My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me
– Henry Ford -
I recently had the honor of photographing this beautiful couple and travel companions, on our adventurous road trip around the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey. Eljandre Mulder and Mia Viljoen are getting married early in 2015 and they decided to make this trip with us. They both love historical sites so we decided that it would be the most ideal setting for an engagement shoot to end off our exciting holiday together. For me the shoot / images signify the start of their beautiful journey together. May your spirit travel over time and last even longer than the magnificent ancient ruins of Ephesus.
The biggest benefit from living and working in Dubai is the opportunity we get to travel. The United Arab Emirates is pretty much smack in the center of most of the destinations that we like (and would like) to visit and we are trying to make the best of the time we have here by exploring and learning about various cultures and customs. During this Ramadan I have been focusing on some personal projects and I have come to the realisation that I need to take more portraits and focus more on character study when travelling. Below are some portraits that I have accumulated (over the last three years) and would like to share them with you.
I visited Waruna’s Antiques in Kandy and got introduced to Waruna (owner) and his mother. His mother and father started the business and it is now owned by their son. I found her to be incredibly elegant and interesting and she showed me her secret rooftop garden.
My uncle has a home in Elandsbay and Drieka, the lady in the white shirt is his housekeeper. She is also a singer and I discovered her singing talent while filming my short film Walvis: an old-wives tale from the West Coast in Elandsbay. In the image she is holding some of the music that we recorded and her husband also happened to be home at the time.
This photo was taken during one of our first Dubai exploration expeditions. With all the high-rises and glamour this city has to offer, this is a very real depiction of an experience in the city’s older, simpler, less glamorous part of town.
I took a moped to the Southern part of the Koh Samui Island where I strolled the streets and tasted some interesting fruit and vegetables in various small market stalls. As the evening crept up and stalls started closing, I took this image of what looked like the owner of the shop and the bookkeepers adding all the sales for the day.
This woman allowed me to take her photograph while she was waiting for her small boat to come into the harbor. Fishing on the West Coast is an unforgiving job, with little to no benefits. Women are resorting to jobs like these, as there are very few jobs in the rural areas. She has been a fisherman for most of her life.
Yowyn is a make-up artist in Pretoria, South Africa and this image was taken while she was working on some make-up looks for her portfolio. She was still a student at the time and is now working as a professional make-up artist in Pretoria.
I was about to leave the market when I saw this beautiful little girl as she was waiting for her mother to finish her shopping. I remember how bored I was when I had to wait around for my mother and I could relate to her.
It was a gloomy London day and I was walking over the bridge with our friends, on our way home, when I saw this man. He had such a gentle and kind face and the sound of the I took this image with my film camera.
Visiting Robben Island is a very emotional and very sad journey back in time and we had the privilege of meeting Mr. Ntando Mbatha, one of the ex-prisoners of the era in which Nelson Mandela was also imprisoned. In this image Mbatha introduced himself after which he shared some stories and history of the prison itself and life in the prison. He currently still resides on the island and is a tour guide to the prison (now a national museum).
Greenmarket Square is a well-known tourist attraction in the heart of Cape Town and you will find some great South African souvenirs. What I enjoy about Africa is that people don’t harass you to buy things. This lady was (almost hidden) amongst the souvenirs and I then realised after taking the photograph that she was praying.
Since Koh Samui is incredibly humid you find friendly “juice ladies” around every second corner selling fresh fruit juices with the additional alcoholic option (cocktails).
I was strolling the streets of Koh Tao when I came across a beautiful cat with two different color eyes. The owner of the cats came out of her shop and she said I could take this image with her and her two beautiful cats.
The poster on the church behind the men in the image was initially what drew my attention but then refocussed on the two men having a conversation. Street life in Cape town is relaxed and the people are friendly, admits all the political problems the country is currently facing.
The streets of Vance is bustling with life. This man asked the women to dance to some live Latino music being performed in from of the Catholic church. She said yes to dance with the stranger, without any hesitation.
