NEW BEGINNINGS • 52 Week Smartphone Challenge (week 13)

NEW BEGINNINGS• 52 Week Smartphone Challenge

NEW BEGINNINGS is the prompt for this week’s 52 Week Smartphone Challenge. A challenge by Khürt Williams.
The rules are simple: there’s a ‘theme’ every week and your photo has to be taken with a smartphone. For the fine print see the linked post.
This week’s challenge is ‘Our world is full of circular patterns; as some things end, others begin. Tell us a story of a New Beginning.

NEW BEGINNINGS• 52 Week Smartphone Challenge
NEW BEGINNINGS • Always leave the cage door open…

Always leave the cage door open, so the bird can return

I first heard of an ancient wisdom ‘Always leave the cage door open, so the bird can return’ during my early days in Kyoto, Japan. It does imply an end, a new beginning, and a possible return to the old way if the new beginning doesn’t prove to be fruitful after all.
I was trying to get a steady ‘supply’ of sosaku hanga (modern Japanese woodblock prints) for a gallery I was about to open in Amsterdam. I deliberately didn’t (want to) work with the endless stream of middle men, brokers and galleries in Japan to save both time and money. So here I was, a 21-year old half Dutch, half Chinese, with pockets full of borrowed cash, sitting opposite an elderly lady who was revered in Japan (and the US) as the leading artist in abstract sosaku hanga.

The Japanese Way

A slight complication was that I didn’t speak a word of Japanese. I had to rely on my girlfriend who was half Indian and half Japanese, to interpret for me. The other complication was that she didn’t believe in my plan of cutting out the middle men. At all! ‘Ah Han-chan, this is not the Japanese way nèh’ she would tell me over and over and over again. In fact, the last time she told me this, looking at her feet, was when we were just about to enter the artist’s atelier where I had successfully made an appointment only the week before. (Which led to another debate about respecting the Japanese way.)

My girlfriend had, for the short term successfully, tried to teach me the merit of patience. Which I needed in spades during that first meeting that went on for hours. The first hour or so was spent on exchanging pleasantries and me getting accustomed to the tediously slow pace of the translation.

So, finally after that long first hour or so, to our utter amazement, this lady artist said ‘shall we cut to the chase and discuss what you want exactly?’ Turned out she spoke (some) English, which made the going considerably easier. It took me less than half an hour to give my (well-rehearsed) sales pitch.

Completely in line with the ‘Japanese Way’, we were invited for a stroll around the garden, where nothing of any consequence was discussed. And then, more tea (I was dying for a glass of Vodka, preferably neat, by then).

New beginnings

To cut a long story short, the lady artist had some questions so could we hang around for a couple days and then come back for a follow up meeting.
This went on for another 10 days or so. My patience was wearing ever so thin, as was the remainder of my travel budget.
And then, in what appeared to be the final meeting, she gave me everything I had asked for. No middle men, all dealings directly with her, and a hefty discount on what Japanese and American galleries had to pay. The only thing she did not agree with is that I had first right to the valuable first ten of any numbered new series woodblock prints. (First come, first serve is where we left that.)

And with her onboard, it proved to be relatively easy, albeit just as time consuming, to broker deals with other artists. New beginnings truly. For me, for the lady artist who finally had a foothold in Europe, and for the sosaku hanga as a whole.

I will never forget the moment when she took my hands and answered my question ‘Why me over them?’, knowing full well any artist can only produce so much in any given time frame. Whatever she was selling me was basically taken from somebody else’s allotment. Wasn’t she afraid her regular customers would give her a cold shoulder if my adventure turned south?

And that is when she told this 21 year old this ancient saying, now almost 40 years ago.

Took this photo with my iPhone 6 (back camera 4.15mm f/2.2) and pimped it a little in Adobe Lightroom.

N E W • 52 Week Smartphone Challenge


N E W • 52 Week Smartphone Challenge is a new challenge by Khürt Williams. The rules are simple: there’s a ‘theme’ every week and your photo has to be taken with a smartphone. For the fine print see the linked post. This first week’s challenge is to post a self-portrait that doesn’t actually shows yourself but does convey your personality…

N E W • self-portrait
N E W • ‘self-portrait’ • Taken in Rotterdam with my iPhone XR back camera 4.25mm f/1.8 a few days ago

As a few of you may know, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) 15 years ago. If there is one constant that marks this disease, it is the change for the worse. Roughly 2 years ago I was labelled a Phase 4 patient (out of a maximum of 5 stages) which means as much that I was almost paralyzed and that my neurologist at the time deemed it irresponsible to be living on my own. The one good thing he did was to convince me to undergo a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) where they drill a hole on either side of your skull and plant to electrodes deep inside the brain. If you want to know how it works just use the above link.


After a brutal day in surgery (6 hours), of which most of the time I was fully conscious and awake, the miracle I had been promised happened. It felt like a re-birth from the next morning onwards. The N E W me astonished not only myself, but my girlfriend, my mother and brother, my 2 kids and some close friends as well. I could walk again without my cane (never touched it again since that day), my tremors had gone as had most other physical symptoms such as ‘freezing’. I felt, and still feel N E W.
Lucky to wake up every morning.
Despite the fact that the DBS only halted the physical symptoms of PD. The disease itself keeps wrecking havoc in my brain.

Bumpy road to this sense of N E W-ness

The past two years however have had some deep lows. They have ‘finished’ the fine tuning the software responsible for firing the electric impulses only a few weeks ago. I have significantly lost out in my capability to communicate as my speech has become slow, slurry and sloppy. I can still not write, and typing goes at a snail’s pace. Furthermore I, but predominantly my girlfriend, have suffered the backlash of my short-fuse in terms of temperament (for which I’m eternally sorry). This probably was a combination of my impatient nature, which was fueled to an unacceptable level by part of the pills I still have to take daily.

To cut a long story short, my personality is slowly becoming N E W as well, as PD rages on. And not everything is rosy. To paraphrase Brad Pitt whose last words as a dying IRA-terrorist in the movie Patriot were: ‘Ay laddy, this is not an American movie. It doesn’t have a happy ending.

I am determined to add ‘…yet‘.

For a more lighthearted post see for instance this one.