You are currently browsing the archives for April, 2010.

Safety in Buenos Aires

Apr 29th 2010: Travel

One question I often hear from friends is whether I feel safe in Buenos Aires and what the crime rate in this city is. Given the interest in the matter I want to give a quick overview of my experiences. But the short answer is, yes, I feel very safe. In fact I would say of all my travels it is one of the safest cities I’ve been to.

From friends who have lived here for a while I learnt that the cost of living in Buenos Aires has gone up 40% in the last year alone. Combine that with the worldwide economic decline and the resulting rise in unemployment rates and you might guess, correctly, that crime is on the rise here. However, it appears to be primarily petty crime like pickpocketing, at least in the areas foreigners visit. After spending 2 1/2 months here, my advice is exactly the same as the one I received before I got here: “Don’t be stupid. Use common sense. Use street smarts.” Some pretty obvious key points:
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So Very Hot

Apr 21st 2010: Thoughts, Travel

Wow. I’m on a high. It came from somewhere quite unexpected. But let me get back to that in a moment…

Boarding school had the clear disadvantage that, when the hormonal growing spurts of puberty hit you with an unearthly hunger at 2am, you would be stuck in a dormitory with a bunch of boys who didn’t know how to cook. You obviously being one of them. Without a kitchen and always strapped for cash we were required to leverage our low standards and our overexcited creativity. An illegal and as fire hazard classified water boiler dedicated to exclusively cooking cheap spaghetti together with the prepackaged tomato sauce became the nutritional source of choice to make it through the night. Even though the process was driven to a holy ritual and the result was sanctified, it was something that could only be recognized and classified as food at that particular age. Evaluating the pasta’s readiness for consumption required a long researched scientific test, a critical part of the procedure. A single spaghetti would be fished out of the pot and thrown with force against the ceiling. If it dropped back down we would have to endure our hunger for some more time, but if it stuck to the ceiling it was time to drain the bulk of the water, add the sauce mix, stir, and dig in. As the test spaghetti were rarely reclaimed, you might be able to imagine what some of the dormitory ceilings (and the corresponding water boilers) looked like towards the end of the semester.

Thanks to my current, unstructured lifestyle, I have come to realize that 24 hours, which never used to be anywhere near enough, can be rather long. Even embracing photography fulltime and working focused for an exhausting ten hours still leaves a good chunk of the day unallocated. As I am cursed with an relentlessly active ego craving to fill any void, I find myself creating lists of things to do and semi-useless skills to learn, often for no particular reason other than “wouldn’t it be cool if …” – a strange flashback to college days.

Reviewing my lists I came to realize that, 
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A New Face

Apr 19th 2010: New Work

The weather has been changing, with some crazy massive hail storm in between. Usually quite resilient to these changes, my body decided it did not like it this time around (am I getting old?) and so I’ve been a little out of commission for the last few days. I used the time of taking it easy as an opportunity to redesign my professional website, to put a new, fresh face on my online representation. Over the last few weeks I have come to realize that my latest series, Provoked, is not just another like the ones before, but at the heart of what I want to do. The new website needed to reflect that new direction and focus on this work specifically. After five full days of work I am now proud to present the new www.ernstbruening.com . I hope you like it as much as I do!

The Red Escape

Apr 12th 2010: Thoughts

(continuation from On a Roll)

Going to boarding school has clear advantages and disadvantages. On one side you are surrounded 24/7 by all the people you love, your best friends, you hang out, have fun, and you get to know everything about them. On the other side you are also surrounded 24/7 by all the people you dislike, or even hate, and you get to know everything about them, too. In my case the number of kids I disliked far outweighed the number of my friends. There is obvious value in growing a thick skin and learning to dealing with the unpleasant individuals in your life. I know that now. But as a child you don’t see it that way and so, throughout the years, you come up with creative ways to cope with those constant, forced interactions and the related stress. In 8th and 9th grade the darkroom was my escape. As head of the photo club I had full access to the school’s photo lab and so every Sunday morning I would get up, eat brunch in the cafeteria, and then disappear for several hours. Engulfed in dark red light, focused on the rather mechanical task of making small, 5×7 prints, with the radio playing soothingly in the background, all by myself for once, I was able to catch a break and just let go for a while.

