Fotoeins Fotografie

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Posts from the ‘Expression’ category

Photography as personal expression

My Berlin: Hauptstadt Memories, 2010-2011

Above: “Pe(a)rlin’ in Berlin”, Hackescher Markt – 16 March 2011 (HL).

Berlin is one of my favourite cities in the world. From the moment I stepped foot inside the German capital city for the first time in 2002, it’s been an ongoing love story. I’m convinced the “Hauptstadt” will always be worth photographing; it’s my “long game.” Naturally, there are a massive number of sights throughout Berlin, and I’ve always combined public transport with plenty of walking. In fact, traveling 10 to 20 kilometres per day throughout the city is pretty much the norm. These photographs are personal observations and measurements of location, geometry, and motion.

The pictures and memories may be from years past, but all of the them retain their contemporary nature: images which include quiet snowy Christmas, an important memorial, and pieces of architectural design.

Neues Museum, Hauptstadt, Berlin, Germany,

“Closing time”, Neues Museum – 24 December 2010 (HL)

Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Platz, Hauptstadt, Berlin, Germany,

“Vacant”, Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz – 24 December 2010 (HL)

2. Weihnachtstag, Boxing Day, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin, Germany,

“2. Weihnachtstag (2nd day of Christmas)”, Hauptbahnhof – 26 December 2010 (HL)

U6 Stadtmitte, Mohrenstrasse Ecke Charlottenstrasse, Berlin, Germany,

“Blizzard”, Mohrenstrasse at Charlottenstrasse – 27 December 2010 (HL)

Jüdischer Friedhof, Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Spandauer Vorstadt, Berlin, Germany,

“Nie wieder (never again)”, Old Jewish Cemetery – 16 March 2011 (HL); see also here and here

Domaquarée, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, Berlin, Germany,

“Duo”, CityQuartier DomAquarée – 17 March 2011 (HL)

Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, Germany,

“Shiny”, Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse – 19 March 2011 (HL)

Ritz Carlton, Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany,

“Dusk”, Beisheim Center – 19 March 2011 (HL)

Postscript: As I look at these pictures years later, I wondered how I came to make many pictures of stairs and escalators in the relative quiet of the city around Christmas 2010. Had I already subconsciously incorporated the way I was seeing the world through my pictures my big life transition the following year (2011)?

More Hauptstadt Memories

•   My Berlin: Mitte on Christmas Eve (2010)
•   2009 to 2010
•   2005 to 2009

I made the pictures above on 24-27 December 2010 and 16-19 March 2011. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as

The place where I died

With these pictures, I explore the perspective of witnessing a parent’s unstoppable decline to the end. While there are no pictures of my father in this set, I give voice to growing distress at his final journey as my gaze drifted externally to the hospital itself and immediate surroundings. Northern summers, specifically August, now mean something entirely different.

On 19 July 2014, Dad was taken to Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital after he had a minor fall down the stairs at home. No bones were broken, which was remarkable considering his worsening health in the final stages of cancer. He would never return to the house in which he and Mum had bought and lived since 1976.

By the 2nd week, he had been moved to the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) on the 10th floor. The wonderful hospital staff took great care of him and other patients in the unit. Dad charmed the PCU staff by chatting with them in broken English; it was his way of exerting some measure of control.

Into week 3, his mind and spirit had departed, and he had become completely unresponsive. Over the next five days, his body remained, breathing steady, though often shallow and laboured. He was calm and at peace, and thanks to the meds, with diminished pain. I was with Dad a part of every day for the following 21 days until his death on 9 August; he had celebrated his 82nd birthday a few weeks earlier.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(1) Inside the room

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(2) Out the window

I looked out the windows to summer skies, to tell him the city he’d known for over 40 years was still out there. I was also in a hot rage because the rest of the world continued on unworried and uncaring, leaving Dad and the suffering and the dying behind. Entropy is all fine a concept until it reaches out and fucks with your reason for being.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(3) From the bed

St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(4) DIGS, Downtown Intercultural Gardeners’ Society

Bute and Davie, West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(5) Light

St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(6) The spot

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(7) Lounge

There’s a lounge area for family and friends, down the hallway at some distance from patients’ beds. In the lounge are couches, chairs, a piano, books, and a small kitchenette with a fridge, microwave, and a place to make coffee or tea. There’s also a small balcony with additional deck chairs for people to sit outside in the shade; the balcony is where I made pictures (6) above and (12) below. With the lounge at the building’s southwest corner, there’s an outstanding west-facing view to the rest of downtown, the West End, and English Bay.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(8) Passage

This corridor in the PCU connects the lounge area with staff offices, examination rooms, and patients’ rooms. By day or night, it’s generally quiet: it’s not an eerie atmosphere, but it’s more like a respectful state of mind.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(9) Celebration of Light

Next to the PCU on the 10th floor, there’s a section where the windows next to the elevators face west to English Bay. We watch the annual summer fireworks through the glass. There are subdued voices, interrupted by the sounds of mobile phones as people attempt to take pictures. There’s no shouting, whooping, or clapping. Patients, family and friends, and on- and off-shift staff all gaze equally and quietly, beyond the glass, beyond the lights, and into the Salish Sea. (I also wrote about this remarkable experience.)