The Muay Thai ritual before each fight requires each boxer and his opponent to do a ritualistic dance and rest his head and hands on each corner of the ring.
After the dance performed by the elaborately dressed Kandyan traditional dancers, we watched how they walk on fire.
On route to the Pilgrimage to the top of Sri-Pada (near Delhousie) we passed this tiny blue shop. I only realised after taking the image that a man was sitting inside.
This boy had a fight minutes before the next fighters entered the ring.
We recently visited the cold and wintery South Africa where I decided to do a shoot based on a local urban legend. The legend is that of the ghost of Sammy (Samual) Marks who has been haunting his home (also known as Zwartkoppies Farm, built in the 1880s) and historical site in Pretoria, since his death in 1920. The story I am developing is about Samual Mark’s middle daughter Dolly, who now also haunts the forest area outside the house in search of her family name. Sammy and his wife Bertha had nine children of which only six survived. The sad thing is that the legend and legacy of Sammy Mark died in 1981, with the death of his last grandchild. Of all Sammy and Bertha’s grandchildren only girls were born, so the family name died when the last grandchild passed away. In my story I am exploring the idea of losing a legacy and what it means to have a family name, what does it tie to? I am interested in ideas such as why a name matters and does blood tie you to family? With the images I wanted to capture the spirit of Dolly Marks – a rich Victorian lady who was not allowed to marry a ‘foreigner’ and who was ordered to return home to their family farm. In my story she rebels against her religious father by practising alternative spiritual rituals and vows to never marry. Her spirit still remains.
I am also super blessed and honoured this month to be featured on Gulf Photo Plus’s website as “member in focus” for the month of July.
2013 (various times) South Africa, Croatia & London
If You Leave
If you Leave I leave with You
To Places deep and dark and Through
the Light and in the Trees and by
the Pond where I hear the Sea.
We sit and wait for the Stars to sing,
until I leave with you on the Unicorn wing
– by Karien Mulder -
Some time ago I travelled to Croatia, South Africa and London and took some film images with the Canon Eos 1V which I borrowed from my photographer friend Hannie Du Plessis. I love shooting with film because you have no room for error and there is just something haunting to film and black and white images. Some of these where shot with double exposures and no post-production has been done.
This post is dedicated to my sister (Tanya Viljoen) who I love and miss dearly.
We flew 5064 km from Dubai to arrive in Denmark and it’s capital Copenhagen, believed to be the happiest city in the world (according to Lonely Planet). My goal was to shoot some street photography and get footage for our next visual memoir. We also wanted to go and see what the fuss was about. After a pleasant flight and some rest on the plane, we took a 20-minute, slightly confusing train trip and arrived at the beautiful Copenhagen Central Station (built in 1908).
The old train station is gorgeous, made almost completely out of wood. Doves cuddle in the large, warm, sun bathed windows and the light is perfect, all day. The grandeur of the station created this sense of historic nostalgia and you cannot help to be a little overwhelmed by the beauty of it. For a while we soaked in the atmosphere, drank a coffee, ate a Frankfurter on a bun with all the trimmings (a large Frankfurter, very small bun, crispy onions, ketchup, gherkin and mustard) while we listened to the rain. What I love so much about travelling are these moments of complete stillness in what seems to be such an insanely chaotic, bustling place. The unfamiliarity of it all, forces you to find some comfort in the smaller things, those things that you take for granted every day.
From the station we walked to Hotel Du Nord (a hotel in Vesterbro with a great deal of character and very friendly staff, especially Daniel, who made some suggestions where we could go for a drink and some local cuisine). Vesterbro is in the red light district of the city but even this presumably rough area seemed safe and trendy. Daniel suggested a pub around the corner called Jernbanecafeen or The Railroad Pub that is situated opposite the Central Station. It is owned by a lovely lady called Agnes Bjørlig and she is the proud third-generation owner of this family business that has been around since 1933. The railway-themed interior is beautiful and ornate; with handmade flags to commemorate their 81 years of existence. There is so much character in the small space it’s unreal. They also have this value card where you can win a medal if you drink 10 of their local beers, so we said we would absolutely try to do that…we never managed 10, only 7.
