one day at a time

down below

© Verena Fischer 2013

Berlin | © Verena Fischer 2013

This was taken at the station Nollendorfplatz when I was on my way to the Viktoria-Luise-Platz to check out a Micro Four Thirds camera in a shop. I have taken a picture of a similar detail at another station in Berlin (see it here) and find these structures really interesting.

© Verena Fischer 2013

Berlin | © Verena Fischer 2013

The shadows and reflections in this are really nice. The shot turned out a bit underexposed, so I had to live with a bit of noise, but I think in this one it actually helps to give it a less plasticky feel. It’s always hard to judge the exposure on the screen when it’s relatively dark anyway, pictures usually seem much brighter than they are in dark surroundings and much darker in bright ones. I took a second shot, but it was less interesting.

© Verena Fischer 2013

Berlin | © Verena Fischer 2013

The reflections on the barrier were what drew me to take this shot. It just needed the right person to walk into the frame.

All pictures taken with my Canon EOS 450D and my Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 about 2 weeks ago.

In between editing and post-processing I also found the time to read a couple more of Thomas Leuthard’s ebooks on street photography. His approach is not really my kind of style and I have difficulty getting close enough, but it’s worth trying out just to change the perspective. I went out with my 50mm lens as a result to reading his ebooks – I preferred my 35mm lately – and got some shots that wouldn’t have worked with the 35mm lens. Well worth the effort. I’m not sure yet whether I will be trying to get closer – maybe a bit too confrontational for my liking – but it’s always interesting to try new things.

His book also prompted me to think about the legal side of street photography again. Maybe you don’t know this, but in Germany candid street photography is actually illegal, because every person has a right to their picture. Theoretically I would have to ask *before* taking a picture and have them sign a model release form after. Not my style at all. I don’t really like posed pictures, because everyone has an “oh god someone is taking a picture” facial expression, which is usually rather wooden. Even I myself do it without noticing! The prime example is my dad: I have quite a number of pictures of him and his facial expression is always exactly the same. Somewhere I have this particularly funny series of posed family pictures. When you look at them in sequence then everyone changes their expression slightly from picture to picture, except for my dad, who could have just as well been a statue. Point is, posed pictures usually look rather weird and unnatural.

Even if I go the half legal way of asking afterwards and making them sign I would probably lose 90% of my pictures, because people really like to have things “proper” over here. Yesterday someone was telling me off for not asking before taking a picture and I said that it just wouldn’t look natural that way, I could delete the picture though if he wanted. He didn’t insist on it in the end. It tells you that people don’t have a problem with the picture taking in general, but rather with it not being according to the “rules”. Very German. I always respect it when someone asks me to delete a picture, but hardly anyone ever does.

Weirdest thing: I repeatedly got asked to delete pictures I haven’t even taken though! The most recent one was on the subway when I was looking at the pictures on my camera. A girl sitting across from me asked me to delete the picture I just took of her. Well, I hadn’t taken one! I took a picture of the guy next to her a minute before, maybe that’s why she suspected it, but she sure was too boring herself for me to be interested. And she wouldn’t have fit in the frame with her massive newspaper in the way anyway. I looked at her strangely and said “I didn’t take a picture” in a way that implied that I wouldn’t even consider it, which she answered with an annoyed pout. The paranoid ones are usually the most boring people anyway. Besides, I only take pictures of people on the subway who are not paying any attention to me at all. Since you can’t get away quickly, taking a picture openly would be too confrontational. People with phones or deeply in conversation might end up a subject, but hardly ever anyone who would notice it. Some arrogant hipster girl pretending to read an intelligent newspaper, which is too big for the subway? Nah, too pretentious anyway. Especially when she’s constantly looking around for people’s reactions. Well, I guess paranoia is the downside of walking around with a big DSLR, I guess.

Normally people will know that I’m taking a picture. Not necessarily of them, but generally yes. I just don’t do confrontational stuff in tight spaces like on the subway. And if I do take a picture there then it’s usually not for keeping. There is usually no real context, the lighting is weird and so these pictures hardly make it into any final selection. It’s like taking a picture of a weird sign. You snap it because it’s there, but not because it’s going to be good.

This whole episode with the pretentious hipster girl made me realise that generally I hardly take pictures of people who actually think they are interesting or pretty. Attitudes tend to get amplified on pictures and I don’t like this kind of attitude in general. Usually such people are just a copy of a copy of a copy and don’t even know it. They are usually not even a good stereotype, because underneath all the boringness shines through. Around here these same people seem to be the people who want to have things done properly, the German way. Maybe that’s why hardly ever anyone apart from such people asks me to delete a picture: only weird people mind it. I only ever take pictures of such people by accident and often come to regret it afterwards. I think the weirdest experience like this was someone who first walked into my frame deliberately, thereby ruining the picture, and then actually wanted me to delete it. I think at that point I even got a little bit insulting, because it seemed that this person just wanted to be particularly annoying.

As long as I stay away from the boring and overly German people I don’t really get much confrontation with my street photography, even though it’s pretty much illegal.

6 responses

  1. Very interesting. In the UK it is legal to shoot in public spaces but people are very sensitive about taking pictures of children and anything to do with security. The shots you took on the train would be suspect over here because the train is owned by the train company.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    • Yeah, I think I once tried to take a picture in a train station in the UK and suddenly the police started questioning me. Very odd. In the end I had to delete the picture and they left me alone. People over here are also sensitive about taking pictures of children, but then they are usually the ones doing the most interesting stuff. I’ve decided to take pictures of kids anyway, but of course within the limits of reason.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

  2. Wow, I didn’t know street photography could be actually illegal. Presumably the answer is to be as hidden and discreet as possible, which is what I tend to do on the rare occasions I attempt it. I really like the tone and feel of your latest shots, by the way.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    • Thank you Mike! Yeah, the legal situation is a bit of a grey area here. Technically it’s illegal, practically it’s hardly ever prosecuted. If someone were to object to having their picture taken though, they could probably sue me. Eek. Nevermind though, no risk, no fun😉

      April 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      • I quite agree! My tactic is to pretend I’m busy taking a photo of something else or remain practically invisible.

        April 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm

  3. I especially like the composition of the first photograph.
    Nice set of images, keep it up.

    April 20, 2013 at 6:41 pm

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