Zero Manipulation. An essay by Costas Polinakis by Kasia Trojak

Truth saves lives. Lies can kill.

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Till now I thought that I depict in my pictures only "what I see". But what I really see? Though never considered myself a photojournalist, my approach was such that I have never tried to alter reality.

Walking on a beach near Athens, visited mostly by immigrants, I saw a white rabbit hopping (happily it seemed) towards the waves, like a puppy dog when first meeting the sea. I followed it and finally met the owner (actually were two guys, with a somehow harsh appearance). They were glad to show me their pet and allowed me to take pictures of what it seemed an unusual kind of pet. I must also add that they had also a cage with plenty of food, water and even a toy "to keep him busy".

They didn't speak Greek, so I approached them in English and so I’ve found out that it's not the first rabbit they owned. So I started wondering (and therefore I asked the owner), somehow suspicious: are you raising them for food? I received an almost convinced "yes", but when he saw my reaction he managed to turned it in a joke. Of course it's a joke I thought, can't be real. Nobody could be so cynical to treat this creature with such a compassion, to bring it to the seaside, to stroke and "entertain" it and some day to slash his throat. So I took some more pictures (including this one) and greeted the guys, thinking that, despite so much difficulties they faced in their lives, they seem to be more sensible persons than many others in our fake world.

I'm sorry I don't remember pet's name, didn't need to go deeper with the story since I was convinced about the good fate of the bunny. I left the place knowing that I had just encountered an unusual kind of compassion from a person you usually don't expect. The doubt started to arise later.

Though I don't have any pets, I love cats and dogs and often I feed stray animals. On my own, I got until now more than 10 stray cats to sterilization. I do not fancy very much the idea of pets (in fact animals that we love and care for, in the meantime feeding them with other dead animals in tins). On the other hand, I'm not an activist, not even vegan, I can understand everybody's food preferences (though we're always very careful with our consuming habits, especially of meat, and never waste food). But to raise an animal as a pet with such a compassion, just in order to eat it, it's far beyond my understanding. Having left them, convinced that they joked, after a few hours I started to ask myself: what if he was serious? And the dilemma was growing in me more and more as I started to receive feedback for the picture, people in general being impressed by the sensitivity of that guy for his pet.

What have I just photographed? A moment of kindness? A man apparently rough, was in fact one of the most sensible persons I met? Or a cynical soab, who can never achieve such a feeling, who could never understand "our values"? I’ve just taken picture of our own prejudices or of a harsh reality that happens daily in front of our eyes? Being myself in the past the target of the racism and bullying in my own country (the same place this picture is taken), I can imagine how hard is for this man to deal with prejudices from people like us, convinced that we're living according to the highest humane values. I can confirm we’re a conservative and arrogant society and a hell for people coming from different cultures, so for most it’s not easy to accept that such a person can have feelings like us or more than we have.

I start thinking this it's a turning point, maybe not so much in my photography style, but in understanding others. So many years I had a preference for "trusted" sources. There are some grand names in media that I prefer to believe, though I ignore many others, proved less reliable. Especially regarding the photojournalism, I’m very critical about the manipulation and staging. Even a portrait seems too much, if the subject happens to raise his eyes and stare on the lens, the

magic moment disappears. The photographer should be invisible. All my life I envied Bresson, I'm convinced that I can never achieve his performance: observe, compose in your mind, raise the camera and grab the moment as you never been there. Though it's obvious in your pictures that you were in the middle of the people or the event when you're using an wide angle or at most a 50mm lens, it's equally obvious when a picture is staged. Let alone over-processed. Shooting with anything above "normal lens", if it's not portrait, then it's deceiving, that's my approach.

But even when you're close enough you don't actually know what you see. It's Antonioni's dilemma: what's behind? Is this a body in the picture? Is there more in the picture than meets the eye?

I'll continue to be very rigorous about photojournalism. Moreover in our world full of fake news and manipulated imageries. Photojournalism and even photo-documentary require a huge responsibility, no matter where you live or whatever harsh competition you have to face. Though "Guernica" had the same goal as Capa's pictures, nobody ever would think to take a painting as an evidence. So here is the biggest difference and the power of photography. Maybe, in terms of aesthetics, some photos can come very close to paintings. Easily you can say that a photo is a masterpiece, a "work of art". But there's also a huge difference in the way they depict the reality. I don't believe that proving Capa's picture fake can make somebody sympathize with Franco. The history already disposed of the guy where he deserved: in the dictators bin. But I admit I was very disappointed when I read about staging claims of Robert Capa photos. The man "that started all".

