Category: Uncategorized

Hello World

Fine Art Photography, San Francisco, Lifestyle Photography, Tunnels Under the Earth

Hi Everyone! This is my first entry on my new blog page, Hendrik Paul Photography. I have been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time now. There was something about today that seemed in-sync and right for me to make the plunge and start. Welcome!

For me the purpose of this blog is to talk about art, share art, and create art. Photography pulses through my veins. I am excited to begin sharing with you all my findings, personal work and projects and works of friends and colleagues.

I thought for quite some time about which image I might share for my first entry. The photograph that I decided to share was one that I took this past summer in Poland. When I look at this image I find myself looking down both of the tunnels and questioning which one I would go down. Often times life presents situations that ask the same questions. “Which path should I take?” “Should I do this or that?” “Is this the right job or should I move on?” Which would…  Should I…  Is it better to…  I see it with the viewpoint of, take the path that you most believe in. Even if you know it to be the harder path, take it. Do not let outside circumstances thwart your beliefs and decisions. In Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, Dickens said, “…think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” Standing in-front of both tunnels, listen to your intuition and take the path that you know to be true. Believe in your intuition. Listen to your heart.

Beneath The Earth

Lessons from my Grandmother

When my grandfather died in 1943, my grandmother, Omi as we call her in German, was left with two twin babies to raise and a farm to help run. Needless to say she had to be strong, fearless and loving.

As the clock of life kept on ticking and time moved on, my Mom, one of her twins, met my Dad while vacationing in California. Ten days after meeting they were engaged. Six months later my mom was living in America.

Growing up, my sister and I traveled to Germany visiting our relatives every other year. These summers were a child’s dream come true. Building fortresses in the hay stacks. Biking to neighboring friend’s farms. Playing in the fields. Riding tractors. All night barbecues with big fires and the freshest meat you have ever tasted. Everything seemed like it was out of a fairy tale.

After high school, I deferred a year from college and went and lived on the farm. This was the first time that I really experienced being with Omi. Being part of a working farm is no walk in the park. It really is getting up when the sun rises and working till it goes down.

Everyday, Omi would spend her entire morning making a big lunch (their version of dinner) for all the men working in the fields. I had many questions for Omi. Oftentimes I would help her cook and during that time ask her questions about her past, my grandfather, life in the surrounding town; things that I knew to be a part of me, but knew so little about.

Today Omi is 95 and still cooks the main meal for everyone. She is one of the strongest human beings that I know.

Of all the things that she has taught me one of the most valuable lessons I learned from her has been about perseverance and believing in one’s dream. In Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, Coelho writes about how important it is to listen to one’s heart and to never give up on your dream. “Wherever your heart is, that is where you will find your treasure.”

farm 2011 23-2.jpg

Lightning as my Flash

It was peak lightning season in Poland. There was a huge lightning storm going on outside of my train. As I watched lightning bolt after lightning bolt strike the ground, I was wishing I was outside photographing.

It was not until after an hour of watching the power of the storm that the idea to photograph the it from the moving train came to mind. I shot up, got my camera out, opened the window, stuck my hand out and held down the shutter of my Mamiya 7.

Since it was so dark outside and because I was stopped down to f11, I was counting on nothing registering on the film until the lightning struck. In other words, because I was not on solid ground photographing with a tripod and cable release, I planned on using the lightning burst as my flash. I had no idea if this would work, but I thought it would be fun to try.

I held my hand on the shutter button exposing the negative until lightning struck. I did this five times. My exposures varied from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. I then decided to brace my hand and the camera against the edge of the window, using it as a brace. Just as I braced myself and held down the shutter a train driving in the opposite direction drives by and two bolts of lightning go off. I close the shutter and think to myself, well that one is not going to be anything. I thought that the train driving by for sure ruined the shot. The exposure of that shot was 3 seconds max. I made 4 more shots and before I knew it I was getting off the train in a torrential downpour to visit one of my dear friends.

Four months later I processed the film from this train-ride. Here is the shot that I thought was going to be nothing.

Train Ride to Krakow

One of My Favorite Stories

My dear friend Nicole, who I know from my Providence College days, has a wonderful blog that I just love reading.

Nicole describes her blog as “a place to share those tiny WOWs that make life such an adventure.” Reading one of her most recent posts created one of those WOW moments in my life. The post is titled, “Write Till You Drop, by Annie Dillard.” Like Nicole says, all creative types should read this. Dillard wrote it from the perspective of a writer. I read it with the photographer in mind.

