Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

 

(Translation of an article of Umair Ghani, a prominent photographer of Pakistan.)

Pakistani photographers must realize this fact now that a soft image of this country (or any other country) can’t be built by showing its photo shopped landscapes to the world.Rather it requires to abandon retrogressive thinking and an attitude of intolerance, which unfortunately have become our cultural and social introduction at present.

In the last seven decades of Pakistan’s history, apart from Islamabad camera club and the  Samir ur Rehman;s Photographic Art Society of Pakistan, not a single institution or group has added anything significant Pakistani photography with consistency. Mutual conflicts and an ambition to be labelled as a legend at a very early stage have deprived contemporary Pakistani photographers of any ideology regarding this art form. Intolerance for difference of opinion and and extremist mindset has resulted in the present inertia prevalent in national photography scene. It is true that some individuals, shunning this group politics, are contributing serious work; but in the overall atmosphere of aggressive self-promotion and leg pulling, their efforts seem ineffectual to bring any major change.

Pakistani photographers of current generation should know that if we have legends, they are to be found among well known names of Nisar Mirza (pride of performance for his photographic coverage of 1967 Arab-Israel war), Aftab Ahmad (Pride of Performance, Col. Umar, F E Chaudhrey (Pride of Performance), M R Owaisi (Pride of Performance, Sami ur Rahman (Pride of Performance), Mian Majeed, Syed Javed Qazi (Pride of Performance), Zafar Ahmad, Azhar Jafri, Syed Nayyar Reza, Shahid Zaidi, Arif Mahmood and Salim Khawar. These and their contemporaries truly achieved international recognition and brought Pakistani photography to global recognition. All of them won status of associates of prestigious organisations like FIAP, RPS and PSA, deserve accolades; but their contributions have not been researched or preserved by any institution within Pakistan. Camera brands spend millions on self promotion, but fail to develop national photographic archives. Maybe those desirous of becoming a legend through brand promotion just within few years of purchasing digital cameras are too scared to be lost in the echo of so many big giants if they acknowledge these names.

Since Islamabad Camera Club is inactive now, Sami ur Rahman through Photographic Art Society of Pakistan has played a pivotal role in exhibiting the work of Pakistani photographers and preserving it in catalogs for last 30 years. Top priority of this forum has been to create public awareness about current trends of photography in Pakistan and to preserve representative work of each era. It has been able to create an archive of images comprising last thirty years through its catalogs. We have such wonderful people who can serve as guide to perform commendable work for art of photography in this country. The multinational camera brands active in Pakistan need to pay attention in this direction as well. To play a role in social uplift of a society is the moral duty of companies who earn huge financial profits from people of that country. If any brand really intends to win the hearts of people of Pakistan, it would require something more concrete than merely arranging wedding photography workshops. A selfless devotion to promote photography as an art form needs to be included among priorities of brand promotion. Preserving pictures in archives would help photography to be included in main stream visual arts.

It requires a moral courage to accept the contributions of real legends of Pakistan’s photography. Any individual or organisation addressing this much needed step would achieve a lasting status in history.

Please mark my words; ‘throughout human history, only those works of art play significant role which were made through utmost devotion and with distinctive artistic ideology’.

 

GMB Akash

Posted: May 17, 2017 in Interviews

 

GMB Akash is a legend in the art of photography. He has achieved more than 100 international awards and have been published in more than 100 international publications. Founder of First Light institute of photography with hundreds of students all over the world, describes himself in a very humble way in the following words,

“I am in an endless journey towards an infinite route, only to find a real world of humanity. This thirst is eternal. I will keep walking, touching every faces I drop through my lens. I will show the world – those unknown stories of sufferings. If a single hand comes to give them a shade that is the real honor of my sweat” 

In this interview I have tried to explore his personal and artistic vision.

  1. How would you describe yourself briefly (including your equipment and editing program)?

Photography is the light of my heart. With this light I see things differently, I discover people profoundly. In the journey of light, I go into the deep milieu of human existence. I am a light bearer who sees beauty in ugliness, strength in fragility, and love in the lost.

It’s been twenty years, I am working as a professional photographer. I am working and traveling almost 365 days a year. I have photography assignments to carry out, personal photography projects to continue. Besides,  I have a Photography institute (First Light Institute of Photography www.firstlightphotoshcool.com) which has hundreds of aspiring photography students. After all my professional commitment I also have to give time to my 500 unprivileged children who are continuing education by my self-funding. There are ‘Survivors’ families whom I have to look after and also I am continually working for my upcoming book ‘Heroes of life’, it’s been nine years almost and I really hope by the end of this year I may complete the project and publish the book.

I do very little editing. I use lightroom. Canon Mark IV, Canon Mark III, lens 24-70mm, 16-35mm and 35 1.4 lens

  1. Describe your photographic odyssey. How it started and where do you see yourself now?

Coming from a background where there was little space for adopting a creative process created difficult circumstances for me. People around me had no idea about photojournalism. At that time parents supported you even if you wanted to be an artist, illustrator or an actor/singer. But ‘photojournalist’ did not exist in the circles I was brought up in. Many days I did not eat to save my pocket money for my photography. I used my tuition to buy films. Even some time when I had no film in my camera and had no money in pocket, I never stopped clicking. I kept clicking knowing I had no film inside my camera. Because I know I had to achieve my dream. The neighbour woman who was reputedly beaten by her husband everyday was my story, the gay who occasionally danced in a known prohibited lobby was my interest, girls under the red light were my canvas. During the last twenty years, every person I met had a story to tell. I pour out their soul and I continue to write the narrative of their life experiences. I try to write and capture the beauty of the people and their souls.

  1. How would you describe your artistic vision?

I love simplicity. Emotional connection is very important with that simplicity of my presentation. I do photography simply, I narrate simply. I want to connect the viewer naturally with my images and stories. The main challenge of my work is bringing emotion at its simplest form. With my images I want to tug your heart intensely, and doing that with simplicity is the most difficult task for me as an artist.

  1. Most of your work is based on underprivileged people. Is it a deliberate decision to focus of children of lesser God?

I try to capture the beauty of the people and their souls. Though the real circumstance of some of the people I portray may be quite grim; they are all strong individuals with remarkable characters. The power of these deprived people is that they express themselves effortlessly in front of my camera, they speak by pouring their hearts about their life events. They fearlessly speak truth. The way they sit, the way they look around or the way they express themselves are easier than I see in people living out of poverty. People living out of poverty are more concerned about their reputation, ego, and are more self-conscious. Although the circumstances of many of the people I portray may be grim, as individuals they are oftentimes people of remarkable character. And it is the beauty of such people and the human soul that remains when nearly all else is gone. This beauty I strive to capture in the photographs I take in a number of ways, the images presented on these pages are my own experiences, too. My journeys connect me to the many characters. Sometimes I had to run, take a ride on the roof of a moving train, sleep on a flooded floor and spend many hours walking the maze of avenues through sprawling city slums. It is the reaching of my protagonists, the welcome into their homes and their lives, that makes my work worthwhile. And at the end if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes — bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do.

  1. You have made a name at international level despite being a citizen of third world. How was your able to achieve this? Can you share your struggle and secrets of success?

It’s been a very difficult journey on my own. It is very hard to work in a developing country like Bangladesh as a freelance photographer. Surviving is a crucial issue. Most of the time crisis of work is the obstacle for developing the creativity and exploring ideas. Because of my dedication every single day of a year I am working. When a clients work with me, they always come back. I never compromise on honesty, and dedication is the rule I follow from my heart. I pour my heart and soul in the work I do. But nepotism in the industry remains one of the greatest barrier for artists like me all the time. I had to win my position after years of battle. I never had any god father in this industry, and coming from nowhere made me an alien and forced me to give my best without any break. I literally survived against all odds, against all conspiracy. I believed from my heart that if I remain true to my work then my work will remain true to me. Thanks to the social media, and the era of internet world, now artists do not have to go through channels of Broker to exhibit works. You can get work and appreciation for your creative work from every corner of the world. No one can lock your light. I have received hundred of photography awards, my works has been published in all major publications and my works exhibited in world’s best museums and galleries. Everything has been possible because of my hard work and love for photography. I have traveled more than fifty countries but most importantly thousands of nameless streets. I raised and made a position from nowhere land. The fight is beyond explanation. My inspiration is every face I met in my journey, music I heard in the road, seasons I loved pleasantly, struggled I overcome. Every sunrise is a new hope for me to live for another day, which gives me chance to shoot another day. I do not know where I am going but I know I am on my way.

 

  1. Where do you see contemporary Bangladeshi photographers compared to international scenario?

In a very promising position! Everyone is contributing from their own place, which is creating the different scenario for the industry itself. The volume of good work is recognized internationally. Photographers are winning international awards, bringing prestige to home. The more regarding is seeing the good work. I celebrate and applaud for the hard work of our photographers.

