dealing with the ordinary

by Daniel Hofmann

Two days before Christmas I traveled to Berlin to meet some friends from India and show them around. Also I hated it that my precious Fuji was collecting dust in my bag. If you know a city well, it gets harder and harder to see the special things. I would love to feel inspired like I felt in India. This is probably one of the most important lessons I learned as a photographer: it is easy to take good pictures in a special place. The unknown feeds my muse in so many ways, which made it hard for me to come home to Germany. I was afraid I would lose my creativity when I was confronted with my ordinary surroundings. In some ways this fear came true, because I felt no need to photograph for a long time. I tried, but nothing I captured really inspired me like India did.

I'm still in a process of finding a new voice here in Germany. It is without a doubt a different voice and maybe even a little bit darker. One reason is that it is not so easy to connect with people here. Most of the time I want to talk to the people I take photos of. It gives me an idea on how I want to photograph them. Germans are less welcoming when you start talking to them on the street – there are exceptions of course, but it’s definitely harder than in other countries I've been. I'm still trying to connect with them, but a lower success rate forces me to try new things to tell the stories I want to tell.

A few of these attempts I will share with you here. They are from my two days in Berlin with Lopamudra and Sabyasachi. Both of them are amazing photographers and when I saw how many pictures they took in Berlin – probably thrice as much as I did – they showed me that there is something special here; I just have to start looking again.

Love

"both of them remained floating in an empty universe

where only everyday and eternal reality was love"

Gabriel García Márquez

Living Properly

"Sooner or later, everyone dies. That’s why we aren’t really living to have a long life.

We’re really  living to die properly."

Varanasi in the morning. Copyright: Daniel Hofmann

Varanasi in the morning. Copyright: Daniel Hofmann

What we can learn from Bob Dylan

by Daniel Hofmann

Last weekend I met up with a friend for movies and drinks. Let me start this blog post with a side note: the new Mission Impossible movie was pretty good!

Later that night I sat on my friend's couch and watched a documentary on Bob Dylan. It focussed on the time he became famous, and one scene reminded me why I love this man so much. He sat in a room filled with journalists and one of them asked if he knew why many people referred to him as 'the voice of his generation'. Dylan couldn’t give him a satisfying answer.

It wasn’t that Dylan didn’t want give the journalist an answer; he just didn’t know what to say, — he explained in a later interview. The musician said that he never wanted to be some kind of 'voice of a generation'. He just did what he loved to do, regardless of whether people were going to love or hate his work. So many fans listened to his folk music, but then he suddenly changed everything and made music with a big rock band. Not everyone was happy about that. They came to see the folk singer and got the rock star. Bob Dylan didn’t care, because he went where his passion lead him.

This documentary showed me again how important it is to stay true to your work. To stay true to your heart. I see so much photographs that looks the same, because it’s easily likable on Instagram, 500px or Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, it can be amazing work and I admire the artist behind it, but it’s not always clear if the art comes from the need of expressing yourself or from the need to be popular. It’s nothing new and I believe every generation of artists will have to deal with that. For example: in the last few years, I watched some amazing young photographers emerge and I asked myself; how could they reach this level of photography at such a young age? Their work and effort felt honest and authentic. Now when I read an article about an upcoming young photographer, that feeling has vanished. So much of their work seems to be only a part of a popular style, that was established and approved by facebook. I still enjoy looking at it, but I don’t feel the authenticity anymore.

We all have artists we look up to and we all integrate different parts of their work into our own art. I’m no exception — everyone wants his work to be acknowledged by others. The question is, though, how much does it affect our process of creating? Would you stop working on a project because people don’t show any interest in it, or would you keep going? Bob Dylan kept going, despite the naysayers. That’s why he is a big role model to me.

Like he said himself: “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.”

P.S. The series you see here is about my final time in college. I lived mostly in the library because of my exams and so I brought my Holga with me for the time when it got dark.

Kolkata

by Daniel Hofmann

My last week in India I spent in Calcutta (or Kolkata; I can never decide how to call it). I had a great time there because of so many reasons. I chatted with amazing people, wandered through exciting streets and drank a lot of fresh orange juice. I miss the fresh and cheap orange juice so much!

Calcutta is a city with a soul. The first time I saw all the old cabs lined up in front of the airport, I knew I was gonna love it there. I never payed so much for a room during my whole time in India 'expensive' is relative in India anyway but it was worth the extra money. Getting up in the early morning to wander through the market areas, seeing the sun rise while the merchants set up their shop or prepare food never lost its magic to me.