I'll continue to be obsessed with the truth and hate anything fake. That's why I'm writing this. So it's my duty to make you aware: I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what I witnessed. Meet Schroedinger's bunny.

For me "Zero" is, first of all, zero manipulation. What you see is what we saw. The emotions are yours. Zero compromise.

WRITTEN + PHOTOGRAPHED BY COSTAS POLINAKIS

Interview with Wan Chee Chan (Michelle) by Kasia Trojak

1. You define yourself as a “visual storyteller” rather than a photographer or an artist. Can you briefly explain?

"Bond"

"Bond"


For me, my passion is storytelling. We can tell stories through many different mediums such as languages, writings, images, drama, and what I’m really interested in doing is telling stories through images. Not limiting to just photography, but all types of art that we use our visual senses such as writings, scribbles, moving images.

2. Your fantastic “Crab Senior” series was awarded as laureate for the 2019 International Women Photography Awards (IWPA). Can you tell us a bit about the project, how long was it, what was your discipline and motivation for a beautiful project like this?

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There are a few versions of this story and I’ll try to be as comprehensive as possible here. At that time before this project started (which was 2016), I was fascinated by the work of Trent Parke, especially his “The Seventh Wave” series. Since then, I’ve always wanted to try underwater shooting. Thought at that time it was just an idea as here in Hong Kong you can’t shoot in swimming pools, it must be in the ocean and all I could really shoot underwater was when I go diving. The other option was to shoot people at the beach but I felt the story there isn’t solid or interesting enough. Anyway, the idea was brewing inside while at the same time, I was teaching my mum’s senior friend swimming, preparing them for triathlon. One day they mentioned about how they train for their triathlon and told me about this bay they go to for their ocean swimming training. I tagged along one day and I was totally inspired. You know that feeling when everything you wanted comes together? That was the moment. And since then, I knew I was obsessed. I bought an underwater housing for my camera to try. I went there every morning to swim and shoot. The people were fascinating, the shooting was stimulating, the water was soothing. I guess that was what kept me going, even though I had to get up everyday at 4am to catch the bus to go there. I became friends with the crab seniors and I learned about water tides and how and when the water would be clearest. The project went on for 3 summers and that was when I felt that this part is pretty much done - the bay, the community, the activities in the bay. Part 2 grew out from last year when I learned that a small group of them go island hopping around Hong Kong, and this is what I’m focused on documenting currently.

“Crab Seniors”

“Crab Seniors”

“Crab Seniors”

“Crab Seniors”

“Crab Seniors”

“Crab Seniors”

3.  You are still using analog cameras, developing and printing your own photographs. Can you tell us about the difficulties of this process? What attracts you to B&W photography? Are you using digital as well?  

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I work with both. My love for analog is that I can have full control of the process from taking the photographs to objectifying it as a print, especially the case for black and white photography. Every part of the process is a craft; it is slow and it takes time. It takes practice and it takes precision. The excellence to details does not come from the camera itself, but the skills of the photographer. Nowadays with the advanced technology, it is quite easy to take a picture - pressing a button and you get a photograph. Printing is easier than ever and thousands of images are uploaded to internet every second. To me, it seems as though the craftsmanship of photography is no longer valued, and hence I still use analog because I wanted to remind myself about this.

 
Self-developing Darkroom Tools and Equipment

Self-developing Darkroom Tools and Equipment

Self-developing Darkroom Tools and Equipment

Self-developing Darkroom Tools and Equipment

Self-developing Darkroom Tools and Equipment

Self-developing Darkroom Tools and Equipment

4.  You generally work on a project rather than focusing on individual images. What are the difficulties of a long-term project and what are your recommendations to deal with them?


