Wesseling at Night

Wesseling is a scenic industrial area about half way between Bonn and Cologne.

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The mostly functional architecture and perpetual construction is rarely as amusing as in the picture above. The time to be there is at night, when the architecture of metal and concrete is replaced by a much more fundamental architecture of light and shadow.

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In the nearby harbor, large cranes appear to be asleep. Are they dreaming of electric sheep, too?

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And then there are the relics from the past, like this barely recognizable wind mill.

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With increasing darkness, the film grain takes over. Is this how Georges Seurat would have painted this? I wish.

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Double Exposures

The Sieg is a tributary of the Rhine northeast of Bonn. The word Sieg means victory in German, but (wikipedia tells me) the name of the stream derives from the celtic word sikkere (fast stream), as does the name of the French Seine via the related Sequana. This must be flattering for the Sieg.

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A slightly elevated dam next to it gives the opportunity to extended bike rides. I have written before about the area here, and I am revisiting the place now, as I revisited it often in the 1990s.

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The dam also provides an excellent perspective on the trees

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or the power line masts.

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The picture above was made using a now obsolete technique, the double exposure. I used to experiment with it quite a bit,
but gave up on it when doing this became more or less trivial in Photoshop. It is disappointing to see how the creative possibilities of multiple exposures have become reduced to automatized photo stacking with the goal to increase the dynamic range or depth of field.

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Dissonance

That my father taught music in high school influenced the development of my musical taste to a large degree. My initial resistance to classical music resulted in the common appreciation of popular music, of which I still approve groups like The Cure and Alan Parson’s Project but disapprove others which I (in shame) will not mention.

This attitude shifted after an organ recital that featured a piece by Olivier Messiaen.

 

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I secretly searched my father’s vast vinyl record collection, and was delighted to find only one record, namely the Visions de l’Amen, played wonderfully by Yvonne Loriod and Messiaen himself.

This was the beginning of an attraction to contemporary music. I grew up listening innumerable times to an hour long piece called Computerimprovisationen auf dem Hybrid 5 that I had recorded from public radio using my father’s reel to reel tape recorder. I would love to get hold of a recording of that piece, but alas the internet is not almighty, and I have not been able to track it down.

After I moved to Bonn I kept exploring. I still think the main entrance to contemporary music are Bartok’s six string quartets: If you are able to thoroughly enjoy these, you are ready for everything else.

The Bonn-Cologne area was well suited for developing taste. The Cologne Philharmonie, which is underneath the fountain in the picture below, offered

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not only the standard classical fare, but also frequent concerts by composers that were not only alive but in fact present. This gave authenticity and a sense of being in presence of the creative act, which I find stimulating.

What makes me post this? A news report, that in that same place, in March 2016, a cembalo recital by Mahan Esfahani that featured besides the Bach family also Steve Reich, was cut short by an unruly audience that apparently could neither deal with Reich’s 50 year old Piano Phase nor with the ethnicity of the performer.

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Cologne has something to offer for every taste. Why offend others?

Ahr Valley (Wine Biking II)

The Ahr valley is about 90 minutes away from Bonn by bike. This valley marks the northern end of the Eifel, a volcanic low mountain range in northern Germany.

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The microclimate and terroir (slate) makes it suitable for growing wine. For many years, tradition and local demand resulted in largely unremarkable sweet Pinot Noirs.

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When I came back from California and felt I needed to cultivate my acquired habits also at home, I went on bike rides to the few wine makers who dared to go against the tradition. My favorite was Weingut Kreuzberg, run by a friendly family. The two sons were happy to sell me one or two bottles of their Dernauer Pfarrwingert Auslese, to be carried home by bike.

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One day there was excitement: They just had won a price in Berlin for their illegally planted and harvested Cabernet Sauvignon. German wine laws are quite German, indeed. Each region is supposed to grow only their allowed varieties of grapes, and exceptions need a special permission. The Kreuzbergs didn’t get permission, because the wine association didn’t believe that Cabernet would grow in this climate.

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The punishment was cynical: The Kreuzbergs had to rip out their Cabernet plants, because they were planted without permission, but were allowed to replant them, because they had proven that Cabernet could actually grow there.

Things have changed since. More quality wines are being produced at the Ahr (among them Cabernet Sauvignon), and the little known wines made by the Kreuzbergs are now sold out faster than it takes to get from Bonn to the Ahr (by bike).

