Motto: People nowadays are hungry for love and for meaning (Nicolae Steinhart)*
For this Friday I wanted write the monthly article about resources and inspiration. But this week I felt kind of uninspired. Yes, I know, it’s normal that this happens sometimes. Inspiration does not come whenever I need it, I can’t order it around, so that each Tuesday and Friday I publish something on my blog, and not just anything; something that would get the approval of my “internal critic”, who is very critical, I can assure you. At some point I thought I should just drop it. I mean, what would happen if didn’t publish my Friday post? The Earth won’t stop revolving, the boss won’t scold me (‘cos I don’t even have a boss), they won’t cut my salary (‘cos I don’t have that either). I could publish just when I feel like it. After all, who cares? These ‘anarchist’ thoughts prompted me to think why do I really do this? Actually the question is why do I photograph, why do I write, why do I have a blog (both in Romanian and English, which is quite a bit of work for no pay whatsoever)? To go all the way, the real question is: what do I have to say? (that is through photography and writing). Is that thing so important that it is worth it to spend my limited time on this Earth in front of the computer and with the camera around my neck? Is what I have to say worth sharing with the others?
On the other hand, I know it and experienced it already so many times, that not the big efforts once in a while matter, but the regular small actions. Meaning, to do something every day or every week for a longer period of time, even when you don’t feel like or you don’t see the meaning of that on the short run and you feel like dropping it. But in time, these actions count, they add up to something that is worth it. Always. It’s something that maybe I didn’t even think of in the beginning or planned.
Although I thought (rather superficial) that I had answered this question when I started the website (in the section “About me), I realize that the answer is under construction. Permanently. Like me. Like this road that I am walking on now, since I started to do photography full time. And they don’t teach you that in the photography courses, along with the correct exposure.
When I had a job (and I had quite a few in the past 12 years), I didn’t ask myself this question very often. I didn’t think a lot if what I did every day in the office had sense, if, mind you, I had something to say. The routine protects us from many questions and doubts. Those jobs that make us whiter or scream, or just leave us numb on the couch in front of the TV at the end of the day give us a a feeling of security (which, like all security in life is illusory – my opinion). It creates certainty. And we need that so much. And again, it’s about the money, they give a sense of utility, of appreciation, that what you did has a value, expressed in money, the universal symbol of value in our society. These are the rules that our society is based on. And even if you don’t agree with these rules (like I don’t), they still affect you, involuntarily. At least this is what I feel. And when you want to take a different road, there is a void that opens in front of you. You are the master of your time, of your actions, what will you do with them? (If you’ve ever started as a freelancer, or have been unemployed for a longer time or retired, you know what I am talking about. It’s the feeling that comes after two months of freedom and relief that you are rid of the job). Today I found in the book that I am reading now and it’s fantastic – Iris Murdoch, A word child: “Beyond routine, for me there was chaos. Without routine my life (or maybe anybody’s life?) was pure phantasmagoria”*. (more quotes from the books that inspired me: here) But maybe the fact that I’m asking myself these questions is wrong. But I’m writing them because they are uncomfortable and not “nice” and I’m sure other people think of them too. Yea, I know, I’m one of those people who questions everything too much in order to live happily ever after
Coming back to my question, what do I have to say? I don’t think I’m special, that I have a higher calling, that I will change the world or stuff like that. But still, the question remains. What I can say is that I feel more and more that my photography is linked to the community in which I live (namely in Timisoara), where I would like to contribute to a change for the better. Even if this means making a small difference in the lives of a few people. I don’t necessarily wish to make beautiful photographs, technically and artistically. Ultimately, I would like that on my tombstone it reads “good human being” not “good photographer”. And then I say to myself, yea yea, that’s all very nice and sensitive, but how are you gonna make a living out of that?
To be continued.
So, for all those that are still searching, like me, here are a few articles that inspired me:
- Structure in the creative life: a podcast from the magazine Lenswork, which speaks exactly of these issues: what do we have to say through photography and how. Plus some very good ideas about photo projects.
- An article about what it takes to become a better photographer: “The only way to shoot more interesting photos is to become a more interesting person.”
- An article about taking better street photos.
- A facebook posting by the Romanian photographer Radu Sigheti: If you are a good photographer means you have personality and you have character. Before everything else you must have those. Involuntary your personality will drive you to do the things mentioned in this link.
You are formed slowly and gently by your parents and grandparents during the “seven years from home” as we say in Romania. The school, your friends, your entourage are modeling you as you grow. The music you listen, the movies you like, the books you read are giving you another part of your personality. As you grow your personality is also formed and challenged by all your girlfriends or boyfriends you ever had, from a broken or a fulfilled love. All the people you meet and interact with are you; they are part of your personality and character.
Many photographers are still looking for their personality, many are doing very good photographs, when you see them you like them but you feel that there is something missing and you wonder what. What are missing from the picture are the personality and the character of the photographer. This is that un-named, unseen thing beyond the frame. This makes the difference between images. If you did not found it yet keep on trying, is nothing shameful about this, we all took weak pictures on our way to find ourselves. And from time to time you might stop a bit and look inside you; it is really you the one who takes the picture?”
And in the end, as I was talking of inspiration, which comes and goes, here is a poem I wrote.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the things discussed here.
For the Romanian version of this article go here
Or if you want to see what I’m up to (photographically speaking) check out my facebook page. (Pssst: you can even recommend it to your friends
* I did the translation from Romanian of these texts, it’s not the official one