We finished the day off by going to a lovely local restaurant Frk. Barners Kaelder where I had some fish, potatoes and white wine and Nic had a rich traditional stew with red wine. The service was great and the food even better especially because it was cold that evening.
On Day 2 we strolled through the streets of Vesterbro, with its cool clothing stores and hipster hangouts, where everyone, even pram-pushing-dads look like hipsters – happy hipsters with hot hairstyles. What is interesting about Copenhagen (from what we have seen) is that even though it is super trendy, it is not at all pretentious. You don’t feel like a tourist and on day two we already said we could live there. We still do. The day was spent fooling around parks, taking small beer-breaks (Øl) and lying on the grass or wherever we could find some wild flowers, graffiti or take pictures of random old buildings.
Celeste joined us late that afternoon at Agnes’s pub, Jernbanecafeen and after that we decided to take another stroll around town and go to the free townChristiania, the largest hippy community in the world, with their own governing system. It is not allowed to take photos (due to the substances sold there) so we had a drink, said farewell to Celeste and hit the streets. We took a picture at the Hard Rock Café for our friend Werner who collects caps from each Hard Rock that he visits and we had yet another late night exploring the streets and the late night street food (schwarmas).
On Day 3 we took a bus from Central Station to Nørrebro and got off in the main street with it’s awesome oriental and antique shops. Not far from there we decided to go visit Hans Christian Andersen’s grave – possibly the most amazing Assistens cemetery I have ever seen. It is so beautiful that lovers spend their afternoons soaking up the sun on the grass, amongst the graves, the delicate flowers and the willow trees. We spent most of our afternoon there and spoke to people who knew the cemetery and some of the symbolical meaning behind some of the iconography they use on various stones. They where so generous with their knowledge and gave us a free map of the cemetery. We also visited the grave of Hans Christian Andersen, which was an unpretentious, simple grave with some fresh roses placed on it.
On our way back we stopped at the beautiful Palads cinema ( a three-story mansion with crystal chandeliers and a fabulous popcorn selection). Due to the incredible selection of sweets and popcorn they have, it is not advisable to take children there because they will end up crying! This was heaven for us as we are completely movie-and popcorn obsessed and they have a massive selection of both. After the freak-out session we walked over the street for a light lunch and some latte, served in a normal glass (something everybody does in Copenhagen and I really don’t know why).
The light was beautiful so we strolled some more through the alleys, towards the Round Tower (built in 1642), to go check out the view of the city. The tower itself has a completely hollow center and there is a space at the top of the center where you can go and view the hollow, while standing on a pane of glass….eeeek! Besides the hollow center and the steep spiralling walk up and around the tower, they also had an amazing hat exhibition, consisting of a 1000 hats, not to mention the most incredible 360-degree view of the city, once you have reached the top of the tower.
The city center is bustling and beautiful with buskers making music and life is everywhere on the streets. One barista told us that the street in Copenhagen is ‘sacred to him; because there is so much life happening there” and he also spoke about how the street is their livelihood. I have to admit I miss this street life in Dubai, because other than Satwa there are very few places where you see that kind of interaction.
What I also really like about Copenhagen are all the specialty stores, for instance we went to one that only sells maps and world globe maps (some with lights in them and we were tempted to buy one) or various hat shops, book shops or a pub that only sell speciality Rums.
After another snack we headed to Nyhavn, a harbour not far from the Round Tower. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening sipping icy drinks, taking photos and watching people with their Nikes passing by (everyone wears them). On our way back we met two musicians, Dave and Jean Paul and their fabulous friend Michella who said we should join them for a drink at a small blues bar nearby. We met some more amazing people there and listened to some inspiring Tom-Waits-but-not-Tom-Waits-like tunes by Jake Green. It was one of those great nights and it is always awesome to make new friends.