Many things have changed over the years, but the darkroom has continued to be that very private and meditative escape. When you are there, the rest of world seizes to exist. In the red light you can barely see your current surroundings and all you are really left with are your photos, your music, and your thoughts. There is no rushing anything in there. The paper takes 1.5 minutes in the developer, 30 seconds in the stop bath, and 2 minutes in the fixer. And you cannot turn on the white light until it is in the fixer. So if you want to know if the print turned out the way you wanted to, and you do want to know, all you can do is wait in the dark and let your thoughts wander while the silver emulsion gradually changes.

As mentioned last week, I have been feeling a little stuck with the progress of my work.
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More Change

Apr 11th 2010: Travel

(update to: Looking for Change, part of Food)

Looks like McDonald’s smelled the beef and is introducing their own beef and bacon stacked burger line. I’m hoping they’ll try to top each other in size. I vow to eat a 10 paddy burger should they come out with one. And no, In’n Out does not count.

On a related note about McDonald’s creative menu in Germany: the following article was posted on the New York Times website today In Germany, a Taste of New York, via McDonald’s.

Nocturnal

Apr 10th 2010: Travel

Well documented in every guidebook, one of the first things you learn about life in Buenos Aires is its night-owl party schedule: The Argentine party goer takes a so called disco nap after work, around 8/9pm, goes out for dinner at 11pm, starts hitting the dance clubs at around 2 or 3am, has breakfast at 7am, and then goes straight back to work. Coming from San Francisco where you get the evil eye at 1:30am and the boot at 2am, where going to sleep at 4am constitutes an all-nighter for all practical purposes, where public transportation, especially into the East Bay, seizes to exist at around midnight, this all-night schedule seems unreal. Surely the guidebooks are exaggerating, trying to sell the place… No?

During my first week friends and I ended up at a Brazilian dance club at 1am and the place was absolutely deserted. It looked pretty sad in fact. As we hung out, bridging the time with various shots, the place started filling up and long and behold at 3am it was jam packed, with the Brazilian locals busting out some crazy, choreographed looking moves. Note to self: do visit Rio or Sao Paolo during Carnival. And this was a weeknight nevertheless, Wednesday I think. After stumbling back at around 6am I had to admit to myself that a) Buenos Aires does indeed have an insane nightlife and b) I had fun.

Without a “proper” job, without a fixed schedule, and with my apartment being conveniently located only two blocks from Plaza Serrano, one of the beating centers of this pulsating Metropolis, filled with bars, clubs, and upscale restaurants, I have since come to truly appreciate the night.
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On a Roll

Apr 6th 2010: New Work, Thoughts

(or: unforeseen challenges of a novice artist)

Yesterday morning I had one of those holy-sh*t moments. One of those that catch you by surprise, early in the morning, just after you wake up, when you are too lazy to get out of bed and, because you are still a bit sleepy, you let your mind wonder to all sorts of random thoughts. Who am I? Why do I only count nine toes on my feet? Why is that kid upstairs crying again? Probably hungry. Why won’t they feed it? And what did they mean by the line “I used my imagination” in the movie last night? What do I need to do today? Wait, what day is it? It’s Sunday. Again? Already? How many Sundays have I had? Holy Sh*t! (<– there it is) It’s already the second Sunday since I started taking photos and the sixth Sunday since I got here. Really? Wow, it’s been six weeks in Buenos Aires and two working fulltime. Holy Sh*t! (<– there it is again) Have I actually accomplished anything? Time to do a progress review:

The last two weeks have been both rewarding and frustrating. The biggest challenge was the switch to doing nothing but photo related work. I am used to set schedules, clear deadlines, and tangible progress. And now, all of a sudden, there is none except for the little man with the top hat in the left (right?) half of my brain telling me: “you are here only for a few months, don’t waste this opportunity. You better have something solid at the end of the trip.” But what? I decided to commit myself fulltime so I can put together one or more bodies of work. But what those were about I had not determined. I figured I would come here and let myself be inspired. Well, turns out you cannot force inspiration. There is no way to say “I’ll be working creatively from 9-12, have lunch, and at around 1pm I will have a great epiphany guiding me for the rest of the week.” I had not thought this through.
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