What am I doing here? Applauding the break with traditions and simultaneously lamenting their loss? Silly me.

Grain

The Konica 3200 was one of the fastest color negative films ever made. ISO 3200 might sound lame these days when sensors are advertised with speeds reaching into the millions, but back in the 1990s, this was a revelation and gave ample opportunity to experiment.

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Of course, we were talking about grain, while today it is called noise.

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One of the unconventional uses of these high speed films was to take portraits at parties when it was getting dark and the usually shy victims were getting relaxed and more tolerant towards photographic intrusion.

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I am normally hesitant to post pictures of friends because these are, well, private in the sense that they are not of general interest.

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But friendships become memories

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and posts like these messages in a bottle, to be lost or to be found.

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The Event Horizon

When you go back in time to explore your (or any) past, there are natural barriers. I have done the explorations here with the aide of pictures I took, mostly digitally since 2000, but relying on scanned film negatives for earlier years.

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I started keeping these negatives since I got my first DSLR, a Nikon F801, in 1989. So the images in this post are from that year. Going further back will be an interesting challenge. There exist slides that I took with a pocket camera and little ambition. My serious interest in photography only developed when I got into arthouse film.

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The first two images were taken at the early morning at the Rhine river near Bonn. The next one is from the botanical garden in Münster. Begin at the bird and its reflection in the center, and work your way through the emerging reality of a seemingly abstract image.

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This one is a dead tree trunk in the center of a dried out fish pond.

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Let’s end peacefully with a floating leaf – a motif that has become a favorite.

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Decay (Museum Hombroich II)

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There are more things to see and do at the Museum Island Hombroich than to visit the pavilions. Artists in residence produce landscape art, and concerts are given.

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I wonder how this sculpture has withered since I took these pictures in 1992. This one is part of a full circle of such outcroppings.

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Mechanical structures clearly without purpose alternate with objects that are equally clearly of daily importance but could as well be just pieces of art.

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An outdoor museum where the objects are exposed to the elements defies the usual purpose of a museum: the preservation of its artifacts.
Here at Hombroich the time has just been slowed down a bit, making it the main object to contemplate.

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Karana Mudra (Museum Hombroich I)

When the Cold War ended, a missile base near Neuss, Germany, became obsolete. The area was bought by the industrial real estate agent Karl Heinrich Müller, and turned into the Museum Island Hombroich.

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Visitors are greeted appropriately by an Asian statue, holding his hand in the Karana Mudra gesture to ban evil spirits.

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Meticulously landscaped by Bernhard Korte, the area is populated with small buildings (landscape chapels),
by Erwin Heerich that contain Asian or contemporary art, or just empty space.

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Soft glass roofs and narrow doors create a balance between diffuse and directed light.

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The geometric harshness of the buildings disappears in the fading light.

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Postscriptum

I need to apologize. The blog post from this morning was not meant as a commentary on the church shooting in Charleston. Nothing in this blog is intended as a commentary on daily events. In fact, most posts, including today’s, were written weeks or months ago.

I still should have reviewed what was scheduled for today. It is inappropriate because the title and some of its content suggest intended connections. Connections there are, but they were not intended.

This being said, the recent violent tensions between Black and White have been on my mind quite a bit for the past months, and I do not want to deny that I meant to say more than make a general statement about black and white photography.

However, I am not going to rephrase my words, or add to them. The main purpose of this blog is the construction of time, both past and future, and I will not alter the past deliberately. Interpret as you like, but please take connections between blog time and real time as what they are: random incidents.

Peace.

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Black and White?

Once in a while, as a photographer, you come across a view and know that this will be the shot of the day.
This is very satisfying. Even better and much rarer is it when you come across a location that feels like stepping out of reality into a scene where almost every view is powerful.

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In the 90s, I spent a lot of time biking in the Siebengebirge, a usually rather scenic hilly region southeast of Bonn. Seeking exercise and one or two good views, I once stumbled across a gypsum mine, still active, but in a pretty desolate shape.

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It felt like out of the sudden, color had been removed. It is one thing when you take black and white images, or when reality suddenly becomes black and white. Motives that will stay with you for decades emerge out of the dust.

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The tension, however, is not between the remaining black and white. It is rather the almost existentialistic fight against decay, be it by machine, be it by nature.

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The novel Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe, turned into a devastating film by Hiroshi Teshigahara, captures all this much better.

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