Day 4 was spent strolling in the Botanical Gardens where each and every shrub, plant type and flower is named, labeled and carefully looked after – so incredible to see. It was the hottest day since we got there and everyone was out to enjoy the sun around picnic baskets and games in the park. This day I thought about how balanced the city seems with everyone, even elderly people, being active (everyone is either on a bike or walking or running) and I could see why they say it is the happiest city on earth.
On the way to the Rosenborg Castle (1606-1607) I was taking photos of a wall (just some stock texture) when a lady abruptly stopped on her bike, walked over and pointed to a cannonball in the wall. At first I thought she might be a bit mental but then she explained this was a cannonball dating back to the 1808 British Bombardment of Denmark. The ball is still embedded in the wall of the now University of Copenhagen. It was so surprising and so cool that a random stranger took the time to show me that. At the Rosenborg Castle we had a fabulous lunch with sandwiches and some marvellous coffee (again, served in a normal glass) with the hundreds of years old castle, as our backdrop. You would think it is something out of a fairytale with swans cruising in small ponds and beautiful light. It is no wonder Hans Christian Anderson was so inspired to write those wonderful children’s stories.
Inspired by all this magic of the castle we decided to go back to Palads (the amazing cinema, mentioned earlier) to see a Wes Andersen film (one of my favourite directors). On the way there, we stopped at the Dutch Film Institute to check out an exhibition of some local filmmakers and browsed through some film books. The Grand Budapest Hotelis a film I can completely recommend and I could not think of a better place to watch it than there, in the heart of the most magical European City, in a building that resemble the Budapest hotel in the film. If you haven’t seen the film, it is perfection.
From Palads we almost walked pass the Tivoli Gardens but because we were still in that Wes-Andersen-movie-mode we decided to go in and explore. Tivoli Gardens is a theme park, with an old-school-fairytale-flare. We played some games, won some tokens and got a pink, kitsch frame to put a photo in and put in my grandma’s cupboard that I inherited from her.
It was such perfect day and the perfect way to end the first leg of our 3 leg trip to Copenhagen and Reykjavik, Iceland. (We were in Iceland for the following 6 nights (Day 5 – 11) and one more evening in Copenhagen, but more on this in my next post)
All images in this post were taken by Karien and Nic Mulder, apart from the poster of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Our crazy Auzzy friend, Rick Fielding recently celebrated his big five oh (50) and also sold their (him and Anne’s) legendary boat Tissaheel. We have spent some great times on the boat and this small video is made to celebrate his birthday and to say thank you for sharing their beautiful boat with us. We hope you have a fantastic year and much congrats on the half century!
KODALINE “In a Perfect World”
As a child I have always been interested in creating objects, images, painting, drawings or illustrations that is connected with something worldly, historical, spiritual or sacred. The connection to primal or spiritual artefacts is something I cannot quite explain but I think it might have something to do with the fact that I grew up without television, on the banks of Namibia’s Okavango River (Rundu), with little other than stones and crawling creatures to keep me company, which I am ever thankful for because I think it shaped the way I see the world: magical and full of mystery to explore.
Inanimate objects mean a great deal to me (in a non-material way) and wearing an Indian headdress or otherwise known as the war bonnet seems fitting to my historical context, specifically referring to the South African Border War in Rundu, that my parents where apart of. For this reason, when I was first introduced to the magical headdresses by the wonderfully talented Karin Kirsten-Collier (otherwise known as Rouge Pony) I was obsessed. She made me one that I love and have used in various of my personal projects. She has a shop on Etsy so please go check it out if you have the time. I made this illustrative logo for her; based on a self-portrait I took some time ago wearing the headpiece that she had made for me.
I have recently been making similar pieces with a different threading technique and I use different materials (mine are more ethnic, using a variety of different feathers and mostly ones I find when I am travelling). Each piece has a story, history and visual influence that makes them unique. The process of making them is strangely spiritual, to both me and hopefully to the one who wears it as Karin’s one was for me. I believe it protects the wearer and each of the meticulously crafted feather strands that are contained in the crown bears some kind of meaning to me.