Photograph, Hendrik, photograph, Hendrik, photograph and do not waste time.

 Here is the link:

Ignore the title. All creative types should sit down with a good cup of coffee and read this when you find a minute today…

I Hate to Alarm You

Peace in the Silence

There is a quote by Max Ehrmann that speaks to me like few other phrases or quotes do. It is as if the assembled words make up who I am and how I see the world.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Ladakhi Monks

How I Get Help From Bubbles

I was nominated as a candidate for the 2012 SECA Arts Award organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It is quite an honor and I am extremely grateful. 

Here is a summary of what they are asking for in regards to the proposal.

“For the first time in SECA Art Award history, we are inviting nominees to submit a proposal for an offsite commission in the Bay Area as part of their application materials. A short description of your proposed offsite commission should address the overall concept and the essential issues and formal qualities that would be explored through this work. Please include a discussion of how this project relates to your individual or collaborative artistic practice and how it might expand upon it.”

They also ask for an artist statement, an artist statement in 30 words or less and up to six images of your work.

Writing has often been hard for me. I find it much easier to communicate via my photographs versus written words. One thing that helps me when I am having a difficult time with my writing is to make word association bubbles.

Mind Maps

This word association helps me pull out words and link ideas. It was especially helpful for the artist statement portion of my SECA application.

My artist statement is as follows.

Artist Statement

My journey began some years ago in an ancient monastery tucked between the mountain ridges of northern India. On a particularly dark evening, I noticed a long staircase leading to a rooftop. Its dim glow caught me, and I felt compelled to ascend despite its narrow, steep path. Moving closer, I saw each step as a new period in my life. For so long I had resisted changing, climbing, yet the urge to surmount some unknown summit drove me forward. As I crept up each step, the voices of the past echoed, “you are not good enough,” “the journey is too hard,” “you are not doing anything new.” But I reached the roof, and the voices faded, and I understood. I had found a path.

My photography is deeply rooted in the conventional film format; silver gelatin developed by hand and printed in the darkroom. The meticulous hand crafting of each print is an integral part of my work. Sometimes I hear voices of disapproval from my fascination with a historical process rather than evolving into digital, but then I see an image appearing in a tray of developer under an amber light, and I know I’m exactly where I should be.

Walking up the steps in the monastery I discovered the one true voice that I had been waiting to hear: my own.

In 30 words or less

Tapping into the silence beyond the noise, I create photographs in the traditional silver gelatin format. Each image is an examination of stillness, a quiet moment.

New Descent
Last Light
Prayer Flags

Fingers crossed on my application. Let us hope those bubbles did their job.

Fine Art Photography, San Francisco, Landscape Photography, Horses

Trusting the Silence of the Universe

In my life the word trust has a far-reaching definition. When I talk about it and my photography, the meaning of trust can be summed up as, surrendering control of my photography to the universe. Trusting that my art will be guided. By letting go, trusting my intuition and being in the moment I am embarking down a new path that is unpredictable and uncertain. Often times when trusting all these uncertainties all sorts of creative ideas come forth. Trusting life’s uncertainties is like trusting the silence of the universe. It is hard. One must submit control and believe that the universe will guide you. No matter how slow or silent, one must trust.

Sheep Hearder

For the past month I have worked non-stop. Many things have become neglected because of my work load. One of the major items that got neglected was me researching where I could show my San Francisco Airport Meditative Landscapes show. Being that the show is behind security checkpoint, many people who want to see the show have not been able too. Therefor having a show of my SFO images somewhere in the Bay Area would allow everyone to see the images. I had done little to no research as to possible venues. This is a perfect example of how I could have fought trust and held tightly to my control. Instead I faced silence and submitted my control to the universe. The day after my 23 straight days of work I called Anne Veh, a friend and curator who had left me a few messages during my string of work. Within ten minutes of speaking to her I had a venue lined up for my Meditative Landscapes show. It was a convincing example for me in the power of trust.

The Darkside of a Horse

One of my favorite poems talks about trust as well. Trusting in my journey. Mary Oliver speaks to my new self. A self that is not affected by the past. It is the awakening of my true self. As Oliver writes, “to save the only life you could save,” I do not know where my journey will take me and no one but me can walk my specific path. I alone must trust, face the silence and walk down the new path.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save. 

