Saturday, 12 January 2013

Krasnapolsky Boys and the death of photojournalism.

I'm sitting in the living room, trying to focus in an attempt to write a few words. But can I concentrate when this god-damned telly is broadcasting, or actually screaming out a fucking Mexican soap opera alternately with these no-body-gives-a-sugar ads?! Oh Jah man! Our modern world! People have enough of their own problems, yet they still crave more grief, sadness, misfortune, struggle and nuisance! But, would you know what's the funniest part of this? These brain-dead script-writers are being paid (much more than many of us) to generate artificial lives of their ever-in-difficulty characters of soap operas. Meanwhile, thousands of real people around the world struggle to survive and yet no body cares. Media aren't interested in these stories anymore. Photojournalism is dead. Neil Burgess, who is a former Chairman of World Press Photo, in his 2010 article writes 'Magazine supplements offer me less for a story which might be used over a cover and eight pages, than their associated paper pay me for a single picture of a celebrity'. If only our civilization could see... it'd see light at the end of a tunnel.

Busking on Amsterdam's Dam Square

To some extent I agree with Burgess' stance on dead photojournalism. Especially if you consider 'civilian journalism' and these multiplying like rabbits' smartphones. But on the other hand, there's a chance for this genre's rebirth. None of us are going to be the next Henri Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa. Forget about it. This game isn't about fame! It's all about giving some exposure to less or more important matters; documenting it and showing it to the public so hopefully something could be changed. Not instantly however, but at least the public would be aware of the issue.

One of the "Krasnapolsky Boys' is seen busking in Amsterdam's Dam Square

At the beginning of December 2012, I went over to Amsterdam. My previous post was a bit gloomy and dark sided, but that was 'the truth' as I seen it. However, I didn't mention one thing. A trio of open-minded and intelligent young Polish lads who I met there. As I had a good few joints with them, as well as just by myself, I forgot their names. What a faux pas! Excuse me! Thence, I'm forced to call them – the Krasnapolsky Boys, adapting the name after Amsterdam's five star hotel located on Dam Square, where the trio busked to make their living. An interesting fact is that Hotel Krasnapolsky was established in the late XIX century first as a restaurant, by a son of a Polish emigrant Adolph Wilhelm Krasnapolsky.

Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Dam Square, Amsterdam

Walking on the Dam Square I heard some drum and base like sounds. 'Hmm... interesting stuff', I thought and moved towards the source of it. Passing by when the music stopped, I heard one of the guys speak Polish. I couldn't do anything else but turn around, walk back and have a chat with them. The conversation started off in English to make sure that they were Polish. We began to talk and soon a lit spliff circulated around. Atmosphere was relaxed. It was cold and wet, but the Krasnapolsky Boys were in a very good mood even though they didn't know where they were going to sleep that night. They left Poland, because there's no hope nor future there, as they said. Busking was their plan for life, at least for now. They wanted to be happy and see some of the world, so the trio went over to Amsterdam to play a bit of drums, make enough money to survive and move on to a new place. Actually, only one of them played, while the other two (having learnt a pretty good American accent) were doing their best to attract the by-passers to stop for a while and listen to the sounds and drop a coin into their leather suitcase. That worked very well. Even I tried to help them by generating “traffic” just by standing around their busking mate.

This is all the gear that "Krasnapolsky Boys" used to make their living.

Both of the days I had been to Amsterdam, I went over to see the Krasnapolsky Boys to have a chat. They didn't make much money, but enough to survive. However, they seemed quite happy to me. With the on-going crisis in the whole Western world, youth has no opportunities to grow and develop. One could say: 'go to college, go study', but for what reason? The same answer I got from the trio. Slippy parchment isn't even good enough to wipe your ass with. These guys were Polish, but their example is universal. Today, over a half of Spain's and Greece's population aged under 25 are unemployed! The governments don't know what to do. So, they are placing bets on the economy, hoping that one of the coupons is the winning one. Sounds like a gamble with our lives and in my opinion, it is!

The boys counting their earning. Not much turnover, but enough to survive.

