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.