My personal relation with photography

n.b.: What you are going to read can make just sense to me and just in this moment in time. This is not meant to be anything else than an explanation of my current vision.

Words are awkward. It’s a while I realized it. Words are hard to find and use and even if we take them for granted (as long as they are part of our mother tongue), it takes a great level of expertise to use them properly. Using words properly is, in fact, an art. Sometimes is not even possible to express our own feelings through words either because words that express those feelings don’t exist or because we fear to choose the wrong words and therefore be misunderstood. That’s why expressing themselves through words, like any other form of art, must be mastered through the practice. We call it art, but art is essentially a way we search to express ourselves. When we find words too hard to use, we may start to express ourselves through other forms of communication that we feel more effective. Unluckily human brain is very complex and highly biased by our own life experiences, therefore even the most descriptive form of art is subject to personal interpretation. Even when we want to express just the simplest feeling through art, people may find deeper meanings that the author didn’t mean to express at all. This is probably the most interesting result of any concept of art.

I am not an artist (or we are all?), I never cared about express properly my feelings to be honest, I don’t find the need to share them with others. I am empathic, I assume, although I can be totally wrong, I can read people just from the body language, but I don’t feel I really need to be read. Obviously it happens to be great when it has been realised that what has been tried to communicate has been expressed and understood entirely. However I believe that artists don’t really care about being really understood. Artists know that art is subjective and they don’t need to find the perfect way to express themselves. I think an artist succeeds exactly when the consumer of the art finds its own personal interpretation of the piece. The vision of the art through our own life experience is what makes us fall in love with art, not understanding what the author is trying to communicate, but what we think the work is telling us. Therefore researching the perfect way to communicate through a piece of art is probably just a mere exercise.

Photography is quite an interesting form of art in this sense. While a painter starts from just a white canvas that can be filled with whatever the mind can produce, a photographer must deal with the reality. True, abstract photography and photography composites are there to try to break these walls, but one can argue if those forms of photography are actually still photography.

A person like me who is not able to produce any form of art, may think that photography is actually the easiest way to express themselves. It’s very likely the opposite. Dealing with reality, photographers opportunities are way more limited than in other forms of art. Looking through our viewfinders is very complicated. Everything we felt until that moment, everything we imagined could have been, the grandiose abstracted thought our mind produced to express our current feeling is immediately dimmed by the dull reality. What you see through the viewfinder is not what you imagine it would have been, isn’t it?

The question is, why and when shooting then? I think that among the various forms of photography some are more descriptive than others. Some are meant to depict reality. Travel, landscape, reportage and documentary photography are probably the ones that need to stick as much as possible to reality. However this doesn’t mean that reality cannot be surreal. Every kind of reality, from the blandest to the hardest, can become surreal through a view finder. For example, Letizia Battaglia, who took the decision to report for decades the horrors of the Sicilian mafia, managed to transform crude and miserable reality in to surreal moments that are not supposed to exists. It’s just enough to google her and pick up a random photo to understand what I mean:

Exactly the same logic can be applied to the other forms of photography. A special moment in the day can make a landscape surreal, a special gaze from incredible eyes can make foreign people look surreal.

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is they way I live street photography, reinterpreting the reality is extremely exciting. Although I realised this some time ago, it doesn’t mean that I have been able to put it in practice so far. Like I said it before, manage to express themselves properly takes a long of period of exercise and personal reflection. My current object is to take photos that make the viewer just wondering what’s going on. If the viewer stays more than 5 seconds in front of the photo, wondering what it’s all about, for me currently this is already a success. It means that my research is taking somewhere.

when I took this photo, without being pretentious at all, I was actually attracted by the texture of the background. I actually thought that the colours, pattern and details where quite beautiful. In that moment I thought I had to take a photo of it, but I wanted also the human presence. I just wanted the viewer to wonder where the heck I could have taken this photo. A person could have given some clue. I just waited someone to pass in front of me and snapped. I didn’t presume to create an art piece (and in fact I didn’t), it’s just that what I see in this photo may be a first attempt or what I am looking for. I had a couple of feedback about this photo. One just told me that it’s crap because the subject (?) is out of focus. Another instead gave a deeper point of view, assuming that this photo represents a moment in life and a stranger happening to obstruct your view while lost in your thoughts.

Thanks to this reasoning that I wanted to share with you, I have now an objective when I get out to take street photography. The hardest part is to fight reality and find that moment in time that makes it extraordinary through the viewfinder. This will be true regardless the project I have in mind or the technicalities I will adopt.

At the end, what I have realized is that while technicalities can help you to communicate more effectively, one must not make the mistake to try to read a photo through technicalities. A perfectly technical photo without wonder is just a perfectly empty photo. Research technicalities to practice, but don’t share photos that don’t tell anything even to yourself.

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