Photojournalism isn't dead! It's rotten by  money and consumptionism media that are trying to kill it. We live in a time of an awful propaganda that we aren't even aware of. In today's world we are  torn by a crisis of not only economies, but also the real values. There's enough work for anyone interested in photojournalism. We just have to look around ourselves. But, have in mind that nobody will be willing to pay for such work, unless one of the X-Factor 'celebrities' ends up as a crack junkie and you'd get a chance to capture their ugly drugged mug. Today only what's loud, blinking or flashing, and the most important, sellable is what media want. Stuff that photojournalism used to deal with isn't interesting any more to the dumbed down by propaganda majority. Who cares! Ahhh here... switch to 'Rosalinda' on your channel number 666 for some serious social issues.
Free media? Where in the world? Perhaps in People's Republic of China!

One of the boys is seen walking away as they finish their another "shift".

"The Krasnapolsky Boys". Good luck guys! All the best in 2013!

"The Krasnapolsky Boys". Good luck guys! All the best in 2013!
Neil Burgess article available here: “For God’s sake, somebody call it!”

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Amsterdam? Hey! Ho! Let's go!

Cutting through dense clouds and rocking the plane from side to side, the captain started to descend towards Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Touchdown! Boeing's wheels bumped of the runway bringing it back to the air for no longer than two seconds. A group of young Irish lads clapped timidly. Scared, eh? Afraid of getting lost in Amsterdam? This is what you boys came for! Welcome to Amster-fucking-dam!

An art-work seen through gallery's window.

The weather was awful. Cold and wet. Not much different to rainy Dublin on the day of my flight. Before I got off the plane I watched the airport crew getting soaked while unloading luggage containers. 'Fucking awesome', I said to myself 'enjoy your stay!'

Amsterdam at night

Unlike the shy boys from the back of the plane, I flew over not to get wasted. Well... that'd be a lie. Of course I couldn't say no to a few (or a few too many) big fat, legal spliffs! But my plan wasn't to party hard, get lost, wasted or raped by one of them silicon-boobed girls from behind the glass. I came in hope to capture the real Amsterdam, I mean the stuff behind all this dope, partying and noisy Brits. 

An emigrant from Venezuela is seen rolling a joint in the Leidsplein area. Just in front of the Bulldog Coffeshop

But, I didn't even know what was supposed to be the real Amsterdam. I had no plan of action. All I knew was that I was ready to wander around with my film Nikon, looking out for the city's real spirit. In a short space of time I learnt what this place was about.

Due to the number of spliffs I had I forgot their names. All I remember is that they were from Venezuela and Brazil and that they have lost their jobs and are unemployed now. The Brazilian, holding a joint, approached me asking for some coins to buy a bag of dope. Jah said to share, so I reached a bag of 'White Widow' in my pocket and shared a big fat spliff with mates in need.

Strangers in the night exchanged glances. 'Shhh', 'Pssst', 'Hey' voices called. I knew what those lone retailers wanted. Where the market is, the salespeople appear. I wasn't interested. Not my cup a' tea. I had pockets packed with the finest dope, so why would I bother with their gear? 'Fuck off' I thought, but at the same time asking myself how to take a few snaps of their business. That wasn't possible. I learned that two days obviously isn't enough time to capture the real spirit of Amster-fucking-dam. I'd need a month or two to get some quality shots. Nevertheless, I carried on wandering around stoned. Passing by one of the main streets I spotted a group of a very noisy British boys. They shouted something and I heard swoosh of a flying by bottle that soon shattered on a nearby wall. "Excellent!" I thought.
A Brazilian emigrant is seen smoking a joint in front of the Bulldog Coffeshop. Thanks dope for making me forget names of all the people I met in Amsterdam.
It was getting late so I thought I'd sit down in the Leidsplein area and relax a bit more. Puffing a joint, I observed the crowd. Suddenly, I heard shouting that sounded something like 'NYPD', just as you hear it in those Yank films. What? 'Too many joints man, too many' I thought and then I saw a number of police officers jumping on two guys in front of my face. 'Wow! This is it!' - I got aroused! An adrenaline kick instantly got me on my feet. I cocked the shutter and started snapping away. Some guy saw me photographing and he began to pose in front of my lens. This was the real Amsterdam. The one I was looking for, where crime and stupidity comes together and have plenty of fun!
A man is seen posing in front of a police squad arresting two men.
What a lovely evening! After this short performance I decided to carry on with my reconnaissance. It was cold and late, about 2am. However, it stopped raining so holding my hands in my pockets I walked towards Amsterdam Centraal train station surveying faces of those who, like myself, stayed out until late. But they weren't tourists. Most of them were business people, if you know what I mean. I felt strange - like I took a jet from Dublin and travelled back in time to mythical Sodom and Gomorrah. Fantastic! Marty McFly! I went back to the hotel, think I needed sleep...

