A blog is a dynamically changing flow of thoughts. A flow which can change it's representing language in just a snap. Now.
"Beyond the lens" - I say and I was never so close to the real meaning of this caption (carefully chosen to introduce my first exhibition at my old high school about ten years ago) than now. Four months in India can change everyone, for sure. That does not mean I cannot get even closer, though.
A Hungarian photojournalist said in an interview that the recipe for good pictures is ninety percent thinking and ten percent talent. That sentence reverberated in my mind during my journeys and made me realize that after ten years of photographing I got a glimpse of what is "beyond".
Thinking... Not an easy word to understand if you are out in the field. How can you think pictures? They come and go, you catch them or miss them, but to think... OK, don't take it so literal. Think about a project, you want to do. Think that you are Sebastiao Salgado for a moment, and your next issue is THE AWFUL FATE OF THE PEOPLE OF XYZWAB. Horrifying story, trust me!
So you're Mr. Salgado, out in the field and try to catch some moments of the daily life in Xyzwab. Sorry to say that Xyzwabi people have yellowish brown skin and they usually die without seeing a single white person in their whole life, so it's not easy to become invisible among them. Actually you become a kind of magnet attracting and repelling the also magnetic bodies of the Xyzwabi locals, so, as the physicists would say, the observer effects the observed.
End of first day in Xyzwab. You sit in your hotel room, tired like hell, sipping rumbalamaya juice, browsing your photos made during the day. Angry eyes, smiling faces, kids running towards and away from the camera, some average snaps, some more smiling kids... Crap. And how tiresome! Another day like this and...
What to do now? How to THINK, wise guy? Well, thinking is not the best word here, I'd better replace it with "mindwork".
When I'm looking at the images of my favourite photojournalists I usually observe two characteristic features: one is that they give a quite strong impression (whether emotionally or intellectually) the other is that they are often just "cut out" of life - as Raghu Rai would say, they can be put back and life continues without interruption.
What's their secret? Let us return to the Xyzwabi people, who are already waiting for us, I suppose. Second day, morning. You go out a bit tired and late and try to observe what's going on. You don't feel like clicking, so you don't even take out your camera, just walk and watch. After some time you find the good places for staying where people are so busy living their lives that they don't care about you, and also your mind begins to adapt to the occasional interest and strange expressions towards you. You are not a magnet (at least not that strong magnet) anymore. And you can start to think...
Think of which path to choose. Where to go, which people to talk to, how much time to wait here, take a risk or not and by the way, is it a risk or not? However, that's only the first level. Even reaching this requires much effort (at least in my case), but real photography starts beyond this point.
Just by reaching a state of mind like this can you think about the big picture. Real photography, in my opinion, starts with images left intentionally unrecorded, images, which have better place in your mind than on your memory card. If you can judge whether to take a picture or not with calm mind, knowing your equipment perfectly, being able to handle the situation easily and not being distracted by the environment, then you can begin to think. Getting to this point took me ten years.
I saw a picture many years ago at a Word Press Photo exhibition, where there was nothing more than a print of a body in the snow and the trail which the legs left in the snow when someone pulled the corpse away. That IS photography. I don't know anything about the photographer, I can't remember his name, and I can't remember the exact composition of the picture. Just the fact that war photography can be like this. When someone has seen so much of war, I suppose, hundreds of badly disfigured bodies, examples of brutality, and yet chose this picture as an essence.
"Climbing a mountain cannot be done by leaping" - as an imaginary Chinese sage would say. The mountain of photography has a difficult path which leads to thinking, a treacherous path which often makes you think that you have reached the peak, but that time, in reality you find yourself in an even deeper valley. But the peak is there, and climbing is what really matters.
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