If you had to describe your overall photographic vision in 25 words or less, what words would you choose?
“The poetry should be like a picture and the pictures should be like poetry.” These words belong to Su Shi /1037-1101/, Chinese writer, poet, artist and calligrapher. Once I found them, I realized they exactly describe my vision about photography as an art and accurately present what I try to express in my photos. Contemporary photography has hundreds of faces, genres and means of expression, but I think that these words are applicable and valid for all of them.
Why are you so drawn to long exposure photography?
I love the long exposure; water and the sky are perfect subjects for that purpose. The cumulative effect of time takes you to a different reality that only a camera can catch. In this reality, there are emotions and an atmosphere far different from the real ones. Every subject has a different meaning there. In my opinion, this is the charm of the long exposure. This is one invisible world, but the camera’s eye and the photographer’s imagination make it accessible and extremely charming. The milky surface that lacks details and the sky that melts into the water or contrasts with it make the most usual subjects in the frame look mysterious.
Why do you prefer black and white photography?
A lot has been written on the topic. I think that black and white photography is an expressiveness which is hidden behind strong graphic/ timing. Black and white photography is fresh and simple. It has clear forms and lines that intrigue our minds. Black and white photography is sincere. It’s a simple art that speaks for itself. It tells stories – from the darkest black to snow-white; soft grey nuances capture our sight and make us seek the beauty under the surface. This is how photography looked before colors took hold of our vision and idea of what makes a wonderful shot. Colored pictures are an exact reflection of a scene– which, in my opinion, depletes their value deplete. Black and white photography is different. Its magic is in the delicate and elegant interacting between structure and emotion, light and darkness. When you remove the colors from a picture you also remove all the unnecessary layers and the result is a clear form and its essence.
Who are three of your favorite photographers, and, more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
It’s always has been difficult for me to determine a favourite photographer and even harder to choose a favourite painter or favourite music or color. Strange to say, but I can think of a beloved dish or drink far more easily. A particular photographer’s attention to light, composition, gear, every aspect in photography, can make me fall in love with his or her creative work (or to obtain inspiration or to discover new styles of work).
- Lately, my attention is fully riveted by Sebastião Salgado. His majestic project Genesis is an example of the power of black and white photography, the power of landscape like an instrument to react and defend even universal causes.
- I’d also like to mention Josef Sudek – “The Poet of Prague”. Whatever the circumstances are, Sudek’s photography carries us to a world of poetry, his whole range of subjects from the details of his studio to the exquisite scenery, leading to unexpected meetings with the beauty of gloaming and sunrise, the rain, the seasons, steamy windows and nostalgic still lives.
- Another incredible photographer is Don Hong-Oai. With matchless technique, he usually uses 2-3 negatives for each completed image. It’s difficult for me to imagine that it’s possible to unify so organically the exquisiteness of traditional Chinese painting and photography– the Asian aesthetics and minimalism, the irreproachable composition, harmony of the line, elements of painting and calligraphy create one exceptionally harmonic picture. It isn’t focused on the realism, but on the allegory and association.
What artistic influences, outside of photography, have had a significant influence on how you approach your photography (for example, painters, filmmakers, musicians, poets, etc.)?
I feel deep attraction for Eastern art in all its entire variety. I don’t know how exactly, but in the past my interest in the impressionists natural manner directed me to Eastern Zen aesthetics. The traditional monochrome painting, the Japanese woodblock print, the calligraphy, haiku, even ceramics and bonsai determine my vision in photography today as well. The monochrome ink painting with terse lines, simplicity and composition clarity is a beautiful example for the construction of black and white landscape images. For example, the minimalism and mysticism in Eastern monochrome painting finds extremely good expression in the photography by means of the long exposure technique.
What appears in the mind while we are reading this haiku by Matsuo Basho:
a lone crow
sits on a dead branch
this autumn eve
The words feel like a monochrome painting … or black and white photography.
What are your thoughts about trying to find the best gear possible versus working on making the best possible image with the gear you already have?
There are endless discussions in the forums regarding the best gear. Sometimes I’ve started reading in them and I realized that people who discuss most ardently and have the best gear do not have the best pictures. I don’t read these discussions anymore. I do not want to be dependent on or a hostage of gear. Gear are instruments but not an aim. It would be ridiculous for some talented painter to comment on the incredible qualities of his brushes, paints or canvas. An accomplished photograph can be made even with a one dollar camera. Man should direct his efforts to gaining knowledge and experience, to being able to see the beautiful in usual things, to choosing the right point of view, to choosing the right moment, to composing the flashback, to achieving the exact post-processing. The best gear can’t help you to do these things.
“The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to see” – Ernst Haas.
How would you define fine art? Is it just a label?
I wouldn’t and in fact I do not want to give any kind of definitions for it. The use of this expression has blurred the purpose to separate the painting, sculpture and drawing from the architecture as applied arts. There is no sense to criticize it because we know beforehand that it will not stand up to it. And yes – I think it is just a label. But most of all I believe that by the time of the Lascaux Cave drawings, then going through the Renaissance’s miracles and coming to these days, the human genius never had the need for labels.
If you had to come up with one very important lesson that you think every photographer needs to learn, what would it be?
I think that nothing reflects better on your photography than to be yourself. And, moreover, Ansel Adams is absolutely right: “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
What are your thoughts about the benefits of online sharing? Are there any particular social media or image sharing sites you prefer or do not prefer?
I returned to photography after more than a fifteen years break. I returned to the hobby of my school year with real passion. One of the reasons it happened was the new possibilities of digital photography … after 15 years I easily swapped my dark room with the light room. The other reason is the possibility of on-line sharing, the unique opportunity to make contact with viewers, colleagues and followers. For me, the meaning of each visual art is it’s meeting with the spectator. Online sharing allowed this to happen really fast and in huge measures, offering the incredibly beneficial opportunity for feedback between the author and the audience. Most often I share my shots at my website, Photomoment, Art Limited , Deviantart, 500px, Facebook, and Google+.
What photographic cliché or common photography question, if any, irritates you the most?
Perhaps it is the question “Was it made by Photoshop?” In fact, my answer is a part of a bigger theme– post processing in photography. Also it is a little bit frustrating, because it suggests an answer, which the person who asked is not ready to hear and most of all to understand. I love analog photography and often I really miss it. Unfortunately, it required resources, time, and money that I am not able to pay today. The digital post processing of these days has its full equivalents in analog photography. And, for me, it is mildly annoying when someone joins the final result of the taken frame only with the use of software processing.
If you were stranded on an island, and you could have one camera, one lens, one filter, one tripod, two books, and ten CDs, what would they be and why?
If I’ve been being stranded on a island that will means that whole time is only mine. So … with pleasure I will start investigating the island with the help of a wet plate camera. It would be great to give myself an alternative photographic processes. For literary company, I would prefer Cannery Row or Catch-22 and if I have some Beatles’s CDs that will make my stay more livable.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I have recently been interested in some alternative photography processes like Platinum/Palladium printing. I hope that I will show my first successful attempts in the near future or maybe an exhibition devoted to alternative photography. I’m looking forward to this winter, in order to take a snow photo session in black and white.
Is there any specific place that you would like to visit to take photos?
My interest in Eastern culture naturally determines my desire to visit the Far East – China, for example, a culture that is vast and deep. I would shoot there with pleasure.
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