Law Courts, Arthur Erickson, Robson Square, downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada

(10) Lattice

St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(11) Helmcken

By this point, Dad had become a shell. His spirit had departed days earlier, and his body was hanging on. His eyes, open and unseeing. His mouth, open and sunken. His skin, smooth yet cool to the touch. He looked like a breathing ghost, but a part of him stuck around. And so, I stroked his cheek with the back of my fingers, and I held onto his arm, knowing fully he could no longer acknowledge me. Did I tell him all the things I wanted to say? No, but I had hoped my presence provided some comfort over this time. What I feared most was not the deterioration or the inevitable, but that he was trapped somewhere and unable to communicate. I whispered into his ear: “it’s okay, Dad. We’re all good. You can go when you’re ready.” I repeated this in both English and Toisan for several days.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(12) Last twilight

From the lounge balcony, I made the picture of his final sunset. While he could no longer “see”, I hoped he could sense the shift between day and night. Hours later at 610am on the 9th of August 2014, Dad breathed his last and slipped quietly into the eternal sea. When I got the phone call, I felt some relief for him, that his ordeal was finally over. That respite was quickly replaced by the empty vacuum that comes with losing a parent. Even now, years have passed, but I still relive moments of 3 weeks with Dad in the hospital.

Palliative Care Unit, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada

(13) Notice

This post appears on fotoeins DOT com as I made all of the pictures between 31 July and 8 August 2014. All pictures were at St. Paul’s Hospital except number 5 at the corner of Bute St. and Davie St. and number 10 at the Law Courts building.

Some may recognize the similarity of my post title with “The X-Files” episode “The Field Where I Died” which is a personal favourite. Those familiar with the episode will also know this video excerpt with this music score.

Lands End, Sutro Baths, Point Lobos, Pacific Ocean, San Francisco, CA, USA, myRTW,

21 sonic landmarks to travel by

Featured: Late-winter sun over Lands End, San Francisco – 18 Mar 2012 (HL).

These are sonic landmarks and signposts marking passages of time. They’re also some of my favourite tunes to set the tone by which I’ll travel or while away the hours. That’s when I allow my mind to wander in dreamless landscapes, disentangle wished-upon possibilities, trek through inaccessible realms, sail on faraway seas, and arrive at a distant universe where Dad’s kickin’ it large with age.

With a sprinkling of songs in German and Spanish, your kilometrage may vary with these songs between 1975 and 2017. Select a single track or the entire playlist; I hope you enjoy listening to one and all.

( Click here for more )

Oberstdorf, Oberbayern, Upper Bavaria, Bavaria, Allgaeu Alps, Alps, Germany,

Sunday night auf Deutsch in Oberstdorf

Why multiple languages rock my world

With fewer than ten-thousand inhabitants, Oberstdorf in southern Bavaria is as its German name suggests: an “upper village” tucked in the Allgäu Alps near the German-Austrian border. Yet, the town feels busy and full with skiiers, snowboarders, and winter hikers.

It’s Sunday night and I’m on the hunt for “schnitzel and spätzle.” With my eye already on a place, I arrive at 630pm to a full house. I don’t have a reservation (which is dumb in a small town), but a table of four is available (which is fortunate). The server offers me the table, with the condition I’ll be sharing the table if two people want places. “Alles klar,” I reply.

I order a standard half-litre Weizen beer, along with the required schnitzel-and-spätzle platter. An elderly couple is offered two places at my table; they take one glance in my direction, and they’re gone. The server wears a puzzled look, and I can only shrug. A second couple arrives ten minutes later, and as they approach my table with curiosity, I tell them “die Plätze sind noch frei” (the places are available). They express their thanks, and take their seats across from me. Those last five German words set a positive tone for the rest of the evening.

( Click here for more )

Home eye: a return to Vancouver streets (2013-2014)

What is “street photography”? How is street photography defined? Should it be defined? Who, if any, has the authority to define and maintain the definition? I presently subscribe to Eric Kim’s definition, but it’s important for people to photograph as they wish and desire. Whatever people think in terms of their streets is entirely up to them.

When I returned to my hometown for an extended period, I returned to the streets to became familiar with them again. Street names have remained unchanged for the most part, although many buildings have long since been demolished and replaced by something else. When I first picked up a camera, I rarely turned the lens onto people. It’s been a slow evolving process to shift my camera onto scenes with people. With that in mind, I’m fortunate to have some shots with people in decent scenes mixed with good timing.

