Karl Grenet

Karl Grenet

Eis Berg & More

by Karl Grenet (Thailand)

I am an Australian photographer currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have chosen to present two projects for review.

The first series, entitled “Eis Berg” is from the short project which I shot for the workshop, on the many ice cream (or “Eis”) shops in Berlin’s inner suburbs, primarily in the Berlin suburbs of Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg.

The second (in-progress) project presented for review is from a long-term project that I have recently started working on, which covers the complex issue of sex trafficking in Northwestern Thailand.

Portfolio from the Visual storytelling workshop with Ron Haviv, May 2015.

Written review by JULIÁN DUEÑAS,
Director at GEO magazine

Dear Karl,

I have just had a look at your works and I have an ambivalent feeling. On one hand, I see a perfect control of photographic technique and composition; on the other hand, I miss a story. I know I am very annoying, very insistent on this issue, but I do believe that the real essence of this profession is the storytelling. Photographic technique ca be learnt, and can be learnt very well, but to know how to capture stories, see them happening in front of you and catch them on the run, without thinking, without letting them swirling around, is something that is not possible to everyone. With this, this natural instinct can also be developed and improved. Logically, the one that was born with it, is lucky. And if above all, he knows how to exploit it, he is twice lucky.

Let’s go by parts. About the Berlin ice cream series review, I can see a set of pictures well done, perfectly framed, with an absolute control of technique and a certain creativity (the girl’s eyes reflections on the napkin ring). But I do not see a story. What is the story you’re willing to tell? With what do you want the people to be left after they see your pictures? The new fashion of Berlin ice creams? If this is it, I do not see a narrative approach, or at least I was not able to see it. It is not easy, I know it. But a photographer’s life, never is.

I imagine you chose this theme for a reason. For sure, there is a motivation, something that leads you to pick up this subject. You chose it amongst other possibilities. I am sure that you took your time, even you prepared it. Was it like that? If yes, what was your approach? What did you want to say? I can see several ice cream shops, people eating ice creams, making them, but I do not see the story behind it. I do not know if those ice creams are handmade and its makers have to get up very early to make them; I do not know if they are special, different regarding others; I do not know why all these people go there, what brings them here; I do not know if those sellers have a life that’s committed to the product they sell or simply sale ice creams like they could be shoes. I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re willing to tell.

And this, as I told you, is I think the basics on what any work should rely on. It’s necessary to know what is wanted to be told, what do I want to transmit to the viewers.

On the sidelines of this detail, I have to say that photographically speaking, your work is perfect. Be it technically or on a composition point of view. Maybe a little too confined, a little rigid in the approach, but perfect, without fissures. I see you took a lot of time, that you manage to be invisible in any moment: no one notices you, no one looks at your camera, no one poses in front of the lens. This is, in my opinion, an important point in your favor. You are able to blend with people without raising attention, without no one stopping to see what you’re doing. This helps a lot when trying to catch good pictures.

Pictures as good as the one of the little girl looking with desire ice creams throughout the window. This is a wonderful snapshot. But think for a moment, what could have been the result if you would have followed this girl from the moment she goes into the ice cream shop with her mother, then when she looks at the ice creams, when she decides (I want this one, no this one…Wait…no, better that one). And the envious face while she waits for it, and the happy face and satisfaction when she tastes it for the first time. Don’t you think the story would have been different? Don’t you think it would have been much more interesting, more moving, more impactful?

I don’t know, those are ideas that maybe you agree with or not, but I think it would have given an extra feature to your work. Think about it. Obviously, photography is not an exact science and everything is depending on opinion, but if you allow me to give you an advice, try to go further with your photographs, don’t limit yourself, cross gates, they are there for this, and go beyond what other may think. This will make you a huge photographer. Keep me posted...

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