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:



September 5, 2009

Saigon 01
In July I went to Vietnam for two days. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) was till pretty much what I remembered from 2004 when my wife and I spend our honeymoon there. It’s a beautiful city, small compared to some other Asian metropolis but still the most vibrant place in Vietnam.
Saigon 06The city is dominated by the Saigon River and the old architecture which is a mix of French colonial building, Art Deko, and of course the concrete of the sixties and the seventies. The people still seem to be stuck between modernity and tradition which might have to do with the fact that many farmers come into town every day to sell their crop on the street. This is why amongst all the modern cars, scooters and smart dressed people you still see a lot of the traditional cone hats which are so typical for Vietnam.
Saigon 03 The architecture and the people are wht give Saigon its uniqueness and special flair. The downtown are is not that big so it makes sense just to walk around and let the impressions sink in. The way will take you along the central squares, the war museum (lots of nasty American weapons displayed), parks, French villas, hotels with big names, all in an atmosphere that makes you feel like being in another era.

For the photographer Saigon is heaven since the (friendly) people and the historical backdrop make it easy to find what you are looking for. It’s hard to escape the stereotype but who cares…

All images were taken with a Leica M6 on Kodak BW400CN film.
Saigon 04

going home?

August 6, 2009

Cologne Cathedral & Train Station, 2008:
Hauptbahnhof 2008
This week we will go to Germany and spend the summer holidays with my parents in Cologne/Germany. A lot of people ask me if I am “happy to go home?”.
“HOME”, what is that? I left Cologne about eight years ago. After that I spent two years in Singapore, then five years in Shanghai, and after a job change me and my family settled down in Singapore again in 2008. Even in Germany I have lived in different places, Cologne was just the last one. I go back maybe once or twice a year, usually only for a few days.
People tend to define you by the region/country/city that you come from. In the old days that would have been the place where you were born, where your family and childhood friends live. In Chinese that even translates to “Ancestral District”. But today people are on the move. We change jobs, cities, houses, even friends frequently. Even out parents move, so what remains of our childhood home? Just a fading memory? How shall we define ourselves in these times and how do we define the place that we call home without letting this term becoming an empty phrase for something like “temporary residence”?

As for myself, I have started to make home literarily “where my heart is”. That is my wife and my children. As long as I am together with them, I fell at home, and at peace with myself. Nevertheless I feel that every place on this planet where I have spent some time, where I felt attached, belongs to me and my life. In this respect there are many places that I could call home. Where ever we go, we leave a trace and that’s how it should be!

Downtown Tokyo: April 2009
Tokyo 07
In April 2009 I visited Tokyo for the first time in my life. I had never been to Japan and I was really looking forward to it.
I think most people who visit Japan for the first time are probably a bit disappointed at first glance. Tokyo has very little of the traditional Japan. Having been to most Asian capitals like Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Saigon, and other major Asian cities, to me this seemed to be the prototype of all Asian city planners. It’s the cleanest city I’ve ever seen (even beating Singapore or Zurich!), and so orderly and organized, it’s almost scary. Unlike my Chinese experience, everyone is polite, leaves you space to breathe, and neither steps onto your feet nor bumps into you without apologizing. How nice!
Whatever there must have been of traditional buildings, must have been whipped out either by American fire bombs during WWII, or by Japanese bulldozers afterwards. Tokyo seems to be the most modern looking city I’ve ever seen.

However, said that, on second glance there is this element of chaos which seems to be lurking beneath all the orderliness, tidiness and cleanliness. The Japanese seem to have found a way to quietly protest against this boredom of order by adding little, almost invisible details of rebellion.

Tokyo 02 I found these in details on the street like this arrangement of tree/sign/bike along the most busy and expensive shopping street of Tokyo.

Another way of resisting the overwhelming pressure to conform with the mainstream is the fashion. Young people in Tokyo love to add details to their appearance which first surprise and irritate you, before you start to appreciate and admire their style which defies all standards of fashion and sets something typical Japanese.

Tokyo 06 The individualism of Japanese youth and their way of dressing is so profoundly Japanese and Asian that they were able to set their own fashion standards, different from the American/European fashion mainstream. Not surprising for a country that has a long history of design and aesthetics in everyday life. For me, the Japanese have a sense for shapes and composition that is not even matched by the Germans or Italians. No wonder they are also great in photography!
Walking around taking images in central Tokyo was great fun and I hope I will have the chance to go back next year. My HOLGA camera was the perfect tool to express what I saw and felt in Tokyo: the constant struggle between perfect order and anarchy!


April 22, 2009

Last week I watched a talk show on German TV. It was about new custody regulations for divorced families. The participants spent a lot of time argueing about whether the new regulations were defending the rights of the mother, the children, or the father. The main complaint was that without proper financial support from the father of the child the mother would have to go back to full time work which would then leave the children without anyone taking care, thus serious mental damage would be the result.

While I was listening to the discussion, I was constantly asking myself “Aren’t there people to support the single parent? Where is the family, the grandparents? That’s when I remembered this image that I took in Bangkok in February 2009:

I have been in Asia for eight years now and noticed that the the fact that nucleus family structures are mostly still intact, single parents still have support and back up, even after a divorce. Grandparents are traditionally the people who take care of children while parents are out to make money. This is their classic role and they do it very well.
In my experience, the more people a child has he/she can relate to, the healthier the child will grow up. These can be parents, grandparents, relatives, neighbors, teachers, friends… anyone really, as long as the relationships are stable and lasting.
I my opinion the problems in Germany are not caused by a lack of legislation (there’s plenty of it in Germany!), but due to the fact that families are to small. If there are only The parents and the child(ren) then there is no one to fill the gap when one person leaves.

I always find it very refreshing to see Asian families still helping each other!

the boxer

March 19, 2009

Two weeks ago I was in Bangkok again. There was some free time so I decided to go to the area where I had stayed as a backpacker, back in 1992 (Yes, I am that old!). Strolling through the small alleys behind Kao San Road, I discovered a kickboxing hall where a foreigner was practicing with his Thai sparring partner. Lighting conditions were far from ideal and I only had my Leica with a 50mm lens. Not quite the stuff to take images of fast moving fighters.
However, a few shots came out quite nicely and reflect the dim and steamy atmosphere of the place quite well. Bangkok’s back alleys are fascinating, full of life and character.

Most of these shots I am converting into black & white. However, this one is doing great in color, too!


December 4, 2008

This Sunday I was supposed to go to Bangkok for a three day business trip. Well, I had to cancel the flight due to the occupation of Bangkok International Airport by anti government protesters. 350,000 tourists stranded in Thailand for days, sounds terrible, doesn’t it! Or not?

Well, despite the events of the last weeks, for me Thailand remains one of the most wonderful countries in the world with most friendly people. And I am really looking forward to my next trip. The airport is open again so this should only be a couple of weeks away!

The images were taken with a HOLGA, along SUKKHUMVIT Road, Bangkok.