Knut Skjærven: Traveling Light. Love Story In Berlin


Knut Skjærven is a Norwegian photographer, blogger/writer and researcher living in Copenhagen, Denmark. His many ongoing activities are listed in the blogroll at his index blog foreign photographer. His latest and emerging projects are Street Photographer’s Toolbox (an educational program for (street) photographers) and The Europeans. Both are long term projects.

This time I had decided to travel light.

I mean, normally I take three cameras including a SLR with 3 all metal lenses; two MacBooks just to be on the safe side; three external hard disks, cloth and other gear enough to survive a winter in Siberia.  After all Berlin is closer to the cold weather than I am used to.

The German capital was the destination this time. I was to visit the art fairs. Hoping to take some pictures as well

Not to forget one not so smart mobile phone, and one iTouch because it does emails better than my mobile phone that by the way needs to be replaced. That is a lot of gear.

But not this time, I thought. So I packed one black Leica X2, one MacBook thin as air, and no external disks. No lenses all metal.

I also managed to reduce other equipment to a sensible minimum. I could actually border the train in one go. Seven hours later I landed at Hauptbanhnhof.  Reaching the apartment half past three p.m., I was ready to move out and about half an hour later. Fourish.

Every time I board the train in Copenhagen I feel I am traveling into proper Europe. Leaving the thinly populated outskirts. I board my very own European Express traveling into the unforeseen. I enjoy it.

I discovered Berlin only few years ago. It is good for photography. Former days I would just have passed through for more sandy and warmer shores. Not now. Besides there are good bookstores.

My errand was not only photography. I wanted to test how it was to travel light. I wanted to have that possible lightness reflected in the pictures.

It is no strain to land images. The camera does most of the hard work. Tagging me along. Mostly it is about getting out of bed, jump on the bus or start walking. Not much planning to do. The X2 is a blessing of no weight, and as I have it on completely silence and can set myself to invisible, it is not much of a hardship.  I just have to start and after a while I have to finish. It could be several hundred pictures later.  It often is.

A picture story might come out of it. Even if there was no storyboard from the beginning. I would have to see.

I have learned to travel with an extra battery, but have not needed it yet. An Extreme Pro at 16 BG does wonders, but even with that I can run out of space. They don’t weigh much so I always carry two.  Always RAW and always at the highest resolution. That eats gas.

The X2 a huge improvement to the X1. Things work, speed is up and knobs and handles stay in their place when told to. I would never trade back.

My overall shooting mode is this. In the words of John Szarkowski: He (the photographer) “learned that the world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness, and to recognize its best works and moments, to anticipate them, to clarify them and make them permanent, requires intelligence both acute and supply.”

I am in training for both acute and supply. Always in training. But could I make a photo story?

For the kind of street photography I do,  indoor photography included, the X2 is perfect. It has as lot of patience, can handle cups of coffee when needed. Even the odd glass of champagne.  It leads a life of privilege.

All disturbances welcomed since they could make for interesting situations. Looking for the small adventures. That is the key elements. The small dramas, not the big one.

What can I say about the pictures? What can I say about the picture story? Not much really. They should need no translation.

Look not for the shouting moments. Look for the small, almost unseen tweaks of life. Look for the soft speaking moments.

Who said that?

Yes, I have to admit it. The small Leica suits me well.  The all black model suits me even better.

Black is better for black and white. Each their way. That is half way to photography.

Definitely, that is what it means to be traveling light. I am sure of it.  If a love story comes along, grab that too.

– Knut Skjærven

Love Story is the sole invention of the photographer. Similarities to real life love stories are not intended. All pictures are shot from September 10 to September 16, 2012. I was visiting Berlinerliste, Preview and ABC Berlin. Photos are from the first and the second and in transit.

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6 comments

  • This is a great story. It just so happens that I was at a Leica store this past weekend looking at the X2 and your photos may just get me back there to buy it. You are a better photographer than what you give yourself credit for. Great street scenes and great philosophy about always being learning. Best of luck in your projects.

  • Many thanks, Eric, I am honoured.

    I would never write these words about the X2 unless this was how I felt about it. To me it is a perfect little instrument well suited to what I want to do. It is not super fast, but the X2 is a great improvement to the X1, in that respect.

    It is also the best looking camera I have ever had. You may say that such things do not count, but of course they do since they add to the pleasure of using it.

    Credit, hmmm, I was not aware that I was so shy here :-). I think that credit (may) come if you take yourself seriously in a positive way and enjoy what you are doing. And that has much to do with learning. To me it is absolutely clear that learning never stops. How could it?

    About the story: It is a new experience for me to work with images in sequences. Maybe I even overdid it here trying to make a flow with images already shot. But I will learn. It was fun.

    Thanks once more for reading and for taking the time to comment. Have a very good day.

    Best
    Knut

  • Traveling light (which for me means only x1) opened a new way to my photography. It’s interesting to read your experience. You really have a good eye, ready to catch both the moment and the form.
    I really like your 7 and 8 photographs. And the square format is appropriate in your composition.
    robert

  • Many thanks, Robert.

    What set me off on this path was definitely the X1. But I always had some problems with the speed that somewhat limited the use. The glass, however, was amazing.

    I am happy to hear that you like the series. I enjoyed shooting it. Most are taken within a span of 1 to 2 hours. Thanks again for your time :-).

    Have a good day.

    Best
    Knut

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