Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tuscan Sun Fried Brains

Reality is a big bluff. - Anders Petersen

For the first few years of my career, I struggled with the technicality of photography. Knowing the cameras, lighting and composition. With the digital age, learning has become a constant companion. The cameras, computers and software keep evolving, and one has to work hard to understand bot the basics as well as the esoteric advance possibilities of image capture.

Then I took a workshop with Paul Elledge, and he showed me how to connect my emotions with my images. And this is the struggle that I have been engaging with for about four years now. This battle to command all the technical and compositional aspects of photography to create images that evoke an emotional response from the viewer. And to a certain extent, I think I have succeeded. There are always improvements to be made and lots to struggle with, but I feel that I have at least begun to make the connections.

But I am a restless soul. It was nice hearing compliments from people at the workshop in Tuscany about how beautiful my images are. But I know that my images are a little too 'perfect'. They have a studied, arranged beauty. Which is okay in itself. There is nothing wrong with pretty pictures, but it is eye candy, not a visual meal.

Philippe Pache pushed me in the first workshop to reveal less in my images, to find a way to deepen the dialog between my images and the viewer. I guess it is like seeing a semi-naked woman, it is more sexually charged than going to a nudist beach and seeing everything revealed.

I must admit though, it is Anders Petersen who haunts me, who has left a crater in my brain. He has not only challenged my notion of photography, but my notion of living. By using my camera to create beautiful images, I am kind of living vicariously through my lens. To Petersen, he is not interested in photography, he is interested in life. Don't take pictures of what you see, take pictures of what you feel.

One of the strongest statements from Petersen is 'No pictures without longing.' And like any other human, I long to be loved and accepted. But my relationships have left emotionally scarred. I have been taking happy pictures, desperately running away from the pain that makes it hard for me to engage fully with people I am attracted to. And then I realise, the pain, fear and insecurity are part of me. And it is alright to have fear. Petersen says he is very shy and has fear, but he does not fear to have fear. And I realise we are all scarred, and I should not be ashamed. To connect with people, I have to be as vulnerable as my subjects.

I have been sharpening my skills as a photographer for eight years now. And I was beginning to wonder if all I had ahead of me was the practise of my photographic skills. And now I realise, that the only way to become a better photographer is to become more human. To go out there and really live life, to stop hiding behind my camera.

My personal work really needs to change. My brains really fried.

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