smash dreams.

So once again gentrification rears its ugly head.  In Camp Cuvry’s case, the police haven’t yet applied the jackboot.  The young Argentinean man I was speaking to plucked the few remaining strings on his old guitar and informed me that a community isn't in danger until the original property owners decide they have the money (investors) to do something with the space.  I hope that they never will.  And on that note, I finished my drink, bade them farewell and wished them the very best of luck.

In the coming months I will update my website and blog with images from my Berlin Street Art documentary.  Please subscribe to this blog and/or check back periodically to follow my progress.