Tag Archives: Dessau

A walk along the river Elbe with a Hasselblad, Rollei Retro 400s and a red filter

One of the largest man made park landscapes in Europe can be found close to Dessau in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt. The area is great for hiking and cycling since it’s loaded with parks and their noble residences. Also 1919 The Bauhaus art and design school settled in Dessau and many typical Bauhaus landmarks can be found here. In my last post I wrote about the “Meisterhaeuser”, the houses of the Bauhaus masters. In my new post you can find some images of the Kornhaus designed and built by the Bauhaus architect Carl Fieger as an restaurant and event complex in 1930. In 2012 the restaurant was re-opened and I certainly enjoyed having lunch on the terrace. 

Ok, let me write about the photography now. The format 6×6: that’s something that was hard for me when I started taking images with the Hasselblad. However, soon enough I realized that the square is a great format and it doesn’t have the limitations of other “cuts”. The subject can as well be centered as off center. All that matters that the extra space is “filled” with something interesting compared to a portrait or landscape shot. 

The film Rollei Retro 400s: usually I’d use it for urban subjects but not for landscapes. The fine grain, the high contrast and the excellent sharpness work well for architectural  photos. I’m positively surprised that the film also has a wide range of grey tones and that the contrast can be tamed. 

The red filter: in short it darkens the blues, lightens the reds. A nice effect is the brighter greens as well. Although, it’s not that strong in summer compared with the fresh greens in spring time. I like how white clouds and bright buildings get this natural glow against the darker blue sky. The effect can certainly be driven to an extreme as  it’s done in infrared photography. Here I appreciate the filter’s subtleness. My favorite is the last image. The sun was setting against a cloudy sky. The llight green of the trees and all these nice grey tones work harmonically together. I didn’t know the red filter would work this well in the evening.

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One roll, one topic – the Bauhaus Meisterhaeuser in Dessau

I think I tried several times to take decent images of the Bauhaus Meisterhaeuser in Dessau and I’m not sure I succeeded this time. The three double houses for the Bauhaus masters and the single house for the director were built in a small pine forest between 1925 and 1926. The architect Walter Gropius assembled cubic shapes of different sizes and envisioned an industrial Lego to build the houses. The houses have spacious patios and balconies as well as large windows on the sides illuminating the stairways. The    street side of the houses are mostly shaped by the large atelier windows. 

Now let me talk about the challenges of shooting these houses. There is trees allover the place. They are everywhere and really ruin the light as well as an unblocked view. On the other hand, these tall parallel pine trees somehow underline the cubic architecture and sometimes a tree cleverly breaks the parallelism. I guess I was rather luck with the light and the sun even broke through the clouds. I took this as a chance to use a dark red filter and together with the Rollei Retro 400s film it lightened the greens which looks quite fresh compared to the expected heavy dark above the white buildings.

Another quite annoying issue is that the space is very limited. Regardless of the lens used, lines will be falling and nothing is worse trying to portrait a design based on parallel lines and 90deg angles. Sometimes it seems beneficial to make the falling lines even stronger by using a wide angle lens or a low point of view but except using a large format camera or a tiltshift lens, we need to live with it. 

None of the images show the street side views of the houses. I tried one out of twelve and didn’t find it worthy to be shown here. The issues with the trees, the light and the falling lines just seem to be worse. However, maybe a good reason to return and focus on the street facing side.

Last but not least, I want to make some comments about the choice of film. Rollei Retro 400s is a fine grain emulsion that is also very sharp as well as high contrast. I think it’s a good pick to shoot architecture. However, I usually tame the contrast a bit by shooting at ISO 200 and reducing agitation during development. 

The last image doesn’t show one of the original houses. The homes of the directors were destroyed during the last days of WWII. In 2014 new houses were built but they do not resemble the originals. These two houses are new interpretations of the old without being the old.

i will continue with a bit more Bauhaus in a couple of days. Until then, enjoy.

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