Faithful companion, The Wilder Snail, Strathcona, Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Faithful.” Strathcona – 28 Feb 2013.

I returned briefly to Vancouver after completing my year-long around-the-world trip. During a short walk through my neighbourhood, this corner café used to be one of many “corner” grocery stores where I’d sneak my allowance for a candy bar (or two or three). Naturally, Strathcona and its demographic have changed over the two decades I’ve been away. But one fact remains: dogs do civilize the place, don’t they?

Reflecting pool, Academic Quadrangle, The Quad, AQ, Simon Fraser University, SFU, Burnaby, BC, Canada,

“Alma mater.” Burnaby Mountain – 27 Feb 2013.

I spent five years on the main campus of Simon Fraser University. First came engineering; then came physics, along with several work semesters in the co-operative education program. Even among thousands of students, there’s quiet to be found on the summit of Burnaby Mountain; this image of the reflecting pond at the Quad1 will always be a little piece of time travel.

“Rebirth.” Vancouver Block reflected in new home of Nordstrom/Microsoft, downtown/CBD – 17 Jan 2014.

There’s a bus stop at the southeast corner of Granville at West Georgia in Vancouver’s downtown (CBD2). Like many, I’ve spent a lot of time here waiting for the bus to arrive. There’s change, as the old Eaton’s became Sears, and construction will soon give way to the home of Seattle’s Nordstrom and Microsoft. And then there’s history, and that’s where the Vancouver Block enters the picture.

“I see flakes.” Chinatown Plaza – 23 Feb 2014.
Neon at night, Chinatown Plaza, Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Chinatown neon” – 31 Jul 2014.

I have many childhood memories of neon lights in the city’s downtown and Chinatown districts. As neon signs have disappeared, one sign for Chinatown Plaza stands tall at the corner of Keefer and Columbia. The red and yellow are not only easily recognizable, but their “warmth” is as familiar to anyone who knows about Chinese culture.

Morning tai chi, MacLean Park, Strathcona, East Side, DTES, Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Morning flight.” Strathcona – 23 Mar 2014.

Not all Chinese have escaped Strathcona for the suburbs. The evidence is plain for all to see on clear mornings as senior citizens gather at the local park (“my park of childhood”) for their daily “tai chi.” Watching their deliberate motions reminds me that one day they’ll all soar to great heights, as my own father finally took flight in August 2014.

Dundarave, West Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Dundarave morning.” West Vancouver – 1 May 2014.

West Vancouver was always a mystery to us on the “East Side.” To us, the affluence, the fancy cars, and the Britishness of it all were as tangible as the aether. Even with years in between, I’ve come to Dundarave, and the mystery remains. I don’t know what prompted me to lift the camera and make this shot; there’s something about the person standing tall and hand firmly on their cane, about to cross 24th Street with the light.

Corner freeze, number 3, Burrard and Robson, downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Corner freeze.” Downtown/CBD – 22 May 2014.

I lucked out, because I managed to frame the shot with the appropriate depth of field. With the “bracket” provided by the person’s shoulder in the foreground, we see a variety of people in the background, waiting to cross Robson Street. I like the mix of residents, shoppers, tourists, singles, and couples.

“Duel.” Gastown/CBD – 28 Jun 2014.

This scene simply begged to be photographed. On a walking tour of the city’s historical Gastown, I had to be quick with the camera before another person crept into the field of view, or this fine white-bearded gentleman in a blue coat moved away from the Clint Eastwood cardboard cutout (“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”).

Thurlow and Comox, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Drive by, by day.” Downtown/CBD – 2 Aug 2014.

Thurlow and Comox, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Two bikes, at night.” Downtown/CBD – 8 Aug 2014.

There is a span of three weeks in the summer of 2014 which will not be easily forgotten. Every day, I visited my father in St. Paul’s Hospital, a place from which in his dying state he would not return. Living a life means a measure of self-control, and watching life slip away also means a loss of control. For me, these pictures of timing are a reenactment and momentary realization of control.

Chinatown, Vancouver, BC, Canada,

“Solter(r)a.” Chinatown – 23 Aug 2014.

“Solterra” is a Spanish compound word consisting of “sol” (sun) and “terra” (earth or ground). “Soltera” is the Spanish noun for a single unmarried woman. There’s delicious irony and paradox, and even a possible parable for local residents (yay) and developers (boo). I wrote more here and here.

1 Quad or AQ, for Academic Quadrangle.
2 CBD, for Central Business District.

I made all of the above photos in Vancouver, BC, Canada, from 2013 to 2014 inclusive. I made the cover/featured shot on 18 June 2013. I used a Canon 450D until its demise in August 2013; since then, I’ve been using a Canon 6D. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

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