Odd

2020, Photography, thoughts

Odd, as strange or unexpected. That is how March 28 eventually turned out to be.

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We all live in strange times this year. And some families have been hit hard, really hard, with a virus called Covid-19 a.k.a. Coronavirus. Lockdown, social distancing, toilet paper, ICU’s, doctors, nurses, deaths, many deaths, uncertainties, pneumonia, China, Italy, Spain, disturbing low oxigen levels, UK, the States, mad man, more deaths, clapping, testing, shortness of breath, masks, post poned, canceled, more mad men, high fever, herd immunity, financial crisis, unemployment, and strange blood clots.

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I had been feeling kind of sick since mid February, and while the news picked up about the Coronavirus, it kept on working. On February 27 apparently patient zero was identified in the Netherlands (later specialists estimated that the virus was already here mid February). On March 9 we were told in the Netherlands to not shake hands anymore, to cough or sneeze in your elbow, wash your hands for 20 seconds, and to use disinfectant. Still more patients came into ICU’s and on March 11 more precautions were taken.

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On March 11 I started a training at work. That night Trump ordered a travel ban for Europeans to the States, and quarantine countermeasures for Americans returning home. Our American trainer hastly left the hotel and returned to the US forgetting us to inform us she abruptly left.

So March 12 turned out to be my last day at the office. From March 15 we were ordered to work at home. Schools, colleges, and universities were closed. The next week I lost smell and taste. Sometimes I coughed and I lost my voice. I had no fever though and very little shortness of breath. So nothing to worry about, but from March 26 I felt to sick to work.

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I was mostly tired, still didn’t smell and taste that much, and had a general sense of illness. March 28 I regurarly walked against tables and chairs. Not really disturbing at all, it was just odd. Later Saturday night I got a headache, started to feel uncomfortably tired, and all I wanted to do is sleep. Everything happened in slow motion in my head. I could talk, but talked like a drunken man according to my wife. She was worried, but since I was sick she gave me rest and I immediatelly felt a sleep on the couch.

Later that night I informed here I felt better and that it all felt okay in my head. On Sunday March 29 she still was cautious. Cause my son had a stroke late 2015 they requested me to come to the hospital.

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There I underwent numerous tests and they told me I had a mini-stroke, a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Probably because I had no short breathness that didn’t test me for Covid-19 at that time. The CT-scan, the electrocardiogram, blood test, it all took a lot of time. It became an odd evening.

Now I think I may be fortunate enough, and after four weeks of being mostly exhausted I’m gaining strength and more awareness. I have no headaches anymore, walk and cycle a lot, and enjoy photography again. I don’t feel that odd anymore.

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So stay safe, look after one another, and be kind to each other. Peace.

PAD photography, photo a day, stroll photography, Wouter Brandsma, Ricoh GR

September update

2018, Photography, thoughts

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I’m sorry it took so long to post something new on my blog. Working, commuting, family, it all consumed a lot of time. In between I still try to photograph, a bit. The pictures will follow later, but I thought it was time for an update and some thought.

So Ricoh announced the GRIII a day before the Photokina 2018 opening. The GR series are basically the only cameras that really interests me. I’ve been using it since the end of 1996. 12 years with the GR1, and since 2009 with the GRD1, GRD3, and from 2013 the GR. While I love the concept of the GR series, I also believe that going digital caused scope creep with the designers. The digital GR cameras became programmable machines, and all I tried to do was make it more simple in it’s usability.

You see, the 1996 GR1 was a simple camera to operate. Choose your aperture or put it in P-mode. The only add-on was exposure compensation. Simple. My GR though has Tav mode, many programmable buttons, a rocker dial on the back that is as unpredictable as the weather in West Europe. So all I did, was choosing one aperture, ISO 1600, and using the zoom button for exposure compensation.

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When I look at the back of the new GRIII prototype the user interface has changed. Less options, it seems. I’m personally glad that they ditched the flash, and that the GR has no tilted screen. I hope it can still be operated with only my right thumb. I will hopefully figure this out soon. More about that later.

Street photography. It seems no other genre in photography gets people more opinionated. While I wouldn’t call myself a street photographer I admit taking a lot of photographs that others think is street photography. I don’t take these however with street photography as my intent. With the new GDPR legislation that took place in May this year it is good to think about this intent. There is more protection now for the individual and personal data. And photographers are part of the personal data too. Cause I think honesty and respect are of the utmost importance, I think it will also alter my photography. And strangely though I find this very exciting.

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So here both above mentioned subjects come together. Earlier this year I was interviewed for a German street photography magazine, Soul of Street Photography & Philosophy. It was as a joy to be interviewed by someone I know. It allowed us to dig a bit deeper in my reasoning, and thought process. So what has this all to do with Ricoh and street photography? Upcoming Saturday, 29 September 2018, Ricoh Germany and the Soul of Street magazine invite users and enthusiasts of all GR camera generations to the first GRmany Meet & Greet. It will take place from 10 am to 6 pm at stand A041 in hall 2.2 at Photokina. In their “photographers corner” the people of the Soul of Street Photography & Philosophy magazine and some GR-photographers from the PxP-Portfolio will be there, including me. So maybe I see you in Cologne. And the magazine, it is available here.