Dutch police officers are seen arresting two men.

The next day wasn't much different. Joints, walking, Nikon and more dope all day. I even witnessed another arrest, where out of nowhere officers jumped out of a squad car and arrested a guy. Likewise with the other arrest the night before, I have no clue what all of these guys got nicked for. 'What's wrong with this town?' I thought. I had been there for less than 24 hours and got so much to see and document. I started to question myself. Is it my luck or this place is actually so bad? I asked around and it seemed like I've a special talent for trouble. That was proved on many occasions before.

A man is seen being arrested by Dutch police. Amsterdam.

A man is seen being arrested by Dutch police. Amsterdam.

A man is seen being arrested by Dutch police. Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a great place to go, if you don't mind the noisy people who are doing their best to get lost. Don't be discouraged by my words. I'm nuts. I had a lot of fun, and yes, I did enjoy myself. I just like a different type of fun.

All one needs for a nice city walk.

Dizzy Amsterdam

A man is seen smoking in front of Amsterdam Centraal

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Kędzierzyn - Koźle, town's summer festival

Those unpronounceable two words at the beginning of the title - Kędzierzyn - Koźle, is my hometown, a heavily industrialised agglomeration of few burgs, that's often, by the town's council, referred to as the Polish capital of chemistry.

Well, apart from chemistry, Kentucky, as some teenagers call the town, has not too much to do with the splendour of the capitals. Since the fall of communism, in 1989, ruling officials have failed to bring the town onto the path of growth, although it's prime location in the south-west Poland, in particular in the Upper Silesia, the most industrialised area of the country.

It's a pity, that a town with such a potential, has been sentenced for an extinction, thus every June a wake takes place. The main street, 'Aleja Jana Pawła II' (John Paul II Avenue), transforms into the show grounds, a four lane wide beer garden with a funfair and a stage, under which the citizens dance pogo on the the town's corpse.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Although, I had a great time, and it was a very interesting social experience. Suddenly I found myself among a different society, a different place to that that I left over five years ago, and at the same time so constant in terms of street life.

I was very unhappy about lighting conditions, hence I shipped my photo gear back to parents house, then a story has started. A plot good for a decent film, a storyline that brought so many great memories from those good old days, when the town's festival was a big deal for us, and maybe still is for many, just the times have changed, we've got older, but it was great to be a teenager for a few hours again. Only why the camera was away?

Stage and the four lane beer garden

A funfair located on the main street
Funfair worker, miles away, while the ride is on
One of the funfair's spectators, holding a Polish lager
Tired food hall worker, sausage or a chuck stake?
No way through, OK?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Even though

Last week was a difficult one. Suppose it's easier to by a bully then to be bullied, but I'll stop here, and won't continue to drill into this matter, as it makes no sense at all. I need to stop giving a sugar about all of that! At the end of the day it has no value. Well, a paycheck carries a material one, with some fancy architecture printed on, but that's all, and nothing else is beyond that!

Well, I've nothing more to say. Or, maybe?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

In search for war remains

Last summer holidays I went over to Croatia. During one of the hot days, decided to do a little bit of sightseeing. Bagged my Nikon and drove over to Skradin, a small town in Šibenik-Knin county of Croatia. This small town, as according to the travel guide, has suffered a lot during the Balkan War in 1991-1995. I wasn't expecting much really, as it serves as a transport hub directing traffic to the nearby National Park Krka, but to my amusement, as we arrived, we were welcomed by a young man without one leg. Although the travel guide mentioned that it is highly possible to meet people who suffer from various war injuries, I stayed sceptical, until the arrival.