I had the pleasure to meet Soumya Shankar Ghosal during my stay. He's an amazing person and equally great photographer, who was kind enough to show me around his town. Because of him, I got to take pictures in one of the biggest fruit markets of India; walked through a street where they only sold school books; and ate chinese delicacies that were only sold in one specific street, at one particular day of the week, at a particular time in the early morning. Thanks to Soumya, I saw and learned things I probably would have missed on my own.

 

I'm back

by Daniel Hofmann

It has been a while since I worked on my website and on this blog. The reason is pretty simple: after my return to Germany I needed some time off to ease back into my old life. That didn’t take that long actually, but the thing is... We all have to make a living and I’m still looking for my way to make that happen. That’s my new exciting journey, you could say. I’m not going to annoy you with details, but let's just say it’s no cake-walk.

Back to the more important things: photography. Over the past months, I decided to sell all my Canon gear and put my faith into Fuji. My Canon 5D stepped aside for a Fuji X-T. Since I've used the X100s as a secondary camera on my travels through India and Nepal, I realized how important it is to me to not carry too much gear. It wasn't an easy decision – I loved my Canon – but I think I chose the right one. I’m going to write about it more extensively in another blog post.

I’m also going to write about a few new photobooks I recently bought. They are all amazing and I can’t wait to tell you about it. So it seems that I have some topics for the upcoming weeks and I’m happy about being online on this page again. It’s time to move onto new exciting things!

A gift


"You are not taking a portait all on your own.
The other one gives it to you."

Sebastião Salgado

Cow farmer in Varanasi (India). - Copyright: Daniel Hofmann

Cow farmer in Varanasi (India). - Copyright: Daniel Hofmann

Seeing

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it"

Confucius

 

Children playing a game in the streets of Darjeeling (India).

Children playing a game in the streets of Darjeeling (India).

Days of Solitude

by Daniel Hofmann

It’s been almost two months now since I trekked to the Annapurna Basecamp and Poon Hill. It was a special journey for me because it’s something you don’t see every day and I met some special people along the way. I was bitching a lot about the many steps I had to climb — my travel companions can definitely confirm that — but pushing through was probably one of the best choices I made during my travels through India and Nepal.

The Annapurna Basecamp Trek is a tourist favorite, but I went there in the cold season of January and I didn’t encounter many of them. With one exception: because of their holiday season I met several groups from South Korea. Most of the time, though, I could enjoy the silence of solitude. What surprised me the most about the trek was the sheer amount of forest I had to walk through. When you see pictures of Nepal, the snowy mountains are a dominant theme so I didn’t expect areas that reminded me of a rainforest. Unexpectedly beautiful!

There was a lot of trekking up and sliding down, only to hike up again. The weight of my photography gear on my shoulders wasn’t helping either, but when I saw the porters carrying sixty kilogram cages with living chickens up the mountain, I knew that I should stop whining about my backpack — I still did at times. At the end it was worth every step because standing on a thick layer of fresh snow surrounded by gigantic mountains and nothing but the sound of avalanches in the distance was just pure magic.

Explore The Elements – Travel Photoblogging Challenge

by Daniel Hofmann

Today something different: I take part in the Explore The Elements – Travel Photoblogging Challenge from Thomas Cook. The rules are pretty simple. There are four elements and for each one I have to present a fitting photograph. It wasn't easy to select my favorites but in the end I wanted a collection that works as a whole and with that choice I stayed with black and white. It's always a great exercise to edit your pictures from a different perspective. I have to ask myself again, if the photograph works in the way I intended it but enough said:

Earth

I took this picture in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan (India). In this collection it's the one picture where traveling is the main topic. It's about earth and the mark we leave with every step on our journey.

I took this picture in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan (India). In this collection it's the one picture where traveling is the main topic. It's about earth and the mark we leave with every step on our journey.

Water

I found this scene at the Ganges in Varanasi (India). Water is important everywhere, but here people have a very special connection to "Mother Ganges." Every morning I could witness their deep devotion to this river.

I found this scene at the Ganges in Varanasi (India). Water is important everywhere, but here people have a very special connection to "Mother Ganges." Every morning I could witness their deep devotion to this river.