I work with projects because I like stories in a long form. It’s like listening a symphony rather than just a piece of melody. Human stories are complex and never really just linear. And what I want to do is bringing layers, adding textures and depth to stories. And to do that, it takes time and of course, the motivation to keep working on it. But I guess how to deal with it is just the same as what all master photographers say, “follow your passion, shoot what you care the most.” If you don’t care about it enough, you won’t be able to keep up. It’s as simple as that.

 

"Bond"

"Bond"

 
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Michelle is a visual storyteller. She works with different artistic medium combining texts, images, illustrations and sounds to create different narratives. 

Her work has been exhibited in some of the major places in Hong Kong such as Hong Kong Arts Centre and Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and internationally including Arles, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, Siem Reap, Taipei and Toronto etc.

In 2017, she had her very first solo exhibition in Kubrick Hong Kong for her series "A Tale of City Hong Kong".

In 2019, her series “Crab Seniors” won the International Photography Women Awards and participated in a world tour exhibition.

She is currently based in Hong Kong.

Michelle Chan is selling her books! by Kasia Trojak

Michelle Chan is selling her books.

“Crab Seniors” and “Like a Fish” duo photobooks.

50 limited editions. Self-published.

For 1: HKD$180, €20 £18 $24

For 2: HKD$280, €30 £28 $36

excluding shipping cost.

All books are numbered and signed.

She is also doing an optional 20x30cm print limited edition to 25 (signed and numbered) for going with these books at an additional cost +HKD$600, €70 £62 $76 (see photos for print choices A, B, C, D).

If you would like a copy or both copies or with prints, please email:

1. The book(s) you would like

2. (The print choice you would like)

3. Your address

email: littledotrice@gmail.com

special thanks to Marcel Heijnen for the design.

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Michelle Chan's "Crab Seniors" is going to Singapore. by Kasia Trojak

Alliance Française de Singapour is going to showcase the International Women Photographers Award - 2019 with the partnership of the International Women Photographer Association (IWPA). Zero Photos’ Michelle Chan is the laureate and her series “Crab Seniors” will be exhibited From 6 June to 27 July 2019.

Interview with Ferhat Celik by Kasia Trojak

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1. You spent the last few years working on an ongoing and long-term project called “East is East.” Can you please explain the project and the reasons behind focusing on Eastern Anatolia region in Turkey, which is a challenging location to photograph.  

As an artist I have a strong bond with Eastern Turkey. I was born in Adana, but my whole family comes from Elazig, which is in the east of Turkey. Even though I have spent very little time in the East as a child, I have a real connection with the people there. The East contains powerful stories that speak to me; Stories that need to be heard or in my case seen. My project is about the Eastern people, their way of seeing the world, their hopes and everyday struggles. In this project I’m not only putting an effort to tell these stories but also pouring my soul in to through photography.

East is East

East is East

East is East

East is East

2. According to you, what makes a good photo stand out from an average one? What makes it special?

I think in order to make a good photograph stand out the artist needs to balance the technique and the story behind it and have unique signature style which will help to complete the photograph. I believe if you have a connection with your story this way you can give the viewer real feelings and the photograph will stay in your memory.

Mexico Oaxaca 2016

Mexico Oaxaca 2016

3. When comparing your early works with recent years, we see a sudden change in your style, what was the reason for this? How did this change happen?

London UK 2007

London UK 2007

London UK 2005

London UK 2005

London UK 2007

London UK 2007


I felt a bit lost in my own art.  Everything was too easy and it felt repetitive. I did not feel like myself anymore and I was in search for something more meaningful to me. I decided to participate in a few workshops with great photographers like Abbas, Jacob Au Sobol and Nikos Economopoulos. I must say after Nikos’ workshop, I found what I was looking for and he certainly changed my life and the way I look at images and the way I look for them as well. He helped me find my own path and myself again.

Kathmadu Nepal 2018

Kathmadu Nepal 2018

Kathmadu Nepal 2018

Kathmadu Nepal 2018

Kathmadu Nepal 2018

Kathmadu Nepal 2018

4. What kind of equipment do you carry with you?

Honestly I don’t carry much with me anymore. I like to keep it as minimal as possible. Just my trusty Leica M262 and a 35 mm Lens.

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5. What are your thoughts on the state of contemporary photography? Do you see any new and interesting trends of emerging photographers worth paying attention to?