After the visit to the National Park Krka I went on strolling around the narrow streets of Skradin, looking for a chance to take some good photographs. To be honest, despite the sad view of that young man at the beginning of the day, the whole town seemed to be aimed at tourists. Well, that should've been obvious to me, but anyway Skradin is a very magical place, and I've managed to find some of that magic on one of the side streets.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

When reinforcements arrived

I thought that I've lost not only a battle, but the whole war, a conflict with myself, that nearly made me fail. Luckily some reinforcements have just arrived!

First of all, I've acquired a brand new tank! It's not Abrams nor T-34, it even doesn't have a cannon, but on the college work battlefield it will cause havoc. Take cover! Hopefully none of the film rolls will get wounded.

Thanks to my mate, some mercenaries have also arrived. He lent me a manual M42 mount Sigma 80-200 f/3.5 zoom lens. Straight away it's been equipped with an adapter to fit my Nikon, unfortunately this method wouldn't allow to focus in infinity. However, I was still tempted to get the new mercenary howitzer into action.

Well, sport again, this time football, U14's to be precise. The best way to test a new lens is to make it sweat, while others are sweating on the pitch. So, I went to a Dublin and District Schoolboys League game, that was held at Mill Lane Pitch, the home "stadium" for Palmerstown Rangers FC, a schoolboys club that my cousin plays for.

Haven't got any plan for the shoot really, maybe because my head was so empty after a very difficult week, so I just walked around the pitch and took few random pictures, trying to depict those boys effort towards the win.

Well, haven't noticed much effort though. Sorry to say that guys. I've seen my cousin, on the photograph above, trying really hard, sweating and panting. Look at the picture above again, while the game is on, the rest seems to be interested in something else, definitely not the game itself. My insights are probably biased a lot, but coach, have a look at that.

I'm a bit harsh on the boys performance evaluation today, sorry about that, it's a building critique I hope. Actually I can't be so subjective. Others also tried, but if only would have invested a few more drops of sweat into the game, the result wouldn't be 2:2. 

Can't blame Rangers goalie too, their opponents, Confey FC spent some amount of time in front of the net keeping him busy. First, I went in behind of the Confey's post, but after spending about 10 minutes in there, waiting for Rangers to try to shoot a goal, I surrendered my idea and got back to the side of the pitch.

Knew this is going to happen. As I got back to the side line Rangers assaulted opponents net. Typical. The game ended 2:2, leaving it without a winner.

It wasn't an easy assignment. First of all, long lens equals heavy load not only on the hand, but especially on the camera's body mount, what means I had to hold the lens instead of the Nikon what made focusing slightly more difficult. Secondly, it's a zoom lens, controlling both focus and zoom, holding the lens, all in a very fast pacing setting, a football game, was a bit challenging, but not impossible.

Check out the full gallery here!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tomasz Tomaszewski

It's been a good while since I've posted for the last time. The amount of work, that has to be done in a very near weeks, makes me feel like Christ carrying the cross up the Golgotha. Please! Don't! I'm unworthy to be crucified! 

Via College'rosa. It's station three, I've just fallen for the first time, but that fall has to make me stronger, more motivated and much more able to reach the goal that I set.

One of the recent posts was about my guru of guru's - Garry Winogrand. Today, I'm inviting you to meet a photographer that is in the most responsible for my drag towards documentary photography. A National Geographic photographer for past 20 years and the Pulitzer Prize winner - Tomasz Tomaszewski. 

About 10 years ago I came across his superb work for the first time. It was during a school trip to a World Press Photo exhibition; his photographs; his approach and his way of telling a story did cast a spell on me.

Today, I was researching his work up to date. What I found and what did appeal the most to me, was his photoreportage on the mine workers in my home region of Poland - Silesia. Although, in the clip Tomasz Tomaszewski talks about it in Polish, it is well worth watching. English subtitles provided. Enjoy!

And finally, his gallery that also includes his work in Silesian mines, don't miss it: Tomasz Tomaszewski Gallery.

Thank you Tomek! Thanks for leading me to the place where I am now! I owe you everything! Dziękuję!