Fire

A longer trip through the Thar Desert in Rajasthan (India) with only essential equipment brought me back to a more simple way of life. To have a fire was one of the most important things when we set up camp. Especially when I was hungry and the night turned the hot desert in a freezer I welcomed the warmth of small fire. 

A longer trip through the Thar Desert in Rajasthan (India) with only essential equipment brought me back to a more simple way of life. To have a fire was one of the most important things when we set up camp. Especially when I was hungry and the night turned the hot desert in a freezer I welcomed the warmth of small fire. 

Air

On my way through the Annapurna region (Nepal) I came across this view of Annapurna South. I couldn't see much at the beginning but I could hear how the wind was howling through the valley. After my eyes got used to the darkness I saw stars, mountains lit by moonlight, a forest fire in the distance and between all that the moving clouds. Everything was bound together by the cold air that surrounded me.

On my way through the Annapurna region (Nepal) I came across this view of Annapurna South. I couldn't see much at the beginning but I could hear how the wind was howling through the valley. After my eyes got used to the darkness I saw stars, mountains lit by moonlight, a forest fire in the distance and between all that the moving clouds. Everything was bound together by the cold air that surrounded me.

To spread the word about this challenge I nominate these Bloggers:

Bernado Salce

Ute Kranz

Charukesi Ramadurai

Derek Baron

Amanda Williams

Festival of Colors

by Daniel Hofmann

Most people know the Holi Festival as a colourful event, so it was a challenge to approach it as a black and white project. I wanted to show that color is only one part of the story and that it really is about the energy instead.

I was in Vrindavan and Mathura to document the festivities. Both cities are strongly connected to the life of Krishna, which is why Holi is very intensely celebrated there. I had to learn that this can be good and bad. Good, because the whole city is smiling at you. Everyone is in a great mood and being a photographer on that day is bliss. Nobody is going to say no when you ask them for a portrait and other people are too busy with celebrating to notice you at all.


On the other hand: a big party comes with a big amount of alcohol and after noon the vibe can drastically change. Big crowds and alcohol are never my favourite combination, so I kept my distance after the clock passed 12 in the afternoon on the 6th of March. It’s the actual day when everyone celebrates Holi. In Mathura and Vrindavan the clocks tick differently though and I could enjoy some festivities on the 4th and 5th. Highlights are the celebration in the Bankee Bihari Temple in Vrindavan and a parade in the streets of Mathura. It was an amazing experience and it is not going to be the last time I will document this festival.   

  

Four days with Richard: The Magnum Photo Workshop in Goa

by Daniel Hofmann

It’s over. Yesterday the Magnum Photography Workshop with Richard Kalvar came to an end and it was quite the experience. I was one of twelve photographers who had the fortune to be selected for this program in Goa. For four days, we talked, criticized, edited and, of course, took pictures. Every day until lunch, we would talk about the pictures we created the day before and in the afternoon everyone would work on their own project. It was a stressful but rewarding time. It’s not only the review of my own pictures that brought me forward; seeing and analyzing the work of other photographers helped me grasp the difference between good and amazing work. It can be the smalllest elements that make the biggest differences sometimes.

I am still trying to pinpoint out exactly what the workshop did for me as a photographer, but it is hard. Kalvar is not the type of person who will tell you bluntly what is wrong with your pictures. The worst comment I heard about one of my pictures — the one to your right — was “boring”.

I can live with the critique, because he is right. It’s a guy doing a handstand and that’s it. I still like it, but because I have an emotional connection to it, I failed to see just the picture. That is one thing I take away from the workshop (so now you can save yourself the money after having read this); you need to learn to look beyond the emotional attachment or personal moment, and judge the photo for what you captured.

There are different kind of workshops out there. Some of them are a great experience to see your favorite photographer work in the field and walk around as a group. If you want something like that, then a Magnum Workshop is probably not for you. They challenge you to work on your own and to be consistent with the work you produce. Now, as I write that, I realize that this is actually the most important thing I learned over the last days: be consistent, always challenge yourself and work , work and then work a little bit more until the picture is more than a snapshot. "We are here to create more than just a good picture", Richard would say.

The pictures you are going to see here are part of this process; they are the final selection I presented at the end of the workshop. The project concentrates on the repair men around Goa. From little things like knifes to huge ships. It’s amazing to see how your work changes when you have to reduce it to ten pictures. You have to be hard on yourself and cut some pictures out. It hurts but in the end, this makes the set stronger and your vison becomes clearer for you and the viewer. At least, I hope it worked!

Fix Me