~ Mary Oliver ~

Fine Art Photography, San Francisco, Lifestyle Photography, Tunnels Under the Earth

Art and Fear

By my bed I have a book that I read and reread all the time. It is Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It is a book that is purposely by my bed because I like to pick it up and randomly open it and see what type of philosophical mind candy I will be digesting throughout the day. I picked it up this morning and read this nugget of a paragraph.

“Artists, naturally, would be the last to admit that, if only because heroic accounts of grueling hours spent building the mold or casting the hot metal remain de riguer of artistic conversation. But while mastering technique is difficult and time-consuming, it’s still inherently easier to reach an already defined goal – a right answer – than to give form to a new idea. It’s easier to paint in the angel’s feet to another’s master-work than to discover where the angels live within yourself.Art that deals with ideas is more interesting than art that deals with technique.”

There are times I find myself striving for perfection in the darkroom, being hard on myself for having composed an image a certain way and frustrated an image didn’t come out the way I wanted. In my most recent photography landscape class that I taught at the Image Flow in Mill Valley, I talked about letting go of this idea/concept of perfection. Perfection often times holds ones artwork and vision down. Like the above quote says, let go and relax into new forms and ideas. Let go of comparisons. Find the angel that lives within oneself. A goal of perfection will only hold oneself back.

German Bunker.jpg
Fine Art Photography, Marin, Swedish Family

Discovering Glass Plate Negatives

For the past 15 years I have been photographing my relatives farm in Germany creating a large body of work. My images tell the story of my family, the farm itself, the landscape surrounding it and all the nuances and effects of how modern technology has drastically altered the lifestyle of a “small farm.” 

Last year, I met a woman named Elisabeth whose grandmother, Hilma Ljung, was from the small Swedish farm town of Svalöv and took numerous photographs of her family and farm between 1910-1925. Elizabeth told me about the 100 or so glass plate negatives that she had and asked me if I would be interested in them. Upon looking at them, I could instantly visualize what my relatives farm in Germany may have looked like during that era. This was so special to me.

What really caught my attention was that they were gelatin dry plate glass negatives. This form of photography is somewhat unique and not all that common. One of the main reasons glass plate negatives mostly disappeared from the consumer market was because of the introduction of the much more user friendly, less fragile gelatin silver negative on celluloid roll film.

Prior to 1903 when the invention of what we know today as film (gelatin silver negative), photographic emulsion was made on glass plates. There were two formats. The wet plate collodion, discovered in 1851 by British inventor Frederick Scott Archer, and the gelatin dry plate negative discovered in 1871 by Richard Leach Maddox. Both of these glass plate formats have a light sensitive emulsion that is attached to the glass plate with a binder.

I am currently in the process of combining these two special bodies of work. It is a beautiful story. A sad story. An important story. And a story I am eager to share with you all. 

Below are a few images from Elisabeth’s grandmother Hilma Ljung and myself. The above image and the first 3 images are from Hilma and the last 4 are mine. 

Horse and Cart
Helping Rake the Field
Women and Child
Jens Walking out of Barn
Upper Barn.jpg
Onkel Udo
Jens und Udo
Fine Art Photography, Marin, San Francisco Fine Art Photography, Redwood Trees

Letting Go of “Comparing”

I spent the past six months scanning 15 years worth of negatives. 

Being that I shoot film this was quite the undertaking. I had to label all my negatives and binders and then create mirror folders for all the digital files to go into. 

For the most part, no one besides myself has seen any of these images. 

During the process of scanning all the rolls of film, at times I was nervous about not finding any “good” images. Why would I feel apprehensive with my photography when it is one of the main activities in my life that brings me pure joy?

compare |kəmˈpe(ə)r| verb: to examine two or more objects in order to note similarities and differences.

It is hard not to compare my photographs to images of other photographers. I discovered that when I found myself feeling nervous about my photographs not being good, that I was making mental comparisons of my images to photographs of other photographers that I found to be wonderful. 

It was then that I realized I was not being fair to myself or my photography. 

I photograph because I love it. It’s when I let go of comparisons and just be, that I am completely myself. That’s when I reveal my true vision, voice and who I am.

I am not nervous anymore.

By the way, the 15 years worth of negatives have been whittled down to four series of images: Tree Portraits, Shapes and Light, Tilling My Past and Night. I invite you to take a look.

If there is an image you would like to purchase please contact me.