Don’t know, do know

2018, photograph, Photography, thoughts

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So President Putin and Trump met each other in Helsinki. I don’t know really what to think of it, but the outcome felt like a definite shift of power. The world order we got to know, and grew up in, feels changed now. For some that might be a fantastic moment, for others it could be the end of their world. I don’t know if it is good or wrong. On the one side you have an elected president who I seriously doubt is fit for office, although my view might likely be influenced by my European more left of the political center position, and on the other side a president who was a former KGB agent. I don’t know, but both don’t really give me confidence to trust them.

I grew up in the Cold War and thought 9 November 1989 was like the most important day in my life, when the gates in the Berlin Wall stood wide open. There was the East and the West, until that moment when the Cold War came gradually to an end and the Soviet Union crumbled down. I knew there was no right or wrong, even though they kind of taught us so. I guess, there are wrongdoing rightly people and vice versa.

No matter where my thoughts and sentiments wander, it becomes obvious that the world isn’t right or wrong, isn’t all white or black. And the same can I say about my photography. While much of my work was black and white, it’s message or feelings was originally intended to be somewhere between it. After years passed by, and melancholy filled it in more often, it started to feel too much like black and white to me.

Therefore I decided to stop doing black and white photography for now. Also I deleted all my black and white photographs on my Instagram account. I still appreciate the beauty and simplicity of black and white, but really like the diversity of color now. Color isn’t just what you see. There is so much more to it. Just take a look at some of the movies by Wong Kar-Wai from Hong Kong.

It just fits me better right now. It provides me with a new set of challenges. Just to say, I’m curious how my photographs look in color.

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Choices

Photography, thoughts

So often we say that whatever you do in life it is all a choice. But what is the meaning and value of choices when the decisions are made by others? When you’re just a mere part of a greater scheme of things? Or when you’re only option left is not really a choice anyway?

While it was a choice for many Syrians to stand up for democracy against a dictatorship, it wasn’t their choice that over 20 countries used, the protester’s desire for democracy and prosperity, as a theatre of proxy wars.

It can be a choice to vote someone mentally unfit or psychopathic into office, but in the end we’re all left harmed with the consequences.

It is sad and heartbreaking when you think you’re only option left is stepping out of this life. Thinking this week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. But also my former colleague David who committed suicide three years ago. Mental illness should be taken seriously. It can do harm to those affected, while family and friends ultimately left behind.

It is sad and heartbreaking when you’re being sick and your death sentence is already signed. And the only option remaining was certainly not the choice you wanted to make.

It is sad and heartbreaking that you’re choice is unwanted by others. Thinking of those who decided to leave their motherland, seeking peace, safety, and prosperity, but you’re not wanted by others.

I can’t give any sensible advice, I think. I don’t have a top 5 list with things to do. All I can say is to talk with one another. Respect each other and cherish all things in life, the beauty and ugliness, in all it’s purity. Just beware of the red signs and try to respond accordingly. I guess.

Photograph by Wouter Brandsma

Inspiration

2018, Photography, thoughts

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I’ve thought quite a long time about this blog post. What inspires me? Not only in my photography, but as a person in general? I strongly believe that the way you photograph says a lot about you.

So my inspiration. My inspiration comes from many things, but I’d like to mention a few. It inspires me to see or feel differently. Allows me to get in a flow, or to do some mind traveling.

Music

I wished I was good at making music. Except from playing a couple of chords on a guitar, my musical talents are very limited. I do however love listening to music. And one of my favorite singer/songwriter is Jeff Buckley. Tragically, he died three years after releasing his only studio album in 1994. I still think ‘Grace’ is one of the best albums ever released.

His voice was like a music instrument and could transfer so many emotions. It always hits me.

I was born in ‘73 and grew up listening to Pink Floyd and Abba in particular, thanks to my parents. It was however ‘Ten’ by Pearl Jam that greatly influenced me, more than Nirvana. For me, like many of my generation, it echoed so many of our sentiments in the early Nineties.

And when it comes to bands I’m all in for Radiohead. There are not many bands that keep evolving like Radiohead. Other bands I like are the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, dEUS, Sigur Rós, Soundgarden, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Tragically Hip, and Young the Giant.

Reading

Although I had to read a lot of novels for school, I’m not a huge fan of fiction. Although not too long ago I read a wonderful book (Dutch) ‘Meester Mitraillette’ by the Belgian writer Jan Vantoortelboom about the first World War in Flanders.

Instead I love to read travel stories. Redmond O’Hanlon for instance, or Bruce Chatwin who died way too soon. For me, one of the greatest novelists and travel writer is Paul Theroux. I absolutely adore his travel books. Especially ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’, ‘The Old Patagonia Express’, and ‘Riding the Iron Rooster’ were for me great travel books.

When reading these stories I just closed my eyes and the colorfully described scenes allowed me to sense the sights and sounds.

Magazines

Back in the days when I was young I just loved to read magazines. Windsurfing, mountainbiking, photography. My number one magazine was National Geographic. It was the combination of geography, social issues, adventure, traveling, history, and photography, lots of great photography. All the things I love and am generally interested in.

So it was the reportages photographed by the likes of Sam Abell, William Albert Allard, David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb that caught my attention.

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And more

And so I could probably mention many other things that inspired me. The drawings by Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer‘s paintings, ‘Hollandse Luchten’ (Dutch light), William Eggleston and his color photography, among many things.

My wife and children, friendships, great colleagues, the daily commutes, road trips.

What inspires you?

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma