Generations Pass in Silence Before Me

For some years I have been collecting photographs, the ones that no longer had a home, an attachment to a family, the kind that were simply were abandoned. In the twelve or fifteen years that I have been collecting, I have seen generations upon generations pass in silence before my eyes, only to disappear for good.

In the years that I have been collecting, I was focusing on the 20s through the mid 1950s and preferring mostly black & white prints, deliberately ignored images from the 60s to the present. I even disregarded the occasional negatives or transparencies, as well as photographs that were faded, had major color shifts or were damaged, but that has now all changed.

Opening Presents, C-Print, date unknown

When I started acquiring my photographs, it was to accumulate a nice collection from which to draw inspiration for developing short stories that I would write and then illustrate with the found photograph. Though the stories still need to be written, collecting photographs has taken on an urgency.

In a little over one decade I have come to witness several generations disappear. Those who experienced World War Two, their photographs no longer appear on the market. Even the following two generations are disappearing, making room for photographs that were printed in the 70s to the present and soon they too will disappear. 

San Francisco Chinatown, C-Print, date unknown

We are fast approaching when a marketplace will no longer offer photographic prints, for it will have been replaced by the cloud, places like Instagram, FaceBook and other social media. 

I consider myself only a caretaker of these images, trying to give them another breath of life by sharing them as a collection in an eBook. At the moment I have begun to select and scan images depicting people on vacation for an ePublication called “Road Trips,” followed by several other eBooks that would be released on iTunes and most likely offered for free.

That is the plan for 2015, which includes finding a repository, a museum that would assume being caretaker if my son has no interest in taking on the responsibility, since we do not live indefinitely. In the meantime I shall keep on collecting, preserving what I can.

Polaroid SX-70 instant print, Date unknown

C-Print, September 1968

Polaroid Land Camera instant print, Date unknown

C-Print, April 1968

The Picnic, C-Print, July 1958

C-Print on pearl paper, Date unknown

Passport to My Neighborhood - José

Because there was still plenty of available light for about another 90 minutes before having to call it a day, that I decided to venture into another part of San Francisco that not too many people see. I am referring to the Tenderloin District, a place where you will find the worst of the worst, as well as the kind and good hearted unfortunates that call this area home, and this is where I found José.


He was coming out of a building behind me as I was standing partially in the street, photographing the structure across from me. Amidst the noise of traffic, I heard a voice addressing me, asking why I am taking a photograph of the building. While still focused on getting the image, I replied without looking back and simple replied, “because I like the architecture.”

Once finished, I slowly turned around and there stood a man in his late thirties or early forties with a smile on his face, instructing me to look at the light, not the lights in the that were in the building I had just photographed, but how the setting sun by now effect the sky that was visible in the negative spaces between the buildings.

One could tell in his voice that he was expressing a sense of joy for something most would not have taken noticed of or even pondered at length. Yet here was a man who’s heart was filled with a joy, standing amidst one of the sordid squalored parts of town.

He asked if I was a tourist and where I was from, I said I was just from the other side of the bay but originally from Alemania, to which he replied, “Así que usted habla español?” With a sense of embarrassment I had to confess I spoke no Spanish. What followed next made me uncomfortable, as he wanted to know what I thought about Hitler and I feel that there is more to Germany’s history then just Hitler. 

As we continued our conversation, he mentioned if I knew that earlier today another American journalist had been brutally executed by ISIS. It was at this point he kept asking over and over again, why we cannot live in harmony with each other.

We introduced each other and I learned that his name is José and he came from El Salvador. He paused briefly, looked directly into my eyes which did not waver from his gaze, when he began to share his story.

José told me that his mother and father had been killed, actually murdered. He offered no clues as to by whom, how or when. His voice was now more shaky and his gaze avoided me completely other then looking everywhere but really nowhere. A tear began to slowly roll down from his left eye which he choose not to wipe it away. Without a second thought, I embraced him, holding tight this stranger whom I just met a few minutes ago. 

We shared an unspoken moment of intimacy where nothing around us existed. All he wanted was to live in harmony though he had been robbed, even stabbed, it all did not matter. He felt no need for retribution or ill against any of the perpetrators. He forgave them, he was at peace with himself. 

There was an understandable pause and as we slowly continued our conversation,  it was only to bring our meeting to a conclusion and slowly walk in opposite directions.

Often I have walked these and other streets of the less fortunate and wondered about the people I passed, yet always fearful of stopping and engaging a stranger in conversation, even though I wanted to have not only their picture but the story that would accompany that portrait.

José obviously is one of the very few fortunate individuals living in the Tenderloin where human grief and misery flourish in great abundance. These wretched surroundings had no real effect on him. José rose above it, for he took pride in how he looked. His white shirt was clean except for some paint splatter, possible revealing his trade. The facial hair trimmed and his hands were clean. His mannerism civil and polite.

I wish I had asked questions of José but I did not. Our chance meeting was just that and I for one am grateful, that for a few minutes this man trusted me enough to share what was on his mind, in his heart.


In the beginning of meeting José, I asked if I could take his picture and while it was not posed, I also knew I wanted a few casual shots, especially as José talked about himself. With the iPhone already set to silence and the appropriate camera application selected, any additional photographs needed to be captured in stealth mode, this meant not looking at my mobile at any time. 

I was fortunate enough to be resting against a parking meter which I used to steady myself and the arm that held the phone. While driven to get the shots at all costs, I also felt uncomfortable, guilty one might say, when he cried. Believing as well as hoping I had obtained the images, I lowered the iPhone.

The majority of today’s street photography is accomplished on the run, without engaging the subject and when you do inner act with someone, the photographs usually appear posed, something I would like to avoid. 

Because I find character and human drama on these particular streets, where people of all races and nationalities carve out a meager existence, I will return and maybe the next time I will be the one to begin the conversation.

Technical notes: Camera applications were PureShot and Hipstamatic. All images are full frame. and have been post processed using an Apple iPad 4 with retina in Stackables with customized filters developed by me.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

First Friday of the Month - Jordaan HipstaPak

Lens: Vincent - Film: Rijks, no flash

Before you know it, another month has passed and we are once again confronted with anticipation and the wonder if this month’s offering from Hipstamatic will have us being excited or disappointed, considering the scoreboard has not looked that great these passed many months., but let’s take a look and see what the Jordaan HipstaPak, with a Vincent lens and Rijks film is all about.

In case you are wondering why this Hipstpak is named Jordaan, it is because the Jordaan District in Amsterdam, which is noted for some of the best art galleries and it is also remembered for the painter Rembrandt van Rijn, who in his lesser successful period, also came to live in Jordaan, as many other creative souls have also called it home.

Upon first glance I see that the film is borderless, something that many of my colleagues prefer, including myself.  Now Hipstamatic states that the Vincent lens is “Inspired by the great artists of Amsterdam” and that the lens “adds a cool contrast,” while the film “Adds some circular texture and focus.”

While it is a relief to find that this combination of Vincent and Rijks to be without any special effect anomalies, one needs to see how either of these two will react when paired with another lens or film in the Hipstamatic collection will react.

After spending more than four hours on Friday riding around and exploring Rodeo, Crockett, and Martinez and obtaining my images, I have decided that for the October HipstaPak release, I shall return to Rodeo and explore this quirky but quaint town. However let us now have a look at the Jordaan HipstaPak.

Lens: Vincent - Film: Rijks, no flash

Allow me to first focus on the Vincent lens. At first glance appears to have striking similarities to Lowy, which I have always said was the sharpest lens in the Hipstamatic tool box and Vincent looks like it is coming in a close second.

When we look at the following two images, I just realized I should have taken both with the Rijks film and not the Lowy lens with Sussex film, in order to discuss the sharpness of the lens. Yet because I used Sussex film, I am able to assess any color shifts in how Vincent and Rijks renders the scene.

While Vincent is not as sharp as the Lowy lens, there are no apparent differences between the two other than that the Vincent has a gentle violet color cast, which we can see in the following examples when it is combined with other films. Yet when Vincent is paired with Rijks, that shift is greatly increased.

LEFT Lens: Lowy - Film: Sussex — RIGHT Lens: Vincent - Film: Rijks

One can see that the Sussex film renders the colors clean and very accurate, while there is definitely an over-all violet color cast effecting all the colors in the Rijks film. One just needs to look at the blue sky, the dried yellow grasses and the whites. This violet cast takes away the natural colors purity and even dampens the highlights, which is clearly visible under the freeway’s overpasses underside.

Lens: Vincent - Film: Rijks, no flash

When we look at these two samples above, we see that Rijks film has a difficulty maintaining the colors depth in bright light and again we can see the films violet over-cast effecting all the colors.

Now let’s look at Jordaan HipstaPak when paired with other lenses and film.

It should be pointed out that all images represented in this lens and film test have not been manipulated in post production and the selection of alternative lenses and film selection was done randomly. After the selection process, the same set would be applied for all scenes, also the iPhone was mounted to a tripod using a ShoulderPod.

Lens: Vincent - Film: Ina’s 1935, no flash

As the day’s photo shoot continued, I noticed the direction and quality of light has a large bearing on the outcome with the results of the Jordaan collection and  though this is also true with any combination of lens and film or photography for that matter, it was rather noticeable with the Jordaan HipstaPak. Judging from these four examples, Ina’s 1935 is a good combination.

Lens: Vincent - Film: Robusta, no flash

Robusta’s film base has a reddish undercurrent and this is visible upon closer examination. This also helps to increase the over all intensity of the colors, yet in the interior shots where there is no direct light, the red under tones appear more pronounced in the ivory wall of the last image. 

Lens: Vincent - Film: Uchitel 20, no flash

Though Uchitel 20 film is originally a light beige toned film, the violet inherent Vincent lens shifts the beige coloration by making the beige tones darker and adjusting their hue a little towards the reddish spectrum.

Lens: Vincent - Film: W40, no flash

This combination truly intensifies the scenes colors beautifully, unfortunately, I personally do not care for the vignetting as it makes the photograph appear being an ancient spy glass, that is very noticeable on the two exterior shots. 

Lens: Florence - Film: Rijks, no flash

This combination peaked my interests when we are looking at the two exterior photographs. Primarily as it renders the moment being a very hot one, for one cannot help but feel heat and it has me contemplating how the pairing of these two would capture the Sonora Desert or Joshua Tree State Park in the height of summer.

Of course interior settings will not  have this rendering, rather colors will just be lighter or a little faded, depending on the scene.

Lens: Mabel - Film: Rijks, no flash

If one is after a feel of a photographic print having lost specific color dyes and the over all appearance of the print has shifted, as it is represented here with Mable’s greenish dominance, then this is a combination to be considered.

Lens: Wonder - Film: Rijks, no flash

When Vincent was shared with the W40 fashion film, we had really saturated colors, yet when W40’s original companion lens, the Wonder lens is paired with Rijks film, the results are almost as saturated. However, because of the Wonder lens blueish hue, lighter colors are more influenced and effected.

Lens: Vincent - Film: Rijks, no flash

Of course there are many more possible combinations possible and I have only touched the surface. If you feel drawn to either the Vincent lens of Rijks film of the Jodaan HipstaPak, you have have to experiment and obtain your own results. All I have done here is to provide you with a small guide and hopefully an incentive to see what other possibilities there are.

Lens: Vincent - Film: Rijks, no flash

So what are my final thoughts about the Jordaan HipstaPak.

Though the Jordaan set is generally a decent set, I cannot help but feel a little cheated. The Vincent lens is a light modification of the Lowy lens, the Rijks film by itself offers little  to truly enhance the Hipstamatic collection.

We can take a number current Hipstamatic films , all of which have a large percentage of similarities to Rijks film, with only minor differences.

I have always been a supporter of Hipstamatic, but I also have been its critic. I would like Hipstamatic to succeed, but right now they appear adrift on a big ocean with no wind for their sails and a large Albatross around their neck. 

Since we are no longer provided with two films and a lens as in previous years, we have had a price increase, even though we still pay only $.99 per update. Yet outside of the USA, they have had to endure a double whammy, as they are actually paying a third more then we are.

But let us return to the core issue at hand. The creative team at Hipstamatic has entered a cycle of redundancy and while I would not wish for Hipstamatic to to bring back the anomalies of errors and special effects. I would suggest they look at the history of photography for inspiration, but also at art, for there is a wealth of ideas for a creative mind to explore and adopt ones findings to a set of films and lenses.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

Know the Past to Convey the Proper Message

Photographers can be influential story tellers, just like any author who weaves carefully constructed words into sentences to form a yarn and while a photographer uses a different set of tools, they have at their disposal tools that require more than just imagination.

Post editing tools have the power to not only change the underlying structure of an image but also the direction and meaning, be it intentional or not, by intertwine the visual with a mood, an evocative emotion that conveys feelings in the viewer.

Autumn Leaves and Acorns

Yet all too often I see mobile photographers applying layers and layers of filters to alter their image, failing to understand what they are doing and how their actions can actually create a wrong connotation. It is similar to a writer who uses poor grammar or spelling, because of a lack of training or worst of all, a lack of exposure to works of greatness.

While digital photography and especially in the last several years mobile photography has changed the appearance of this medium, there is a long established history that should not be ignored, especially since applying an iOS post processing application’s filter to ones image may have direct bearing to an old printing process or film. 

Still Life

Towards the end of 2012, Hipstamatic come out with TinType HipstaPak, consisting of Tinto 1884 lens, which emulated shallow depth of field portraiture of that time period, but the two films, D-Type Plate and C-Type Plate film, replicating photographic images developed on tin plates. The use of either this lens or film in combination with other lens and films in Hipstamatic’s tool box quickly became very popular and to this date remains very popular.

Autumn Leaves and Acorns, II

Another camera application like 645 PRO - Mark II, offers the user a variety of film filters to shot with, VSCO on the other hand, a post processing app, based their filter collection not only on films manufactured by Kodak, Ilford, Agfa and other film manufactures, it includes filters that will change ones photograph’s appearance to emulate a print having undergone light damage or an actual printing process.

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge southern tower base

One other post processing application worth mentioning that relies on the past is PhotoCopier from DigitalFilmTools, that offers the photographer four different categories like Movies, Paintings, Photos, and Processes. I am going to bypass the first two categories and focus briefly on Photos and Processes.

In Photos we are given an extensive list of photographers and their photographing and printing methods that spans more than a century. On the other hand, Processes exposes the photographer to Ambrotype, Bromoil, Gum Bichromate, Palladium and even modern processes like Polaroid Image Transfer and Emulsion Lift.


The point I wish to make, is that when using any of these lens and films or photographic processes, it is important to understand when these lens, films or processes were first used and what they were meant to achieve artistically. By having an understanding of the fundamentals of photography’s past, will only give your post processes the authenticity so many of today’s photographic works lack. 

Most of all, this knowledge will only empower you and make the message you wish to communicate through your photographs not only more clear and direct, and not lost in layers of layers that may offer only disorder and bewilderment in the end.

Box Car

San Francisco Fort Point

While composition, lighting and a good eye, even timing now and then, are all essential ingredients in the making of a good photograph, editing, and post production, including digital or traditional darkroom techniques are just as important, along with presentation, in completing the artist’s concept.

So the next time you’re getting ready to post process one of your captures on an iOS device, give some thought before clicking on any application by letting your imagination wonder until the photograph reveals a dialogue to pursue, then map out your course using the hidden secrete language that the filters hold.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved
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