The first one was made of Ostrich feather (above) when I was visiting family in the Western Cape. Ostrich meat and feathers are a ‘proudly South African’ export and the idea was to use material from the area that reminded me of the Aztecs (although not natively worn by them only referring to their use of color). The second one I made was made out of recycled materials (Dubai). I wore it to a festival in South Africa in August 2012 (Oppikoppi festival) where festivalgoers are encouraged to dress up. I wanted to create a headdress that was made out of recycled paper, foil and some random feathers and bring something to the festival from where I was at the time.
A friend of mine recently asked me to make her a headdress but after some thought said that wearing a headpiece in the Nevada desert (to Burning Man festival) would be somewhat sacrilegious so I decided to investigate a bit more. I am fascinated with cultures and artefacts from other cultures, so naturally I do not see anything wrong with wearing it, if it is something you wear with pride, celebrating the culture and understanding where it comes from. For this reason I respect her choice not to wear it to the festival, although I am not against people celebrating the Indian culture and wearing it.
On this website there are articles that gives information about the cultures of the Mayans, Pawnee, Choctaw, Apache, Comanche, Nez Perce, Wampanoag, and Chumash Indians. American Indians are often referred to as Native Americans as they the native inhabitants of the Americas. The Paleo Indian tribes date back as long ago as 40,000 years ago and many Indian tribes were known for their skillful fighting and brave warriors like those from the Apache and Comanche tribes are well-known. The Indians also contributed visually and culturally to the arts, crafts, fashion, and music and I think that was the initial draw for me as it has become somewhat of a commercial venture where shops sell various Indian craft, masks, headdresses, paintings and various other forms of art.
The war bonnet or headdress is well-known over the world but is actually only natively worn by only a couple of Indian tribes in the Great Plains region. The Sioux, Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne and Plains Cree are to name but a few. Headdresses also differ from tribe to tribe, and are mainly worn for symbolical reasons. Some of the most well-known war bonnets are the trailer headdress (with a long single/double row of feathers that create a ‘trail’ all the way to the ground). The halo headdressis the one I make and they fan around the head and face in an oval shape (usually worn by the Crow tribe). Thestraight-up headdress is the third shape and this is usually worn by Blackfoot men and most of the above-mentioned headpieces were made out of eagle feathers. For these men earning each eagle tail feather was obtained by doing an act of bravery. The headpiece is a sign of masculinity and originally only worn by chiefs, warriors and most influential Indians. Wearing a feather of an eagle was also significant as it was believed that eagles where the messengers from their Creator and the men from the Plains never wore the ceremonial pieces for battle but they wore a replacement roach headdress instead, usually for practical reasons. On native-languages.org other headdresses are also referred to which where less well know, such as the buffalo headdress (containing buffalo horns) and the Seminole turban with its European influence.
During the 1800’s Native American men from other tribes also started wearing the headdresses because the American tourist industry expected Native American men to look a certain way. Tribes who were forced to live in other areas where also expected to wear it and adapt to the customs of other tribes. Unfortunately even then the headdresses have become somewhat of a tourist attraction and naturally the headdress worn by the original tribes had a different significance and meaning to the ones who were forced to wear them (Oklahoma region). In 1onewolf.com they talk a bit about the process of making the headdresses and share some beautiful illustrations that show the painstaking process.
I greatly respect the sacred artefacts and for me these headdresses bear a lot of significance in my life. It is a way of celebrating ancient culture and I use it spiritually, as an art piece and as a form of self-expression. They are made to encourage a free mind, bravery, pride and a fighting spirit that refers back to the original reason why they exist. On a recent trip to Amsterdam I had an Indian-headdress-wearing “Pow Wow” girl tattooed on my leg as a reminder of my fighting spirit and persistence we need for doing creative work.
Above images were taken with the help of my husband Nic who assisted me in the shoot. I am also currently working on collaborating with a designer and possibly another fine art photographer to make a series of photographic fine art prints exploring the Middle East that will be exhibited in a gallery. The pieces in the images above will also be used for a shoot for an upcoming audio-visual collaboration mentioned in a previous post.