Monthly Archives: January 2013


Today I went to the monthly meeting of Viewfinders, the English-speaking photography club of Brussels.

I joined Viewfinders about a year ago. I find the Club’s meetings consistently inspiring and thought-provoking. Usually the meeting is built around a presentation by one or several photographers of their work and experiences. From time to time, the club also organises challenges and assignments, where members can submit their photos which would compete against each other. During the December meeting for example the theme of the challenge was Night Photography. It was quite refreshing to look at different people’s takes on this subject and to see the preferences of the judge and the public.

This time around the main presentation was by Natalie Hill. Natalie is an English photographer who lives and works in Brussels. I found the most interesting part of her presentation to be some images that she made while living and working in China: a sequence about a native Uyghur rocker from the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, with which I associate particular memories, as well as a striking image of a 22-year wealthy expat enjoying his bath in a flat in a high-rise overlooking Shanghai. Natalie originally studied film and she showed some of her motion work, I particularly liked a very touching ad she made for the Missing Children Europe campaign. The ad is done using Canon 5D Mark II – which again demonstrates the amazing possibilities of this camera.

Lecture by Pinkhassov

A couple of days ago I watched a truly engrossing lecture by Gueorgui Pinkhassov, which he gave in Leica Academie in Moscow, where a number of Magnum photographers spoke. Pinkhassov (I love how his name and surname are transliterated so exotically with Latin letters) is the only Russian-born full member of the Magnum agency. I was so excited by the lecture, I immediately forwarded it to my brother, who is also a photographer.

The lecture itself is in Russian. Below I share some snippets that I found most inspiring.

In a refreshing reversal of the usual order of presentation, he started by showing a lot of his photos quickly, and spoke only afterwards, when the eye was saturated and the viewer craved story. He spoke about his early work and how he was uninterested in reportage, and was rather drawn to the geometry that can be found inside the frame. He experimented at night in his flat with light and geometrical objects, he literally measured angles and lines with a ruler, looking for the right proportion, perhaps the golden ratio.

He further explained how a photo can play two roles:

  • information source, protocol, providing clarity OR
  • a certain sophistication, encoded message, complexity.

The latter, according to him, is art.

These ideas sit very well with me.

In this picture it is not clear in the beginning what exactly is being shown. And yet there is a plot as well as a visual intrigue.

It really touched me how he rejected the populism of bright colours and obvious contrasts, to which we are so used on the internet nowadays, in favour of minimalism, geometry, “fractality” as he called it (and I couldn’t help remembering Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who so likes to apply fractals to every possible situation).

Without compromise, in his photos Pinkhassov stresses the light as the main painting brush in photography, allowing all the rest disappear in shadows.

I later discovered that he virtually doesn’t use Photoshop. Until very recently he photographed using his Canon 5D Mk II directly in jpeg format, as he knew he wouldn’t post process the photos. The reason being, as I understood, not so much the principled resistance to post processing, as simply the lack of skills of working in Photoshop and perhaps the lack of need to do it.

His best work, according to him, is his Tokyo collection.

Annual review 2012

In the beginning of this year, I went for a week to the island of Gran Canaria. The major purpose of the trip was to do the annual review exercise for 2012, as well as to brainstorm on the plans and the ideas for the new year.

Gran Canaria, with its weather reminiscent of eternal spring, was a perfect place to do this exercise. In my mind I had the image of the island as a destination of countless package tours. However since I stayed in Las Palmas, which is just a normal Spanish city, only with a few palm trees, I felt rather far away from the tourist crowds inundating other parts of the island. Sipping a glass of white wine on the promenade of Las Canteras, looking at the unruly ocean lit by the winter sun of Africa, was a great way to reflect.

I do my annual review exercise according to the principles proposed in one of my favourite blogs, the Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. The idea is rather simple: you look at what went well in the past year and at what did not go well. Then you look at the goals you set for yourself last year and how they got implemented or not. And then you set goals for yourself for the coming year. In general I quite agree with the old adage that 10% of time spent on planning saves 90% of time spent on execution. More than that, I am pretty sure that high-level planning and reflection is a lot more effective than minute day-to-day efficiency management. So I find it very useful to take some time to do the review for the whole year.

Last year was the first time I did this exercise, so this year was the first time I could review the goals I set for myself in an organised way. Here are some flashbacks from the annual review exercise for 2012.

What went well?

The theme of 2012 for me was LEARNING.

It was a very productive year. In my work I got to work for the whole year in the same organisational unit, which meant that I could really apply myself fully. I did a lot of travel for work and got to do some rather challenging missions, including to our most important counterpart. I very much enjoyed the challenge.

Outside of work, I travelled to some amazing places around the world – including Brazil, Myanmar and Japan.

I got to do a lot of learning. In the beginning of the year, I did two film programs in Brussels Raindance, in screenwriting and in directing. In April I went to Myanmar for a photography expedition with a group of photographers. I continued doing my contemporary dance classes in Fred Academy in Brussels. Finally, from September I started participating in regular tennis matches with BGS.

I read a number of amazing books that literally changed my life.

What did not go so well?

Although I celebrated the previous New Year with my brother and his family on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand, overall I did not see my family as much as I would have liked to during this year.

Doing a lot of learning, I did not do as much implementation of learning as I would have liked: I mean the actual photographing and the actual writing.

I met my friends, but I would have liked to meet them more and to organise the events with on my initiative and around some ideas that I have.

Last year I was counting on moving to another flat, but this did not come to pass, as I had too many other activities, including of course a lot of work as well as a lot of business and personal travel that took my focus.


I am still considering what will be the theme of this year. Perhaps it will be CHANGE or DISCOVERY or FIRST ACTIONS.

One of the plans that kind of got into shape during the reflection time in Gran Canaria was to go ahead with this blog. The idea of a blog built around the topic of photography has been simmering in the back of my mind for quite a while already. I hope to write here about the lessons I learn in photography. I will also share my inspiration – be it foreign lands, information resources or my amazing friends and their wisdom.

I also hope that the existence of this blog will kind of push me a bit to look for more unusual experiences, to step out of my comfort zone, and also will inspire me to learn and do new things in photography.