 

  1. What is the reason for your preference for colour pictures to black and white?

Fifteen years ago I was doing a story in the slums. Black and white was my premise till then. I took a picture of a young woman who was a garment worker. While I went to take the picture of her, she suddenly disappeared.  She showed up after a half an hour in her new clothes, lace in her hair and wearing a gold ear ring. Before I left her place she fervently requested to receive prints of the photos. The following week I made the print and showed up at her door. I put the prints in her hands with happiness. Within a second her face clouded and with a cold-sharp tone she said, ‘Am I only looking poor to you? Don’t you see your picture has nothing? I saved a year’s salary to buy that gold ear ring and where is it in your picture? Where is my floral red dress? And my yellow hair ribbon? Your picture is lying’. That one sentence changed my perspectives, my techniques, my images and my reality.

  1. From whom you have been most impressed in photography? Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

I very much admire Sebastiao Salgado. His work is a rich resource of inspiration. James Natchway is also one of the most inspiring photographers as well as an influential person for me. All of his work inspires me. This photographer evokes the wars of the world but delivers the message of peace. I also love works of Steve Mccurry, he is a master. I love to see works of photographers from different corner of the world. I feel inspired, motivated. Every person has his/her very own eye. We can only get inspiration, no one can blunt our innate personal vision, that I very much believe.

 

  1. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view.

Photography changed my life. Because of photography I travel intensely that helped me to meet with some incredible humans from different cultures and backgrounds. Their life experiences changed views on life. I have learned that simplicity is the key of life. I have learned that the most beautiful souls are often most broken. I live a very simple life. I never can eat in pricey places or stay in luxury hotels. I know how valuable ten taka is for a child laborer, how much value one toy can add in a deprived child’s life. Because of Photography I am aware that we need very little to change someone’s life and bring happiness. Photography influences me to write down all the life experiences I encountered. Emotionally I become more involved with people I do not even know, because my experiences taught me empathy. I can see my reincarnation because of Photography.

 

  1. Your main focus has been your own culture and people rather than going around and capture different civilizations. How do you explain it this choice?

I have worked in more than 50 countries so far. I have had several projects from all around the world. Even last year I worked on refugee children. But my heart always returns to my country and I continue to work more. When I shoot, I always ask two questions to myself: why am I taking this photo? And what message do I want to convey? Above all, photography is my passion and then it is a tool to affect positive change. I shoot almost every day because I love to do it. I do not see photography as competition, nor do I thrive for status or reputation. I want to show my pictures to my audiences. I have seen many of my colleagues who hardly share their photographs and keep them all for competitions, grants, or exhibitions.  I am very clear about the fact that I take photographs to show people, to convey a message, and to make a change. Until I can spread my message, until I share stories of broken hearts, until I show how brave my subjects are, I do not bother with anything else. Whenever I am in the city strangers are stopping me. Uncountable number of people recognize me in the street and express how my photographs have changed their view. I believe that if my photographs can connect with the heart, can influence people to take a step for humanity then this is the ultimate achievement.

  1. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it? Do you work randomly or in planned way with a project in mind?

I have an un-resting soul. I do not know where I will be waking up next morning. I move from places to places, cities to cities and countries to countries. I see how different seasons are in the different parts of the world. Taste of food and faces of people all are different, but at the end, every human soul resembles the same. The grandmother of a Skalasikasikamia smiles to me same as one in Ketrokona. This fascinates me most. I keep specific period of time for my personal projects. It’s very difficult to manage dates for my assignments, most of the time I am booked many months ahead. I could not attend my two exhibitions in America and Europe due to the schedule. Whatever time I can manage I like to spend helping the people I photographed. I am very strict about my personal shooting period, I work on my projects and never compromise that time with any commercial work. Like I said, every single day I am traveling, taking pictures. I am trying to bring change with my images and stories and introducing incredible humans to the world.

  1. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?

Social media is very important. That is where you can get genuine reaction of your audience. My aim is always to show my images. I never like to keep my projects or works for submitting in competition or exhibitions. Because of social media or simply for internet artists do not need to go through brokers to exhibit their works. My journey was not only about achieving my dream; bringing fame for my country or helping unprivileged, it was also giving a constant fight against corruption and nepotism. I brought 100 prestigious awards to my country, I gave away most of my earning for the people I photographed, and my exhibitions have been held in world’s renowned places, every day I am giving interview to the media, all the time my work is in the news. But sadly, I have been criticized by the broker of my country’s photography industry all the time. They always wanted to remove me from this industry. But I did not give up, and the love and respect from the people from all over the country helped me to motivate.  ‘I got your name in the 30 world famous documentary photographer’, ‘Your stories are souls of your pictures’, ‘You are Picasso of storytelling’, ‘Because of your image I bought all the roses from the signal girl’, every day I am receiving hundreds of heart moving messages, these all are my inspiration. My Facebook page, Facebook account, photography groups, school social sites, Instagram, LinkedIn, blog, archives all of my social and commercial sites are entirely managed by me. It required a lot of effort from my side. But I am always ready to give more than my 100%.

  1. Do you think photography can help promote tolerance and human value in our lives? Do you feel you have been able to make a difference with your work?

A good photograph will have a lasting impression on you. One of a kind of photograph has the ability to make you feel. It can make you cry, compel you to laugh or it will give you a feeling to look back again and again. A good photograph is universal; it will tug heart beyond borders. There are picture when you will see it, you will never be able to forget eternity. And thus a photograph can create value in our lives simply provoking humans living inside us. Every image can make a difference. I have heard this comment over and over again, ‘Your photograph changed my life’, more than thousands times I have heard it and that is why I am sure, every good image has a lasting impression on us. It can help us to grow, to think, to dream. I portray image and story of remarkable characters, unbeatable souls. Audience takes so many things from those views. Also I continue to contribute in the life of the people I photograph. I continue to connect from soul to soul.

14. What are your future plans in photography?

Every single second of my life I am living in photography. I do not have any life outside photography. Even when I am not taking picture, I am seeing picture. I am thinking about photography all the time. Every year I have to attend several solo exhibitions abroad, I am committed to my clients as well and dates are given for next six months. I also have to take photography workshop in my Photography Institute ‘First Light’, there is One on One Photography program, and participants come from all over world to attend workshop with me in Bangladesh. Every day I have a plan and I have to work on it. But now at this moment my bigger plan is publishing my nine years project ‘Heroes of Life’ in a form of book which will have real life stories and images. I am also building a school for unprivileged children. I would like to change the life of every single person who will be portrayed in the book ‘Heroes of life’.

15. Any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer

The moment you start doing photography only for yourself, you will get the best reward for your life. You will be no more alone. With time you will start to enjoy little moments of your life on your own. One day photography will become your loyal companion, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you love. That is how photography will become your existence; this is how Photography gives meaning to your life.

16. Lastly, describe yourself as a person. Your likes, dislikes, ambitions and failures in your life.

I always believe to do what my heart want. Because I can go thousands of miles, can go far from the world but I can never escape from your heart. I feel, I am a navigator more than a traveler. Every day I discover a new region within my soul and thus I want to bring life to every image I take.

GMB Akash

17.05.2017

 

Shehzad Noorani

Posted: February 28, 2017 in Interviews

 

(Credit for Shehzad’portrait -Chris Niles)

Shehzad Noorani is one of the most important documentary photographer of our times. It is an honor for me that despite his multiple commitments, he has been kind to spare time to answer these questions.

In the words of Dr. Shahidul Alam, founder Drik Picture Agency & Pathshala South Asian Media Academy,

‘ Nooran i’s life has shaped much of what he photographs. A child worker who got caught raiding a neighbor’s kitchen for food, is an unlikely candidate for a successful career in photography. But statistics are very poor at predicting life as it unfolds. A need to feed his family led Shehzad to ensure a continuous flow of money. This he did with consummate ease by being one of those rare photographers who always deliver on time, to specification and to highly exacting standards. This thorough professional however, is also a skilled artist, who has combined his human skills with a wonderful eye that finds things other eyes might have missed. It is the subaltern that Shehzad has photographed, but not through pitiful eyes, or some romantic notion of charity, but through a genuine understanding of what being poor is. His tenacity, his ability to push himself and his unusual duality between the disciplined professional and the gifted artist, makes him special’

 

 

Noorun Nehar (15 years old) looks through a curtain hole of a battery-recycling workshop. Like thousands of other women and children, she too survives by recycling waste on the bank of Buriganga. She is only 15 years and has been breaking batteries since last three year. She earns Taka 300/week (about $4)
Godhara Ghat on the bank of Buriganga River. Dhaka. Bangladesh.

 

  1. How would you briefly describe yourself as a person?

Content and grateful for life and opportunities I have had. I believe I got a bit more than I deserved on both ends of life, good and bad, and do think both has served me well.

