Vasil Kiryienka
Marco Pinotti
Bradley Wiggins

David Millar

Richie Porte
Tony Martin

More images at my facebook page!


During the last ten years I have moved a lot. In 2001 I moved from Cologne/Germany to Singapore only to leave it for Shanghai less than two years later. In 2007 my family and I spent half a year in Germany and moved back to Singapore in March 2008. Now, three years later, we are packing again, preparing for a new life in Copenhagen/Denmark.
Before leaving, I wanted to do something about Singapore that would go beyond the usual snaps of well known places. My time in Shanghai from 2003 to 2007 had taught me already that it takes a while to get familiar enough with a place to be able to understand it and to be able to express the way I am relating to it. Back in 2007, it had taken three years for me to be able to define the way I saw the city and to be able to translate that into meaningful photography. In Singapore it has been more or less the same. Fr the first two years I was stuck in stereotypes, trying to find my own individual way of expressing my personal view on Singapore and what it meant to me. It is a bit sad that this only starts taking off just before leaving; however, since we are most likely coming back, I hope I will be able to elaborate on this first project.

When I first moved to Singapore in 2001, the city seemed to resemble a lot of what 21st century Asia is all about. Asia is a continent that looks to the future, the eyes fixed on everything new, pushing the wheels of development, growth, and modernity further and further.
Singapore is no exception. With its brand new skyscrapers build on claimed land and expanding the skyline into what once used to be the ocean, with its growing population and a constant influx of people, making it the second densely populated city in the world. There is little space for anything old. The remains of the past are either torn down to make space for something new, bigger, and more modern; or it is polished and becomes part of the nations heritage. Often these heritage places are so ‘over’ – renovated that they have lost most of its former charm. In modern Singapore there seems to be very little time and space for the past. Unless the past becomes part of the modern image of Singapore, or part of the cultural folklore, there is very little attention towards it. Therefore I started looking around for places and spaces that are not yet touched by modernity. Places that would show obvious signs of decay and desertedness, resembling times that are already gone but still visible in small corners of everyday life. In a city that tries to utilize every square inch of space for the demands of an ever-growing population and economy, this was not easy. However, during my years in Singapore I discovered more and more corners, buildings, places that not only showed the wear of time, but also gave me a feeling of history, of a past that is still connected to the present. These places might be hidden behind a fence, in the middle of a traffic island, inside a military zone, in a not-so-desirable neighbourhood, or in areas that are already part of the new city blue print. But they are still there waiting to be explored.

The historical “Capitol Theatre” inside Capitol Building along North Bridge Road has been closed for many years. Despite the government’s investments in arts and culture during recent years, the building is going to be transformed into another Hotel + Shopping Mall.

I always knew that along Lornie Road there were a few old Chinese grave sides. I used to see them sitting in the bus on the way to work. Nowadays everyone in Singapore gets cremated so I knew they were old. But when I came to the site and fought my way through the trees and bushes along the busy road, I discovered a full scale large Chinese cemetery with graves that were sometimes more than a hundred years old. Some were still being taken care of, some were completely overgrown by the jungle.

The Malaysian railway is one the last real remaining things from the time before Singaporean independence in 1965. The train station in Tanjong Pagar and the linking railtracks crossing to Malaysia are actually owned by the Malaysian government. Sadly, due to the ongoing rivalry between these two sister nations, not much has been done in order to improve the railway link between the two countries and all the great opportunities to build a more ecological and highly efficient high speed link beteween Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand have been wasted so far.
Along Bukit Timah Road there is a small path going up a slope, leading to the Bukit Timah railway station. I must have passed by a million times without knowing until the day I saw a small signboard leading up the trail. I do not think that any trains are still stopping here. However, the building is still manned with one or two people and there is a proper plattform, even though it looks a bit overgrown.

These are just a few examples of a growing collection. By the time this project will be finished, some will be gone, some places will be transformed into something new, and some will still be the same, withstanding the pressure of modernisation.

What to buy in Dec. 2010

November 26, 2010

Nick Brandt: A Shadow Falls

In 2005 former film maker Nick Brandt published his first photo book “On this Earth” with black & white images from Africa. The book was a great success. Brandt showed astonishing images of elephants, zebras, giraffes, and other animals. All pictures were taken on film, handmade, and amazingly beautiful in their composition, toning, and lighting. The book showed African wild animals in their natural habitat and I never stopped wondering how the photographer managed to get this close using analog cameras like hasselblads etc.

This year Nick Brandt published another book about Africa. The theme is pretty much the same as in his former book. But this time the format of the edition is larger, and I think they even went a step further in their choice of paper and print quality.
The result is another beautiful edition with breathtaking images. You open the book and every image lets you drop your jaws, literally! I am usually not very much into Nature Photography and would always prefer portraits of people over landscapes and especially pet photography. But these images show so much character and beauty that I didn’t hesitate a second before I purchased this book.

Surprisingly the volume is not even that expensive and can easily be purchased here. I strongly recommend this to everyone who appreciated good craft and the beauty of imaging!

Also, check out Nick Brandt’s website for examples of his images. I cannot show them here due to copyright reasons.

Youth Olympic Games

October 24, 2010

Impressions from the Singapore Youth Olympic Games 2010 (Fencing):

Street Market Impressions

April 30, 2010

Thailand, 2010: This is one of the street markets in Bangkok where tourists can buy all kinds of clothes, souvenirs, furniture, art…basically everything! It’s a unique atmosphere, in dim light with stall after stall. It’s hot and humid and the people working here spend the whole day in a neon lit box, waiting for people to buy something. The atmosphere is rather peaceful though. Thais are not aggressive sellers and you can spend the whole day strolling through the market without being pulled inside all the time. In China I usually get claustrophobic after one hour.