My honest opinion about contemporary photography is that it seems temporary. Call me old fashioned if you want but the concept behind those are always the same. I have been seeing so many photographs with the same styles and same frames. Characters that look the same, almost the same given messages and even with the same color pallets. It’s more like they have been taken to be consumed not to speak to viewers.

I hope the new generation of photographers will continue to photograph with their own unique way and stop following the same things that everybody has already seen.

If you want to see good photographers just check Zerophotos members and their works. This way you will feel happy and understand how not to be repetitive.

6. Tell us about the concept behind your photography workshops? What do you teach and what should participants expect to bring to and gain from your workshops? 

Practice will help participants recognize situations and details that can make a great shot. It will also help them develop social skills and the ability to interact with strangers.
Photography is an attitude, it is an openness to being amazed by what you will discover every time you take a walk with your camera. With practice and some hard work, they will learn to notice the extraordinary and beautiful narratives that are occurring in front of them every day.

My next workshop will be held in early October 2019. Schedule and location will be announced in a few months.

Interview with Kristof Huf by Kasia Trojak

 

1. Most of your work is black and white. However, you do have color frames in your portfolio. Talk about the decision-making process about when you choose which and why?

Beregovo, Ukraine 2018

Beregovo, Ukraine 2018

The first pictures I was drawn to were black and white. Growing up in a family of colourful abstract painters, funny enough photography was always black and white for me. Getting my hands on a book of August Sander's "People of the 20th Century", I discovered early my interest for photography of people in their environment. But just lately, five years ago, I started to choose photography as my form of expression. And I chose b/w as most photographers I feel connected to and which pictures I admire do the same. My all-time favorite Josef Koudelka. I observed that b&w reduces to the characteristics I am looking for: expression in faces, personality and relations between people. No distraction from the essentials and composition.

Now, why color at all?  In rare cases for me, color gets essential. May it be the color contrast or a certain color combination that adds the zest to it. An example is a picture taken in Ghana where the yellow flip-flops gain such an importance for me that I broke my routine with pleasure.

Accra, Ghana 2017

Accra, Ghana 2017

Dar es Salam, Tanzania 2018

Dar es Salam, Tanzania 2018

2. How do you like working on assignment? How is it different from shooting for your self?

On my own, I am looking for special moments when things are right, a touch of here and now, of freedom in time and place. The appeal of assignments is to develop a new perspective together with my clients. I try to see the world through my clients' eyes: what would be of their pleasure, what could change their view on the world around them? A surprising journey. In both situations, in my view empathy is key.

3.  In many of your pictures you are very close to the subject. Can you tell us something about your approach - any tips and tricks?
There is no short-cut, I have to be near to the subject. Especially as I've chosen to use a 28 mm prime lens. At first, this sounds like a technical requirement and you could say, just use a zoom lens. But this is not an option for me. In my experience, prime lenses catch the personality of the subjects stronger and more visible.
But, of course, it's not easy to come close to the subjects. I think, there are two parts. When I am in the flow, I completely loose the feeling to be a kind of disturbance to the people around me. I act as it would be totally natural that I am around. And in those special moments, people also have the same feeling about me. 
It helps to stay very calm, move slowly and smile a lot. In my case, I am also never demanding or trying to direct the situation because I always want to have my pictures to be candid.

Lima, Peru 2018

Lima, Peru 2018

Lima, Peru 2018

Lima, Peru 2018

4. Do you think your musical background helped you in developing a communication ability with the people?
This is an interesting question. I never saw it like this. But yes, performing in front of many unknown people definitely helped me lose shyness. This might be especially rewarding when making the first encounter.

Georgia 2018

Georgia 2018

5. What is the importance of post processing to you? What are your limits of editing a photography? What kind of post processing are you doing and what tools are you using?

The process of taking pictures for me is always in color because also my surrounding when taking photos is obviously in color. I review my pictures a lot while working, but do not want to view them in b/w on the display of the digital camera. So, turning to b/w is the first step of post processing. Afterwards, there might be some minimal contrast and brightness adjustments. In rare cases, I do some cropping. In general, the aesthetics of my Leica suits me very well such that the post processing can be reduced to a minimum.

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My name is Kristof Huf. I was born in Mexico and I am half Canadian, half German and live in Munich Germany. I studied Jazzbass and Restoration.