 

Portrait of an old woman in a village in Punjab province in Pakistan.
As a photographer who likes to take pictures of people, I have always been fascinated with wrinkles on people’s face. To me, each line and dimple tells a thousand tales. I met her during an assignment following events after 9/11, while waiting for Afghan borders to open up, in a small village in Pubjab. Even though momentarily, I clearly remember how her kindness and sincere smile completely calmed my otherwise tangled nerves. After that I travelled back and forth between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq and I guess bear a lot of burden psychologically. I had no idea what PTSD meant before those travels, but I did find out. This woman, simply known as Mai, old woman, mother, in only few moments I spent with her, gave me enormous courage to handle what followed.

 

  1. Describe your photographic odyssey. How it started and where do you find yourself now?

I was born in Bangladesh in 1966, but had to migrate to Pakistan with my family in 1974. I was 8 years old then. We settled in Karachi. For the first few years my father could not join us, and my mother raised me along with my 5 siblings. Those were hard times for us as we had lost everything we had in the process of migration and we were extremely poor.

n Karachi, I attended a public school with no furniture in the classrooms. I used to tie a string (nara) to tie down 2-size larger uniform pants. After completing grade 5 I had to start working in a garment factory as a laborer to be able to pay for better schooling. I managed to earn enough through these jobs during vacations and as an office-boy during school days to afford a private school for myself and my younger siblings.

My photography career started in grade 7 when one of my teachers asked me if I could take pictures? To please him, I lied and said I could. I only realized my blunder when he handed me a Yashica Electro 35, a modern version of Leica-like rangefinder camera. That thing, with all the dials and buttons, just didn’t made sense. Somehow I managed to take pictures that were focused and decently composed. When my teacher appreciated my work, I muttered up courage and told him about my lie. Instead of getting mad at me, he was actually impressed and said I must have some kind of a natural talent. After that he started asking me to take pictures every time there was an event at the school. Eventually the entire community found out and I started getting invitations to shoot birthdays and weddings. Same teacher eventually helped me buy my own SLR. I become popular in my neighborhood.

My big break came when a professional photographer offered me to work with him at The Aga Khan University. I got opportunity to work with public health wing of the university that gave  me a chance to visit slums to photograph research projects. It was my introduction to documentary photography, without realizing of its importance for my future career. .

In 1988, after spending 12 years in Karachi, I moved back to Dhaka. I started with a humble beginning, by borrowing 100 Taka to buy a film for my first assignment in Dhaka. It was to shoot a party in a restaurant. I got paid 35 Taka per picture, so 700 Taka for 20 pictures. Within one year I started getting work from many NGOs in Dhaka. It all changed when, a UNICEF Communication person saw my work at a NGO exhibition and offered to work for them for 2500 Takaper day,  (USD 100 ). That was a huge amount, equal to my father’s one-month salary. One thing led to another, and now, about 27 years later, I have covered hundreds stories in over 60 countries around the world.

Today I find myself at a crossroad in life where I feel I couldn’t ask for more. Going forward I have lots of possibilities ahead of me and I am excited. I wish to focus more and more on learning and find opportunities to do meaningful personal work that may be completely different from things I have done in the past. I want to look back, reflect, go through my archive, publish and write.

 

A young girl sits on broken wall inside an informal glue factory where workers process waste leathers to make glue in Hazaribagh area near Buriganga river in Dhaka.
Most industries based in urban area in Bangladesh pollute environment but leather tanneries probably do the worst damage. Hazaribagh, Dhaka’s biggest leather processing industrial zone, is right in the middle of one of the most densely populated residential area.

 

3. How would you describe your social vision?

Belief in social, economical and gender , regardless of racial or religious differences. Maybe that is too much to hope for in the world we live in today.

 

Munni (9 years old) collects drinking water from a communal hand pump in her slum on the bank of river Buriganga in Old Dhaka.
Like thousands of women and children, she too survives on resources from Buriganga. To support her family, she scavenges for metal on a dumpsite on the bank of river. She has three sisters and one brother. Her father died recently in a boat accident. Her mother works six days a week and earns Taka 400 /week ($7).
Munni’s mother Sofia Begum said, “Only I know how I manage to feed my children. Often just to feed them plain rice with salt and onion, I have to borrow money from my neighbours. School? Education is not for poor people like us.”
Buriganga River. Dhaka. Bangladesh.

 

  1. Most of your work is based on underprivileged people. Is it a deliberate decision to focus on children of lesser God?

Yes it is deliberate. I photograph where I was in the past. It’s where I am most comfortable. I detest and dislike the class I have become a part of myself, and take every opportunity to get away from it.

 

Munni (9 years old) cooks in a communal kitchen in her slum on the bank of river Buriganga in Old Dhaka.
Like thousands of women and children, she too survives on resources from Buriganga. To support her family, she scavenges for metal on a dumpsite on the bank of river. She has three sisters and one brother. Her father died recently in a boat accident. Her mother works six days a week and earns Taka 400 /week ($7).
Munni’s mother Sofia Begum said, “Only I know how I manage to feed my children. Often just to feed them plain rice with salt and onion, I have to borrow money from my neighbours. School? Education is not for poor people like us.”

 

  1. You have made a name at international level. How were you able to achieve this? Can you share your struggle and secrets of success?

Accident, help from a number of people – mostly strangers, good luck, hard work and professional attitude.

Secret of success – I don’t think it’s a secret. Hard work, careful planning, recognizing one’s shortcomings and doing something about it pays off eventually. Short cuts don’t work. How many people do you know who actually won a million dollars lottery?  I don’t know any.

 

Munni (9 years old), searches for metal in a pile of garbage on the bank of river. Like thousands of women and children, she too survives on resources from Buriganga, She has three sisters and one brother. Her father died recently in a boat accident. Her mother works six days a week and earns Taka 400 /week ($7).
Munni’s mother Sofia Begum said, “Only I know how I manage to feed my children. Often just to feed them plain rice with salt and onion, I have to borrow money from my neighbours. School? Education is not for poor people like us.”
Buriganga River. Dhaka. Bangladesh.

 

  1. Where do you see contemporary Bangladesh’s photographers compared to international scenario?

I don’t know or understand enough to have an authentic opinion. Recently I attended a workshop on Photo Bookmaking through Chobi Mela organized by Pathshala, South Asian Institute of Photography. All other participants were much younger and I was amazed to see their creativity, their dedication as well as their ability to conceptualize. I am fifty years old, and have been working as a photographer for over 30 years. I have certainly been very successful, however, at the same time, I feel for a long time I have focused on just one thing,from a particular angle.

Our young generation is lucky to have access access to great number of educational opportunities through several world class photography institutions. Moreover, with modern technology, they are exposed to the work of world classed photographers; making them extremely aware and diverse.

I think contemporary Bangladeshi photographers, for example, Anik Rahman, GMB Akash, Khaled Hasan, Munem Wasif, Sarkar Protick, Shahria Sharmin and countless others are some of the finest in the world. Many of them have won prestigious international awards, have been exhibited and published all over the world.

 

A homeless Aboriginal man walks by a graffiti wall on a construction site near the Carnegie Hall, a community centre and library that caters to homeless and poor on the Hasting Street in Vancouver Downtown East Side.
In recent years, the area has seen condominiums move in and anti-gentrification activists allege the new developments have pushed out the city’s poorest residents.

 

  1. What is the reason for your preference for monochrome pictures as compared to colored?

You may have came to this conclusion because of my work Daughters of Darkness, which is most well known, but in reality, I have no such preferences. I choose either colour or black & white depending on the demand of the story. I must say, I love black & white, especially film, because of grains and textures. There are hundreds of software that can convert your digital raw files to give similar textures, yet, prints from film still holds a special place for me.

 

Both smiling, a commercial sex worker kisses another on the cheek, an uncommon public display of affection in Bangladesh. Kandupatti Brothel. Dhaka.

 

Taking shelter from the rain under an awning, a young girl enjoying a rare moment of intimacy with one of her regular client on the roof of Kandupatti brothel in Dhaka.

 

  1. From whom you have been most impressed in photography? Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

I learn from anything that moves. Yes, early documentary photographers have influenced me. My favourites are Alfred Stieglitz, Don McCullin, Henry Cartier Bresson, and many others. No, I don’t think they hinder or blunt my vision, instead they just inspire me. Due to explosion of information and easier access through internet, I find myself at a loss. So much is happening, it’s hard to keep up. There are way too many new works, new ways of doing things, and one has to keep an open mind and try to absorb.

 

A young commercial sex worker wait for clients in Marwari Mandir brothel in the city of Jessore, an important town near the Indian border. There are three brothels in Jessore that serve as crucial link in trafficking of women and children to Indian brothels across the border.

 

  1. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view? How photography enriched you as a person? 

It’s a complex question. I think photography as a medium is vast and it depends on genre within that medium, i.e. art photography, abstract, documentary, landscape, wild life, etc, and often these genres overlaps. Again, depending on specific genre, they can certainly have an impact on people as strong as art and literature.

One has to separate viewing and experiencing images from the process of creating them. I do see lot of photographic work and enjoy them, but for me, greater influence comes from not only viewing them, but the process of creating images. I am a documentary photographer and my work takes me out of my home, to the real world. I see and experience how people live, I experience and learn about real people, real lives, their struggles and their extraordinary strengths. If that cannot influence or change you as a person, what else would?

My work involves travelling to far and remote places, and witness lives and cultures drastically different from each other, often in a very short span of time. Sometimes within one single day, I am with a commercial sex worker as well as prime minister of a country. I may be in a slum, and few hours later, I may be at a palace. Imagine the diversity of exposure from haves and have not’s, to one’s opportunity to learn the vast differences between people, their circumstances, privileges or lack of it.  How can that not change, impact and enrich a person?

 

Looking through a window in her house, Florence laughs in a village on the outskirts of the city of Masaka in Central Uganda.
Florence is a joyful young girl and her elder sister, Rose was very protective. She said, ‘I have five younger siblings. I am very tough with them. I don’t want them to fool around, particularly Florence. She is only 16, but beautiful. She needs to be careful. Men are liars, all of them, yes even my brothers.’ Rose happily translated everything for her grandmother. While walking back from the field, she also pointed out the graves of her parents, the two children Rose had lost to AIDS.

 

10. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it? Do you work randomly or in planned way with a project in mind?

I am a freelance photographer. There are two sides to my work; Assignments and Personal Work.

Assignments are way I finance my life, cost of living, child’s education, as well my personal work and it takes up majority of my time.

However, much I want to do it, personal works are rare, because for me, it requires many things to be in place, including enough uninterrupted time and finances. It works differently for different people. Some people do personal work in between other things, family responsibilities, professional work, etc. For me, it takes me a lot of time to even begin personal work, sometimes years. Obviously, one is always distracted, and that too is important. For me, inspiration, ideas and concepts for personal work has to be organic, has to come from within, often from anger and frustration of how things are around me and in the world, and those ideas and concept gets solidify through readings, by seeing work of others, even those that may not be strictly photography.

Because work cannot be guaranteed accordingly to my needs and desires. Sometimes I sit for months without work, not knowing whether there may be work tomorrow, sometimes I get three assignment requests for same week and for exactly same times, but by three different clients in three different countries. One has to choose one and drop two. It is a reality of being a freelance and cannot be helped.

Whether it’s personal work or assignment, I cannot work randomly and everything has to be planned, however, until I am on the ground, things constantly change and I have to adjust accordingly.

I have a strict workflow, which includes shootings early morning till sunset, and afterwards, once I return, I have to finish editing day’s shoot before I can go to sleep. Finally when a week, two weeks, or a month long assignment ends, I take a break, complete captions and post process for complete body of work before moving on to next project.

 

A child stand with Dinka men with AK-47 riffles at Wunbel cattle camp in Thiat. Arms are plentiful in war-ragged Southern Sudan. Many ordinary men, especially in the cattle camps, carry guns for protecting their cattle that plays a central part in their economic, social, religious and esthetical life.

 

11. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s world? Lately you have not been very active on social media.

For me, social media is exactly that, ‘social media’. This is where you connect socially with people you personally know, as well as thousands of others you don’t. Social media like Face book, Twitter, and Instagram are useful for promotion, but I think the fact that millions of people use them, have advantage as well as disadvantage. While new, unique and useful ideas are generated on social media, they also get buried under enormous amount of garbage that we generate.

My personal lack of activity on social media is the indication that I may not have anything substantial to share. I am usually careful about what I post. I wait till I have something meaningful to share.  Lately, I have been thinking hard about quitting media like Face book. I truly appreciate many of my friends who have decided to stay away from it. Perhaps I will do the same soon.

 

Constance Bwanali (29) baths Chisomo, her 5 years old son, in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.
She got married at 18. After the birth of her third child, her husband went to South Africa for work and never came back. She realized she had to find a way to support her children. She learned and started knitting for people in her neighbourhood. Depending on work, she earns between about 10,000 Kwacha, about $20/ month.
She said, “I work hard but I just cannot earn enough to support my children properly. I want my children to have good education. It’s hard to come up with money to pay for their education.”
“What if my husband comes back? I think I will accept him back, but I will make sure he takes HIV test first”

 

12. Do you think photography can help promote tolerance and human value in our lives? Do you feel you have been able to make a difference with your work?

I think there is a misconception about photography that it’s a tool to tell the truth, and in today’s digital world, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not necessarily so. It is certainly a tool to communicate, but exactly what, depends on person behind the camera, his editor or client.

Photography can certainly help promote tolerance and human-values, etc, but it can also be used, and being used to do exactly opposite as well.

Now to your second question, whether I feel I have been able to make a difference. Question really is whether I want to do that. I feel photographers’ belief that they can use photography to tell the truth, and bring change; is a bit over stressed and exaggerated.

I take pictures as an extension of seeing, and in the process I record what is in front of me. What is in front of me depends of what I WANT to see. The process of editing, meaning including and excluding, begins even before I raise camera to my eyes. I may choose things and people in front of me because of how they look like, what kind of light falls onto them, what is behind and in front of them, whether it is too distracting, and thousands of other reasons, and often all of that happens unconsciously, but it does happens.

Once I am done shooting, I edit and reduce. At least 70-80% is edited out. In 10 days shoot I may shoot 5,000, that is reduced to may be 1,000. When that selection reaches an editor’s desk, images are once again reduced to may be 20, or 5, sometimes even 2 or 1. How is that truth? Certainly not the whole truth, thus NOT truth at all.

I do not live in the false perception of telling The Truth, I don’t even try. I document things as honestly as I can, but I know very well, that in the end, it is only, at best, my vision, my opinion. Nothing more than that.

 

A girl laughs playfully laughs while drinking water at a water point in Adone village of Ta Oi district, Saravane province, Lao PDR.
Adone is an exceptionally clean village. Most families have access to sanitary latrines and clean drinking water.

 

13. What are your current projects in photography?

As I said, I am born in Bangladesh. Even though due to family’s migrations, I have spent a lot of time away from Bangladesh, I still feel very connected to the land. Bangladesh has given me a lot, and I have a strong urge to try to give something back. In last two years I have been in Bangladesh, I have taken every possible opportunity to do exactly that through presentations, talks, and workshops.

I have little time left before I head back to Canada. Lots of ideas and little time in hands. I am not sure how much I will be able to achieve, but I am trying. Lets see. I will certainly share soon.

 

Bare feet on a rainy day, a man pulls passengers through slippery streets of Kolkata on his hand-pulled rickshaw.

 

14. Any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer.

No. I don’t think I am in a place to advise anyone anything. I am constantly surprised by how new-generation of photographers and artists us pushing the boundaries of what is possible. If anything, I can learn from them and take some advice on how to get out of traditional and conservative mind set.

 

While Zeena Ali hides her face, Zaman Mohammed (12 years old) looks through a torn blanket that has replaced the door that used to be here before looting of Al Rahma Center for Abandon Street Children. Along with many other citizens of Iraq, children at the Al Rahma Orphanage too paid a heavy toll for coalition attack on Iraq. Zaman, along with many other girls, ran away from the orphanage after it was attacked by looters just after the war broke out. She took refuge in the streets near the Palestine Hotel in the downtown Baghdad. She spent many days in the streets and survived by begging. When she found out that orphanage is up and running again, she returned. However, now she regrets her decision as it is in the control of Hauza, the religious seminary. They are very strict and beside other restrictions, also force children to wear Hijab (a piece of cloth to cover head and hair).

 

Shehnaz (3 years old) sits on the window of battery recycling workshop. She cleans carbon rods that come out of the center of D-size dry cell batteries, in a battery recycling workshop in Ayena Ghat by River Buriganga on the outskirts of Dhaka. Her mother Noor Syeda Begum (19 years old) also works in same workshop. They recently migrated to Dhaka from village Lohali in Potwakhali Upazila (province). Shehnaz’s father Rahman is a boatman, but he does not have any boat. He works as a day labourer. Sometimes there is work for him and sometimes there is nothing. He managed to get work for only 6 days in September 2004 due to heavy rain. Both Shehnaz and her mother Noor Syeda Begum has to work to supplement family’s income to assure survival.

 

A woman holds her child, blackened by carbon dust. His nose bleeds due to infections caused by exposure to dust and pollution during play in the workshop in Korar Ghat by on the outskirts of Dhaka. Many women bring their children along so they can look after them while working. The environment in and around the workshop is full of carbon dust and other waste. Children play until they are tired and ready to sleep. Most children have chest and eyes infection. Environment is so polluted, most children suffers from one or the other kind of infections all the time.

 

In 2009 in Bangladesh, 11-year-old Rozina runs to her house in Islampur Village, in Kurigram District. She is returning from a night of fishing with her father and brother. Her family moved recently from the northern town of Bogra, where her father supported the family by selling vegetables, and Rozina and her brother attended school. Her father thought his business would fare better in Islampur, so he borrowed money to move the family and build a house. But the community in Islampur was too poor to purchase vegetables, and the business collapsed. The family can no longer afford schooling. Rozina’s brother and father now fish every day, and Rozina walks several miles twice a day to deliver meals to them. Her parents are concerned about earning enough to repay their debts and to afford a dowry for their eldest daughter.

