I have been a long time reader of your site (in fact you posted a photo of mine as Daily Inspiration Number 11 back in the day). Thanks for your time and passion you put into your site and the community you have built.
With all the black and white images you have been posting it urged me to go back into my archives and take a look at some of my own black and white photos. The photos below were shot in 2010 on my M8 with a Summicron 35mm (Type IV). Even though I now have an M9P which it’s my constant companion, I still love the M8, especially when converted to black and white. The M8 was my first Leica M and I’ll keep using it until it stops. It’s been going strong for many years though and shows no signs of giving up yet!
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to travel to Vladivostok, Russia. I had been there a few years earlier and it always remained a strange and very surreal place in my memory.
This time I really wanted to explore a lot more of the city than I was able to the first time. I made contact with a photography student who lives there to be my sort of tour guide / fixer. I had a rough shopping list of the kinds of things I was interested in seeing, but essentially he just drove me around for days exploring the outer suburbs, meeting locals and translating.
I have a whole bunch of photos from this trip I’ve never really shown anybody. Some photos I took one night of some skateboarders ended up in the 2012 CCP Documentary Award, but the rest are just taking up space on a hard drive unseen, for the moment.
I recently came across this shot I took while exploring an abandoned building. The building was in the middle of the city which is noisily congested with cars and pedestrians yet inside the building it was surprisingly still and quiet. The building was stripped bare, the ground was littered with rubble and used syringes.
On one of the upper floors I was startled to find a couple of kids sleeping on one of the window sills. At first, I really thought they were dead as they were so ‘lifeless’. But as I stood still I could sense their breathing, slow and faint. I’m not sure if they were stoned, drunk or just tired. I thought they looked so peaceful perched on the window ledge, soaking up the sunlight, blissfully unaware of me or the four-story drop to the ground just behind them.
I’m pretty sure this wasn’t their ‘home’ but I did feel like an intruder. I wasn’t sure if I should even take a photo. I felt that in some way I might be stealing some of their solace. But of course the documenter got the better of me.
I only took a few of quick shots, edging closer with each frame, trying to get close enough to see them properly, but far enough away not to wake and disturb them. Each step crunched on broken glass underfoot and in the big empty space the normally quite-ish shutter on my camera seemed to ‘clunk’ heavily and echo through the empty shell of the building.
Later, when I downloaded the images I saw that the boy sitting up was almost cradling his friend in his lap, the detail below shows his hand resting gently on his friends cheek.
It’s a moment and a photograph that has stayed with me. In all it’s sadness and it’s beauty. I hope these two had found a moment of warm escape and were dreaming deeply of different lives in different places.
I’ve often thought of them and wondered what they were up to and how they may be doing now. I hope they are both well.
You can see more of my work by visiting www.hoaxville.com
excellent work! I believe the fourth image is has more emotional impact in the better of formal structure. I have been a short M8 user ( I posted some photo here) and I never suffered for the high ISO limitations of M8. I always found it to be beautiful M8 file even at 1250 ISO.
Ciao a tutti Pietro.
Really strong work, love the skateboarder portraits on the link, beautifully composed I was expecting more b&w, wild angles and urban decay. Your film Last Ride looks great too, I’m going to try check it out.
Thanks Jeremy. Yeah, I don’t do a lot of ‘urban decay’ and I’m drawn to colour more than black and white. So these images although i like them are perhaps not representative of my work in general. That said I would love get deep into black and white photography for while.
If you do see ‘Last Ride’, hope you like it!
I can almost touch what you must have felt moving around that place, taking care not to unnecessarily intrude onto the scene. The tension must have had some effect on your choice of framing etc, but I can only applaud you for capturing the essence of the situation.
Nothing new, just an other try and abuse to make some “art” on the back of defenseless poeple … ;-(
Do you even read what you write?
Nothing new that someone comes and disqualifies what other people find beautiful or haunting as just unartistic. There are far more examples of harm being done by people who wanted to define what art could be than of those who just created what they felt. If those pictures hadn’t been taken, the boys would have been in the same situation and we none the wiser. You should maybe avoid sites where you may be exposed to a lot of street photography…
@Kragom, very well said, thank you.
Incredibly poignant pictures. Reminds me of the street photography I used to do outside of the homeless shelter I volunteered at for a while. Haunting images that need to be seen. Good work.
I’m glad you’re able to see them at peace, because that’s an incredibly sad picture for me. I doubt those two are there because they got sleepy naturally. I hope for the sake of them and their loved ones that they’ve escaped their drugs of choice and found a better future. Russia is having such a bad problem with all kinds of substance abuse, especially in the young.
Crushing, haunting, and sadly beautiful images…great work
+1. You said it!
The grit, the alcohol, the drugs and the young men passed out sleeping off a high all tell a gripping story. Thanks for sharing and will take the time to see more of your work.
Glendyn, these are very impressive photos!
I had a first quick look on your blog and liked the pictures you took from the band Fucked Up, they’re one of my favorite bands too 😉
Great work !
The band were great to meet and it was great fun getting amongst it to shoot it. The front man Damian is one of the most passionate people I’ve met. As you can see from the photos! Thanks.
GkedYn – very strong work – well done – very confronting!
Dear Glendyn, sensitive images and words. I see and feel the film … Thank you for inspiring. Your blog is a must see/read … Been totally absorbed in it (yr blog) for hours and intend to read/see more in next days. I’m fascinated as you too work in film and stills . One feels your joy and your duende in yr work. I can’t wait to download the “making of ” book you made on the TV series you directed… the few shots I saw in the blog are really special.
Wise move to get a fixer to guide you around. Keep saying to mys elf I must do same when next in difficult countries and wish to shoot the rougher side of the tracks.
I too still have an “old” M8.2 (and M9P MM) still going strong …got its own feel/look that I find difficult to let go of.
Thank you for sharing this story and your amazing blog
Thanks Jorge! Glad you like http://www.hoaxville.com and thanks in advance if you buy a copy of ‘Flaming Youth’.
And yes, as much as I love my M9P I can’t let go of my ‘old’ M8. In the right conditions I sometimes prefer it over the M9.
I think the CCD sensor cameras are going to become even more desirable in the future… ; )
Wonderful documentary images of the abandoned building. The idea of braving those used needles to capture such amazing photos does on some level terrify me, but you have been rewarded with the most beautiful portrait and really highlight real life consequences of Heroin addiction.
Very good your Vladivostok skating series, and also this two boys at the window.
I am also owner of an M8. Last year I spent three months in Italy, mainly Sicily, and I brought only the Leica with a 24mm Elmarit. Excellent quality and light weight! My only complaint was when shooting at night, I couldn’t go further than ISO 650 because of the noise.