I am surprised that it was possible to take images with my Hasselblad and a Fuji Provia400x slide film. Fortunately, neon light is a superb source of lighting for photography!

Here are the images:

This was actually supposed to become a book…

In January 2009 I started a new project that with the (draft) name “Singapore Ink”. The background was a friendship with an old dive buddy of my wife’s who is running a tattoo shop in Singapore’s “Far East Plaza Shopping Mall”. ‘Jaws’, as he is known, is one of the most original and nicest people I know in Singapore. At times he looks a bit like a character from a Hong Kong gangster movie. He is tattooed all over his body and with his long hair and kinky beard he definitely stands out in a place like Singapore. Moreover, apart from having been a professional diver, fish farm owner etc., he is an excellent tattoo artist with a special reputation in town. This is what I wanted to portrait in my project.

Well, the book never materialized. But I managed to produce a number of images that I am quite happy with. And despite the fact that it not (yet) going to be published on paper, at least I can show parts of it online and I hope some people will appreciate it.

Even though the project was about Jaws the artist, the series of pictures was neither supposed to be about tattoos nor about Jaws as a person. What I wanted to portrait was the workshop and the process involved when creating tattoos. Tattoo shops have a special atmosphere. People walk inside with a certain attitude that makes them different from retailers that sell fashion, or for example hair dressers. Tattoos are something permanent and you put a lost of trust in the person who is going to work on your skin and change it forever. So who are these people and what makes us feel comfortable in their place?
The series starts with a number of images that show the daily routine in the shop. These black and white pictures are more like an introduction and were shot on 35mm film.

After the introduction, i.e text plus black and white images for illustration purposes, the ‘book’ starts with the main series of color ‘plates’. These were taken on 120 film with a Hasselblad 500CM and a Pentax 67 camera. The tattoo room was very small which made taking pictures everything but easy. For many angles I could not use my tripod since I was climbing onto chairs, crawling on the floor, or squeezing behind tattoo equipment. The lighting also brought a number of challenges. I used ASA 400 slide film which made it possible to shoot without tripod, but also lead to a green cast due to the existing working lights. I learned to appreciate the mood and atmosphere that came with it, though!

Inge Morath: FIRST COLOR

It’ s been a while since I recommended a book. It’s a shame because I had made this a monthly habit and I was always proud of the quality of the books I had in my blog. However, I have become more and more bored with what’s in the market. Actually it might even be a certain frustration with photography in general. For me photography means images of people. I like to look at landscapes and architecture, too, but for my own work I am mostly focused on portraits. This is what I am most fascinated in: human characters, behavior, emotions etc. Once I read something like: “A good portrait is when you manage to get someone interested in the image of a person he/she does not know”. So that’s what I am after: real people, real characters, real emotions, real life!

Frustratingly (for me): Nowadays most photography is not about real people anymore but about certain prototypes, stereotypes, ideals of beauty, whatever. Sometimes I have the impression that fashion photography has taken over and it’s all about creating artificial arrangements, and the people photographed play a certain role, something which has very little or nothing to do what they really are. I am looking at hundreds of images every week. When you do this you start seeing patterns, trends, styles that start repeating themselves. So, after the 1000th half (or completely) naked girl standing at a window with a melancholic look on her face (or alternatively lying on a bed), you start getting really really bored! The same applies to certain photo shop techniques, over-saturation/desaturation, high contrast, whatever. In our world of fashion, advertising, and model culture, straight forward portrait photography that tries to actually ‘portrait’ the subject, showing the inner self, literally seems to be “out of fashion”.

So today when I was walking into my favorite photo art bookshop in Singapore, I was positively surprised to see a new edition of Inge Morath’s work, in color.

For people who don’t know: Inge Morath was one of the first members of MAGNUM photo agency and is mostly famous for her black and white portraits of actors and other celebrities in the 1950s and 1960s. She belongs to that ‘leica generation’ of photo journalists who shaped our view of that era. The fact that she was married to Arthur Miller makes her even more interesting. So while I used to know her mainly for her b/w portrait work, this volume is actually a collection of color photographs she took during travels to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and America. The images are mostly documentary and show people in their daily life, on the street, during festivals etc.

What attracted me to this book was

1. The colors. This book is A DREAM IN KODACHROME! Beautiful colors in the subtle tones that made this film so popular and typical for the 1950s – 1970s.

2. There s nothing pretentious about these images. They show real people in their real life. It’s like a window into an era that we only know in black and white and from old Hollywood movies.

I was amazed about the quality of the photographs, their sharpness and truthfulness of the colors. MAGNUM obviously did a good job in storing the negatives. There is no yellow or red touch to the pictures. They look as if they were taken yesterday which makes the experience even more fascinating and a joy to look at. And there is nothing “old” about the imaging, even though they are +50 years old. I am also not saying that back then was the “real” photography and today everything is fake. But apart from mainly Eastern European (especially Russian) photographers I find much of the new digital stuff very pretentious, commercial, more like action art than photography, and too much fashion orientated. Many portraits show stereotypes but not real characters I can identify myself with. Translating this into movies, I am afraid I am not the “Avatar” type but rather into character drama. Maybe I am getting older, too 😉

As so many books I have recommended, this is on sales and be purchased here! The volume is beautifully published by MAGNUMSteidl and printed on paper that does the images the justice they deserve.