 

A young Afghan girl child reads from a textbook in Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood in Kabul. After several years of Taliban rule that prevented women from getting any education, girls are finally able to return to schools.
This home-based school that serves 800 students in three shifts by 15 teachers, lacks window-panes, heat, furniture, carpets and lights. The teachers are not paid and many have no professional training. With separate classrooms for girls and boys, the school is 1 of 95 run by the local NGO Sorvach. Afghanistan.

 

Those who are interested may follow his regular contributions on the following links

https://www.facebook.com/shehzad.noorani.1

https://www.flickr.com/photos/81504640@N00/

Saraya Cortaville

Posted: November 2, 2016 in Interviews

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Saraya Cortaville is an award winning portrait and social documentary photographer based in London. She has received two fellowships (one of only two women in the UK to have achieved this) one for studio portraiture and most recently social documentary for a project she completed in 2015 whilst living in Africa. She was awarded the Peter Grugeon award for the best fellowship portfolio of 2015, and a gold award in Visual Arts in the professional photography awards 2016. Saraya’s passion for travel and people has pushed her career into a more adventurous phase and she has recently lived and worked abroad for various international NGO’s documenting social issues in countries as far as Tanzania and Nepal. Saraya skilfully manages to draw out her subjects emotions and feelings, in a sensitive and empathetic nature, her portraits are an observation and moment of connection, between two people, rather than photographer, subject. When not abroad Saraya shoots primarily location portraiture specialising in children and documentary weddings.

Her website is

www.childrensportraitslondon.com

Her fan page on Facebook is

https://www.facebook.com/saraya.cortaville

She is also on instagram

@sarayatravel

Following discussion with her would help you to understand her vision about art of photography

  1. How would you describe yourself briefly (including your equipment and editing program)?

I have been a photographer for 12 years now, I started out as an assistant in a commercial studio, and then migrated into portrait photography from there!

For many years I was a studio photographer, I loved the control of the light, but after 9 years I was starting to get a little bit bored and needed a boost to inspire and motivate me again.

Most recently I have changed my career, I now shoot all of my portraits on location in and around London. I shoot weddings and I very much enjoy shooting for various NGO’s internationally.  I love the freedom of not being tied to a studio, each day is so totally different for me, and I just love the unpredictability of this, as it keeps me constantly learning and inspired to try new things with my imagery.

I enjoy speaking about my work abroad and helping to inspire and educate aspiring photographers.

I have 2 fellowships, from the British Institute of Photographers, the first in portraiture, and the most recent in social documentary, for a collection of images I shot whilst living in Tanzania for four months in 2015. (This fellowship was awarded the best Fellowship of 2015)

I am a Fuji X photographer..

My kit is A Fuji X-T2, 16-55, f2.8 mm Lens, 50-140, f2.8 lens, 90mm, f2 prime.

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  1. Describe your photographic vision in a few words.

See the beauty in people of all walks of life.

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  1. Do you think a formal training in principles of art and elements of composition are as necessary for a photographer as for a painter? How did you learn this art? From books, academy or just from senior photographers?

I am not a particularly technically minded photographer, as for me the most important skill of being a portrait photographer, is the relationship, and the connection with the subject. To get the best expressions for me is key to strong, emotive portraiture.

I did do some formal training; I have a degree in Typography and graphic communication, which has been the strong foundation to my style of imagery. I see colours, shapes and compositional elements as an important aspect of my work.

In my mind all of the best photographers in the world are constantly learning and honing their style. So for me I try to develop and learn endlessly.

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  1. Art has been influenced by various art movements originating from philosophy and literature. Do you find similar influences in photography as well?

For my photography, I am always inspired by the country that I am in! This can include their philosophy and culture also.

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  1. What type of art movement is currently in vogue? Who are the most prominent exponents of that trend?

For me I have seen a real resurgence of street photography in recent years. It is a hard medium to succeed at, and in my mind many do not. For me one of the most successful is Jonas Rask from Denmark, I love the way he sees shapes and graphic elements in his imagery.

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  1. Have you been influenced by any literary figures in shaping up your photographic vision. How and what type of influence you received from them?

Most of my photographic vision has been inspired from other imagery that I have seen. As photography is such an emotive and visual medium for me its all about the storytelling of the images that are strong.

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  1. Why are you interested in portraits rather than other genres of photography?

I really like the connection that the photographer has with the subject, I love the interaction and the trust that the subject is giving the photographer, it is a real privilege to be able to do this.

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  1. What is your main preference, coloured or black and white? Explain the reasons of your preference.

I think that it really depends on the specific image, when travelling I will mostly shoot colour images, especially with the countries that I have visited recently, Nepal, India and Thailand being just full of such beautiful vibrant colours it would not seem fair to represent these in black and white.

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  1. From whom you have been most impressed in photography? Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

I am always looking for inspiration, and it can come from anywhere, I love visiting exhibitions of art and photography and of all genres can add to my personal work as a photographer.

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  1. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view.

I think that it has made me patient, and more observant of the world around me. I tend to be able to read people and their body language very well, this is hugely useful when taking images of people of different culture, where you have to communicate non verbally a lot of the time.

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  1. Can you explain your interest in culture of different civilization rather than capturing your own surroundings?

I just love visiting all different cultures, for me I just love to learn about how different people live. I find it really interesting.

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  1. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it with your busy professional life?

My full working week is based around Photography, I work from home, which is great, but I have to be very disciplined.

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  1. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?

I have made some wonderful connections with other photographers on social media, and it is also a wonderful way of others having access to your work! Unfortunately is does take up a certain amount of time, but if done properly it is well worth it!

Some of my biggest and most exciting projects this year, have come from recommendations from face book or instagram.

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  1. Do you think photography can help promote tolerance and human value in our lives? Do you feel you have been able to make a difference with your work?

Absolutely! Photography is a wonderful medium for this! It’s so instant! And can give people a real insight into issues that are otherwise overlooked.

When working as a photographer for the NGO’s , my work is used to promote and record the work that they do in some of the poorest areas of the world. If this helps in some small way I think that its great!

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  1. What are your future plans in photography?

I plan to travel more often; I have a trip planned for the next week or so, where I will travel to the epicentre of the Nepali Earthquake. Here we hope to document how the rebuilding of the area is continuing a year after the tragic event.

This in an area of photography that I am extremely passionate about, getting the message to a wider audience will hopefully gain more support for the people in this area.

I also will be running various workshops and training days next year, and mentoring other photographers to try and achieve their own goals in photography.

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  1. Lastly any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer’s

Be passionate about what you are shooting.

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George Koruth

Posted: October 11, 2014 in Interviews

George

George Koruth known as FOTOBABA is a documentary photographer based in India. His collection captures India’s rich culture and traditions. One of his specialities is street photography. He strives to showcase social issues and hopes his photographs can give a voice to those people who don’t have any say in this world. George has done work for international magazines and websites and has been featured in Indian magazines.

You may see his detailed work and  follow him on following links

Google plus

https://plus.google.com/+GeorgeKoruth

500 px/com

www.500px.com/georgekoruth
Facebook page
www.facebook.com/hellofotobaba
Twitter
www.twitter.com/fotobaba
Flickr
www.flickr.com/m2digital

Following interview is an attempt to understand his approach and philosophy of photographic art

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1.  How would you describe yourself briefly (including your equipment and editing program)?

I’m a Doctor who roams around more with his camera gear than the stethoscope, I think that is the best way I can describe myself. I have been working as a Documentary Photographer for the past 7 years and I usually travel alone as my journies are not really easy ones. To reach my destination, is always a struggle & it’s not for light hearted. India is a huge country & every state is like a whole new country. Step by step I’m reaching my goal of documenting the culturally diverse nation.

I use the most basic equipment. I started with my father’s film camera, Yashika FX-3 then I moved to digital. I mostly use Nikon D 7000 nowadays also use Sony RX100. For projects I use Nikon D 700 & D 800.

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2. Describe your photographic vision in a few words?

In search of real people with real stories that touch me and touch others for good. I believe if people can’t see the truth in my photos, its not worth showing it.

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3. Do you think a formal training in principles of art and elements of composition is as necessary for a photographer as for a painter? How did you learn this art? From books, academy or just from senior photographers?

Yes I do, one needs to learn the basics at some point. I learned it a lot later, when I felt I had to teach others. When you know the rules, only then you have the right to break and play with them.

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4. Art has been influenced by various art movements originating from philosophy and literature. Do you find similar influences in photography as well?

I would wholeheartedly say yes to this questions. Photography is a powerful medium, even in those days when it took days to months to get a photo printed. Now it us on-line. Combine it with social media and you have a powerful tool. 

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5. What type of art movement is currently in vogue? Who are the most prominent exponents of that trend?

I don’t think we can name any one for art movements. But I respect people like Oliver Toscani & Steve McCurry who had such great influence on this medium.

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6. Have you been influenced by any literary figures in shaping up your photographic vision. How and what type of influence you received from them?

I have been open to any influence, there is no particular person or theme that has influenced me. But I’m in search of inspiration in every corner.

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7. Why are you interested in portraits?

I have a very simple answer to that, I love faces. I look at every detail when I see a face. I remember one incident, when I was roaming around a market in Kerala, I saw a man with amazing eyes. I had to rush all the way back to get my camera I located him and & framed his face.

I see a face as an amazing piece of artwork and as a photographer I feel I am just documenting that.

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8. Why do you prefer coloured pictures rather than the black and white?

It is not that I prefer.  For me to create a black & white picture, it takes too many things. I have to be 100% sure I’m doing complete justice and there is really something more than colors that I have to portray. 

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9. From whom you have been most impressed in photography? Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

Steve McCurry (The guy who captured the shot of Afghan girl for the cover of National Geographic) is one of the greatest influence and at the start of my career, I used to study every single shot he had captured, the details he frames & the most important part the truthfulness in every frame. l was lucky enough to even have a conversation with the legend. I had golden chance to meet him at Allahabad during Maha Kumbh mela but sadly just missed it out.

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10. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view.

I don’t know if it is the photography or the hundreds of interesting people I met during this journey. Interesting people here are the travellers, musicians, photographers and new friends I made.  Yes they have had a massive roll in shaping me.

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 11. Can you explain your interest in culture of India rather than modern life of European nation?

Currently I haven’t really chosen to travel outside India. I have had few projects that need me to go outside the country sooner or later maybe then I will in a better position to answer this question.

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12. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it with your busy professional life?

When I’m out for a project only two things matter.  Walking non stop from morning  6 am to evening 6 pm and yes I love to eat so I explore the local food, especially the street food. By the time I get back to my room I am be exhausted. But again I start the at 6 am usually before the sunrise.

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13. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?

One needs to market them properly and I really don’t do that well. I usually don’t like too much attention as it distracts my mind. So very rarely you see my picture.

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14. What are your future plans in photography?

Plans shape up as time goes by. frankly speaking I follow my heart and I just go where it takes me. Few destinations are calling me like Thailand, Moscow & Africa

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15. Lastly any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer

Anything you do for yourself with all your heart will show its results. As a photographer you may carry the most costly equipment but it takes so many circumstances to get that one perfect shot. However if you are a truthful person, all these circumstances will work in your favour.

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Betina La Plante

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Interviews

Self

Betinal La Plante is one of my favorite portrait photographers. I was hooked by her artistic and aesthetic sense from the time I had a chance to look at her pictures. In her introduction, she has been very humble and just describes her as a full time mother and occasional photographer.

This interview is an attempt to explore her, an attempt to understand person behind the persona.

For social networking, she is mainly active on the facebook. It is where she will be posting her all new work. You can add her page https://www.facebook.com/BetinaLaPlante2

and keep up to date with her latest contributions.

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1.  How would you describe yourself briefly (including your equipment and editing program)?

I used to say that I’m a full time mother, occasional photographer.  But as my boys are growing up, I have more time to take photographs now so the occasional is becoming more habitual.  I started shooting with film when I was younger, just as a hobby, and moved on to digital in 2009 when I became more serious about photography, solely for convenience and practicality – and less expense, of course.  I now shoot mainly on a Nikon D800, with several prime lenses, but every so often I will use my film cameras and a beautiful Polaroid camera I was recently given by a friend.  I edit primarily using Photoshop, but using very few and basic tools, such as BW converter, levels and curves, dodge and burn, and healing tools, when required.  The digital process I use tends to mimic what I used to do in the darkroom for the most part.  But every so often I do enjoy experimenting with other software and plugins that are available.

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2. Describe your photographic vision in a few words?

Hard to describe because I’ve never considered it a vision per se.  I take photographs because I love the medium, and I predominantly take portraits because I love the interaction between the subject and myself.  There is an intimacy that develops, and continues beyond the session and into the processing phase.  The resulting images are as much about the photographer as they are about the subject, a communion of sorts, which can make the work very personal and unique.

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3. Do you think a formal training in principles of art and elements of composition is as necessary for a photographer as for a painter? How did you learn this art? From books , academy or just from senior photographers?

I don’t think it is necessary but it can be a wonderful foundation.  I studied Art History at school and it gave me a real appreciation of the different art movements throughout the centuries, the events that led to changes in style and interpretation.  As I became more interested in photography, I tried to expose myself to as many ‘masters’ as possible – Irving Penn, Erwin Blumenfeld, Paul Leiter, Elliott Erwitt, Lee Miller, Man Ray, Sally Mann, William Klein, Daido Moriyama… the list is endless.  But really any exposure to art, regardless of the medium – be it literature, movies, museums, galleries – can only enrich the creative process.

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4. Art has been influenced by various art movements originating from philosophy and literature. Do you find similar influences in photography as well

Photography is another art medium, and goes through its changes influenced by many factors, including those you mention.

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5. What type of art movement is currently in vogue? Who are the most prominent exponents of that trend?

My knowledge of art and photography is somewhat limited to what interests me so I’m not sure I am informed or qualified enough to answer that question.

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6. Have you been influenced by any literary figures in shaping up your photographic vision. How and what type of influence you received from them?

As I said above, influence and inspiration can come from many different sources – be they moving images (film), still images (painting, photography), 3D structures (sculpture, architecture), or the written word (literature, poetry).  I can’t pin point a single one, they all contribute.

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7. In your collection, we mainly see dark and grim portraits rather than smiling faces. Most of faces appear in a state of emotional stress. Do your subject are symbols of social pressures in modern materialistic society?

I disagree with that statement.  Portraits that don’t depict smiles are not necessarily portraying the subject in a state of emotional distress.  I hope that my portraits convey emotion, but I don’t believe these are all necessarily indicative of social pressures. We live in an age where most people have a camera of some sort – from professional equipment all the way down to a phone.  And most people react to having their photo taken by trying to put forward what they wish to portray themselves as, how they wish to be seen, or they take photos of themselves as they wish the world to see them.  My goal, when I photograph people, is to get beyond that ‘performance’ and try to capture an honest and spontaneous moment.  When the guard is let down, and the act is abandoned.  These moments can often be more serious in tone, but not always.  Joy, laughter, shyness, introspection, anger, melancholia, and yes, even stress and despair…  Every emotion will resonate if it’s genuine.

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8. Why do you prefer black and white pictures?

As humans we see the world in colour, it’s what we are used to.  Stripping that element from a photograph forces us to look beyond the normal, what we take for granted, and see the essence, stripped bare.  For me, black and white photography has more dramatic and emotional impact, places more emphasis on the character of the subject matter, whether it be portraiture, landscape, street photography, still life, etc.  Photography also started as black and white, and it has endured through all the changes and advances to the medium, so even if it may be considered more of a niche market now, more for artistic purposes, it has a draw for me for all those reasons.

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9. From whom you have been most impressed in photography? Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

I listed some of the photographers I admire above.  They will always be a source of inspiration.  But there is a wealth of contemporary talent out there, that may not be considered the work of masters – yet – and that talent is just as inspirational, and humbling.  It is important to know what you’re passionate about and follow your own course, but I am always learning from others.

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10. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view.

Unlike literature, where things can be lost in translation if not in the original language, or cinema, where you guided through the story, or paintings, where the artist depicts their vision what he or she sees, the wonderful thing about photography is that it is a real moment captured in time.  I am talking about ‘pure’ photography, photographs that have not been digitally manipulated, altered or enhanced, other than with the processes that would have taken place in a darkroom.  Cloning, adding or removing things that weren’t in the original frame, creating an atmosphere with textures, enhancing and creating elements through post processing, is a departure from photography as I interpret it.  It is digital image making, a form of fine art, and it guides the viewer because it is the artist’s vision, no longer the original.    A true photograph’s language is universal, so even if it is also a subjective medium, it can be appreciated, understood and interpreted by anyone.  It is also immediate, especially in this digital age.  The power of photography in depicting world events and informing the public as to what it going on around us is unparalleled.

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 11. Why you have limited to portrait photography?

I wouldn’t say I have limited myself to portrait photography but it is definitely what I gravitate to.  I love working with people, the relationships that develop.  But I do explore street photography, landscape, still life…  I like to experiment – I just don’t have the comfort level in those areas that I do in portraiture so don’t always make them public but I keep working on pushing myself beyond my comfort levels, encouraged and inspired by artists I admire.

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12. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it with your busy professional life?

Photography is a passion and I try to shoot as often as possible.  I am a mother first and my children always take priority.  But they are now getting older (oldest will be in college in a little over a year), so it is something I hope to be able to dedicate myself to more often.

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13. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?

Marketing and promotion seems to be all important in today’s over-saturated market.  It seems that talent is not enough to get noticed, you have to have a social media presence.  With so many platforms available, it is no surprise to me that people hire PR professionals to stay on top of their online presence – it can be a full-time job!  And let’s face it, not everyone has the ability to self-promote.  I find it all a bit overwhelming, actually.  I have accounts on most obvious platforms, but I can’t keep up with them all on a daily basis, and I remind myself – quite often – to not lose sight of what is really important.  Taking photos comes first.  The social media follows when you can fit it in, but I try not to let the ‘business’ of promotion take over.

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14. What are your future plans in photography?

Apart from continuing doing portraiture, to collaborate more with other photographers and artists on projects.  There are several in the pipeline which I’m very excited about.  As I mentioned, I am constantly learning from other artists, so it’s a privilege to be able to work with some of those I have such respect for.

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15. Lastly any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer

I can only repeat what has been said to me by photographers I admire.  If you truly love photography, then find a way to do it.  Like all the arts, it is not an easy path.  Keep shooting, keep expanding your horizons and experimenting in all areas, keep your outlook fresh and don’t resort to taking the same photograph, push yourself beyond your comfort levels.  But ultimately stay true to what you find exciting – whether it be street, portraiture, still life, photojournalism, etc. and do it because you want to, not because you think you will make money from it.  But if that happens, then it’s a bonus…

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Nathan wirth

Posted: December 7, 2013 in Interviews

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Nathan Wirth is an English teacher from America. Photography is one of his hobby. He introduces himself as ‘ Father and Husband, English composition teacher at City College of San Francisco, photography enthusiast, and occasional writer’. In a lighter vein, he brags his ability to sneeze with open eyes:-)

If you are interested to enjoy his complete works, please look at his website

http://nlwirth.com/photography/

I like not only his art, but his deep insight about intellectual and philosophical aspects of photography. In addition, his main contribution to g+ is in finding and promoting talented photographers. I must say he has unearthed many gems of art and made them known to the world. You may like to have a look at his blog page for interviews,

http://nlwirth.com/blog/

Well let us know the person behind the persona. Read and enjoy his depth of understanding art in contemporary world.

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1. How would you describe yourself briefly (including your equipment and editing program)?

 

First and foremost, I am a father and a husband.  Second, I am a community college English teacher.  Third, I am a simple photographer who uses whatever equipment I can afford so that I can try to capture the silence of the ocean and the gentle quiet of a landscape.  For my long exposure images, I currently use a Sony Alpha 850, a Sigma 17-35mm lens, a Lee Big Stopper, and a set of Lee Grads.  For my infrared work, I use a Sony Alpha 100 that I had converted to an infrared camera and a cheap, but remarkably sharp, 18-55mm lens that has been calibrated to work with my infrared camera.  I use Photoshop CS5 to dodge and burn and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 for other minor adjustments.

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2. Describe your photographic vision in a few words?

 

I try to photograph the silence of solitude, the solitude of silence.

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3. . Do you think a formal training in principles of art and elements of composition is as necessary for a photographer as for a painter? How did you learn this art? From books , academy or just from senior photographers?

 

I suppose that it all depends.  I, personally, have never taken a  photography class and, at most, have only read a few how-to articles.  In other words, I have no formal training whatsoever. Then again, painting techniques take much more time and guidance to master than digital photography.  And I should add that traditional darkroom work takes much more time to master than the digital darkroom, which is, if we are all being honest, really very easy to get a handle on.  However– that said– in the end, any art form, be it writing, painting, music, or photography, takes much practice, much time spent on creating substandard output as one learns through each new level of experience that comes with time and practice.   I do feel fairly comfortable with my work these days, but I know that I have yet to master it and seriously doubt that I ever will.  If that unlikely time ever comes, it will be decades from now.  And, to be entirely honest, it is not a goal of mine.  I am far more interested in the actual experience of taking the images and the experimental possibilities of making photos than I am in finding perfection of any kind.  Mastery, in the end, always seems to be a perspective bestowed upon one by others who claim to know about such things.  I suppose other photographers are able to make such judgments about their own work, but I can never truly know what perfection means for my little slices of silence.  I am and happily remain a simple amateur.   

 

I have studied, and more importantly, thoroughly enjoyed the work of many photographers.  My early favorites, many years before I ever began taking my own images, were Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Wright Morris, Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler, Brett Weston, Walker Evans, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.  After embarking on the road to figuring out how to make my own images, I encountered Michael Kenna (whose work speaks to me more loudly than any others), Alexy Titarenko, Paul Hart, David Burdeney, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and, most recently, Susan Burnstine and David Fokos.  But none of these artists have necessarily shaped my direction.  More than anything, I have bathed in the pure pleasure of enjoying their work, a pleasurable photographic consumption that also expands to my deep admiration for the work of the  photographers that I know personally, such as Steve Landeros, Brian Day, Kevin Kwok, Jeff Gaydash, Moises Levy, Julia Anna Gospodarou, Andy Brown, Keith Agget, Maria Stromvik, Karen Atkinson, Grant Murray, Stephen Cairns, Joel Tjintjelaar, and my friend Lydia / Lila Limited.  All of these artists contribute to my overwhelming joy of photography, a joy that has so much more to do with the art of photography as an ongoing dialog between many, many, many styles, genres, and artists than it has to do with the simple little slices of silence that I create.  

 

In other words, what I am really trying to say is that I have learned how to take photos by immersing myself in the dialog of photography that has been ongoing for almost two centuries.  I believe that finding pleasure in the work of others is the greatest teacher.  I recommend that everyone distance themselves from only caring about how their own work is received and, instead, dunking themselves in the true pleasures of partaking in that ongoing photography dialog.  Everything else about photography can be learned with time and practice. 

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4. Art has been influenced by various art movements originating from philosophy and literature. Do you find similar influences in photography as well

 

Poetry, music, literature, film, philosophy and even theology definitely have an affect on how I think about the world, how I ponder what it means to exist, so, inevitably, these things will have a significant influence on what I create.  Most of my images reflect, in at least some way, several lines from poems or songs that have stayed with me with over the years.  The American poet, George Oppen, wrote that “The self is no mystery.  The mystery is / That there is something for us to stand on.”  These words, from his poem “World, World–“, are key to my ruminations about life– and thus my simple little images– because they deal with the traditional concerns of the great ontological questions very differently.  Instead of asking, “why are we here,” they suggest that the true mystery is not who we are but that we even exist in the first place. Indeed, these words hint at the very wonder that anything even exists at all.  I like to think that this wonder for the fact of things is present in the silence that I try to capture in my images.  Leonard Cohen, in his song “Anthem,” sings “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”  I hope that this ever present light– and light is, of course, essential to photographers– leaks into my work as well.  These are just two example of the various lines from the wealth of human expression that sift and move around in my considerations of the world that we live in– and they inevitably leak into whatever I am doing.  There are, of course, many more.

 

I am equally fascinated by Buddhism; in particular, I have been reading Dogen.  I have also spent some time trying to study and better understand Zen calligraphy– not because I want to create my own calligraphy but because I want to incorporate its principles into my photography.  A master Zen calligrapher empties his or her mind and, more or less, lets the characters flow. Thought, emotions and expectations should not matter in the act of creation.I am trying to adopt this approach in my own processing, but I am not succeeding very well, yet, still, I find great value in trying to remove my ego, my expectations, from my photography so that I can simply “do.This has been incredibly difficult because one yearns to have one’s work enjoyed by others, a yearning that inevitably is tied to the ego. 

 

And my failure to remove my ego from my image-making has just been well-documented in my response to your question. You asked if I thought that philosophy and literature influenced photography, in general, and I made the question all about me.  But, yes, I do think photography can be tied to other arts and intellectual concerns.  But, in the end, photography truly seems to be bound  far more to human experience / expression than some of the other art forms and intellectual pursuits. Images, as blurred from reality as we may wish to make them from time to time, are bound to an actual capture of an actual something.  One sees a near copy of an actual facial expression, an actual tree in the landscape, the actual destruction of a town ravaged by war, the actual violence caused by racism, the actual laughter in a face, the actual erotic pose, etc.  All images are, of course, no longer the actual thing originally photographed.  One takes away a thin slice of whatever one photographed, and such slices are subject to interpretation by the viewer, who brings his or her life experiences to every image viewed, but one still has that “actual,” an actual that seems more bound to the “real” than poetry, literature, philosophy, or even paintings.

 

And, in the end, the vast majority of photography seems far more bound to money making than art making, which is perfectly natural in our world, but such goals takes one far away from the typical interests of philosophers and serious novelists. 

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5. What type of art movement is currently in vogue? Who are the most prominent exponents of that trend?

 

I am going to side step your question a little bit and take it in a slightly different direction. When you look at lists of the most famous photographs, the majority of them always seem to stem from human suffering in the face of destruction and violence, whether it comes from a natural disaster or war or another human-caused moment of death and / or sadness.  In other words, the photographs that remain in our minds the most powerfully are the ones that transcend a particular culture and speak to the entire world because they connect us to human experience.  So whatever might be in vogue, at any particular moment, will come and go– as will all the current and popular techniques like HDR and long exposure and oversaturated color and any images that wow with coolness but have no heart.  All of these are merely photographic parlor tricks.  What speaks to everyone is the human experience, and photography will always be bound to those captured moments that we think best express the human condition: its tragedies, its sufferings, its victories, its pains, its joys.  My work, unfortunately, does not fit into this category.  It is too bound to the parlor tricks of long exposure and infrared, but I do hope that something of the human search for the contemplation of solitude emanates from my images.

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6. You have mentioned the influence of various literary figures in shaping up your photographic vision. How and what type of influence you received from them?

 

Poetry is an art bound to language, bound to the actual, as it, at the same time, reaches for expression beyond the confines of its own actual words.  I make my living teaching composition at a community college in San Francisco, and many of my students, when first reading poetry, leap to what the language means before they ever figure out what it simply says. Whenever one wishes to ponder the “other” of an “actual,” one must always begin with that actual.  For example, a poem about a road will always be about a road no matter what one might conclude about the possibilities beyond that very simple actual road.  I enjoy photography, in part, because an image can express something beyond the confines of what has actually been photographed, but one is always grounded in the actual of the image. 

 

But all of that said, poets such as George Oppen, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Gary Snyder, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Lorine Niedecker, Mary Oliver, Keats, Wordsworth, Yeats, and many others have touched my thoughts in rather profound ways.  Novelists and essayists such as Milan Kundera, J. M. Coetzee, James Joyce, Annie Dillard, Emerson, Thoreau, William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, George Mackay Brown, Shakespeare, and many others have inspired me for many different reasons.  In fact, the reasons and ways that these poets and writers have influenced me are so varied it would make no sense to explain exactly how.  Their work courses through my veins and ends up being expressed in ways that I am never entirely conscious of.  But, in the end, isn’t any attempt to express oneself creatively bound to the creative output of the works that one has experienced? 

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7. In your pictures, we usually find, dark, deserted places with a solitary figure. What does it show? An innate feeling of solitude, an escapism from a material world or feeling of frailty of human against grandeur of nature?

 

I understand your choice of words such as dark and deserted, for the tones in my images are often dark and I frame them in such way that they seem desolate, but the connotations of both those words imply the possibility of something lonely and sad, two states of mind that are the furthest from my mind in these images, both in the experience of taking them and the experience of processing them.  I seek silence.  I find that silence in solitude.  And, in that solitude, sometimes I ponder, sometimes I ruminate, and sometimes I try to simply just exist and stare out at whatever is before me.  I hope those images express that in at least some way.

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8. Why do you prefer black and white pictures or landscapes only?

 

I suppose I feel that truth resonates in the contrasts of black and white, in the folds of its middle grays.  However, as lovely or silly as that might sound to someone, I suppose, in the end, that I prefer black and white because I truly and very simply prefer black and white photography.  It has everything to do with the mood, with the tonal possibilities, with the many avenues of interpretation.   In a lot of ways, the photograph, in my mind, is bound to its beginnings in monochrome.  Color is wonderful. And there is much amazing color work, but it simply has little appeal to me.  I cannot express myself organically through it.  All of my color images feel forced, rushed, unnatural. 

 

I prefer photographing the landscape, especially the sea, because this is where I find my solitude, the silence that I yearn to find, the silence I need to remain sane. I have lived near the sea all of my life– and I feel a very deep connection to it and whether I am taking photos or not I must return to it often, if only to simply sit and look at its waves, its rocks, its repetitions.

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9. You have mentioned a few photographers who influenced you. Do you still keep learning from the work of masters or do you feel they hinder and blunt your innate personal vision?

 

I love looking at photos.  In many ways, I enjoy the work of others even more than I enjoy making my own.  And while I have most certainly been influenced by enjoying many other photographers’ work, I have never copied them– and have rarely ever emulated anyone’s work.  I try very hard to be as unique as I can.  That said– so many other photographers are far more proficient at long exposures and infrared than I will ever be, but I still hope that my photos are at least somewhat unique. Cole Thompson, a photographer whose work I most certainly admire, has embraced a life of photography celibacy and will not look at the work of others for fear that he will be tempted to try things, to be subconsciously influenced by things, that he admires in their work.He wants to keep his vision uniquely to himself and his own evolution and processes.  I understand this, but I would rather stop taking photos than give up looking at the work of others.  I find great pleasure in witnessing the amazing volume of creativity available in this world.  In fact, this is the great pleasure of online media.  One has, at his or her fingertips, access to millions of images, and, with some fine tuning, one can easily find all kinds of great work in a myriad of genres.

 

However, one of the dark sides to photo sharing sites is that many people are far, far more concerned about getting their photos seen than ever taking the time to enjoy the amazing work of those around them.   Photography, as I have already said, is an ongoing dialog.  I truly believe that one should take part in that conversation.

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10. Do you feel photography influences one’s personality as literature and other genres of art do? How it has changed your own personality and world view.

 

This is an interesting question, and a difficult one to answer.  I am most certainly influenced by photography.  For me, the experience of leaving home to go be myself is the greatest allure of the photography experience. I certainly do see things differently.  I am far more aware of framing, of composition, and I spend a lot of time staring at the sea or a hillside while taking images.  Long exposures require one to wait and during that waiting period I ponder a lot of different things– and sometimes I practice just simply existing, just being part of the landscape.  As I wander around in my daily life, I often see compositions unfold before me.

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11. In one of your interviews, you mentioned yourself as some one in search of a moment of solitude midst incessant sounds? This comment is interesting and shows a sensitive soul and tender heart. How does photography help you to achieve that moment of solitude?

 

There is a curious silence that resides in the folds of noise that surround us.  One cannot, of course, hear that silence.  But one, I do believe, can photograph it.  Or at least I am trying to. 

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 12. What is your photography routine? How much time you spend in it and how you are able to manage it with your busy professional life?

 

My job as a community college English teacher and my role as a husband and a father dominate the majority of my time, so photography has to be the expression that I turn to in my spare time, but I do try to make as much spare time for it as I possibly can.  Fortunately, my wife is, within reason, very supportive of my photographic pursuits. There is not a day that goes by that I do not at least look over images that I am working on.  My work is very weather dependent.  The weather needs to be foggy, misty, cloudy, or rainy  for me to go out and take images– and in general I work the hour or two before, during and shortly after a sunset.  I wish I could wake up more easily in the early morning and get out for the sunrise, for the light is quite wonderful at that time.     

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13. What do you think are the benefits of social media in promotion of today’s artist? There is a frequent complaint that most of the celebrities are not personally present on media. Their publicity managers keep them alive on social media. How you can manage so much time on social media?

 

Your choice of the verb promotion suggests monetizing and self gain– or, in other words, self interest, which I think, in the end, is the main purpose of all social media.  We broadcast ourselves to the world.  I think, in the end, we yearn for attention, and online media has offered all that are interested a way to promote their existence, sometimes to the point of excess. I am not criticizing that fact– only emphasizing it.  I am, naturally, as guilty of this as most, but even though I have, from time to time, succumbed to the pleasures of gaining the attention of others, this is not my real goal.  Yet if one takes images, one is likely not to be satisfied to just leave the images on the computer or the prints in a box.  One wants to be seen. I have spoken to a lot of different people about this.  Indeed, it certainly does not make much sense to create a body of work that no one will ever see.  I don’t have much money (American community college teachers are not paid all that much), so the temptation to make a few dollars here and there to help pay for new equipment is desirable and quite tempting, but I refuse to run out and promote myself beyond sharing my images for anyone who wishes to view them.  As a result, I have the worst possible marketing plan for my work: to simply create images and see if anyone notices them.  Surprisingly, from time to time, a few people do notice what I am doing. 

 

 I manage the time I manage on social media because I love photography– and, as I said before, I love the photography of others as much as I love creating my own. Social media is meant, by design and title, to be social.  It is meant to be interactive (even though it is all too often very one-sided). I enjoy chatting with people.  I enjoy expressing my admiration for images that grab my attention.  These things are part of the whole photography experience for me, so I make the necessary time as I can.

 

Like many, many people, I grew up in a world that had no Internet, so I am often suspicious of it. 

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14. What are your future plans in photography? 

 

I am just going to keep making my little slices of silence.

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15. Lastly any other lesson/advice you would like to give to an aspiring photographer.

 

Simply do.  Take loads of photographs.  Do things that don’t make any sense just to see what you get.  Enjoy the work of others … actually and truly enjoy the works of others … for that pleasure will yield an appreciation for photography in general and that, in turn, will help you to understand more deeply why you are interested in it.

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Finally some more fantastic pictures from Nathan wirth

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And last but not the least

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