stay away stay away stay away

Here’s to well-meant advice: please don’t give one. And if you do, fuck off.

A bit short of two years ago I decided it would be a good idea to enter the wonderful world of commercial photography. After many slips, stumbles, repeats, assignments and bouts of depressions I’ve distilled an important gem of knowledge for young, aspiring artists who are just starting and are being given well-meant advice by well-meaning people. It goes like this:

Put art aside for a year; learn martial arts instead so you can punch people in the face with confidence. You’ll need that skill in order to fight your biggest enemies: your friends.

* * *

Your friends and family will offer two very important and very contradicting pieces of advice, ultimately leading to you hating yourself to the point of abandoning ship and selling all your cameras and getting a corporate job in Warsaw.

The first one is: I love your work so much.

And the second: your work will never sell.

And I can’t stress just how much is wrong with that advice.

* * *

Hearing it from strangers will damage your business. Selling yourself and your work takes lots of courage and boldness; building a business from the ground up means pretending you’re professional while in reality you’re just starting out. It means making a credible-looking website and scrambling to find photos for it. It means lots of legwork and asking around so you can get those important portfolio shots, usually for free. Starting a business means persistence in the face of no results – and so listening to statements about inviability of your endeavour will shut down all your efforts in no time.

But what’s worse, hearing it from people you care about will damage you.

I don’t get the phenomenon of conflicting messages from the ones you love; I just know they will tear you apart and wreck you. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been told, multiple times and on multiple occasions, that my photographs spark deep feelings in people. I’ve been thanked for something I could never truly grasp; a kind of service I fulfill by taking pictures. And yet, somehow, the same people would tell me this kind of work is impossible to sell, that no one would ever want or pay for slightly blurry and crooked but intensely emotional snaps shot on black & white film. The same people who praised my work claimed it had no value.

It took me two years to learn not to listen to them.

(Guess what: you were wrong. There is a very real market for blurry, crooked, underexposed, overcontrasty, grainy, amateur-looking-but-professional memories of cherished moments. There’s a very real market for the joy that comes with them. A joy that, sadly, is very bittersweet to share with you.)

we sing the body electric

An intersection of thoughts, inspirations, visions. This Easter break has been a delight.

There’s this person I’ve admired for years. I first saw her photos by chance, on an online group dedicated to one lovely little camera we both owned at the time – and immediately fell in love with the way she saw the world. I remember following in her footsteps, tracing the walks, adventures, troubles and smiles, beams of sunlight and dark moods. I remember an eerie but friendly mood of her photos, a quiet way of accepting the reality while still grasping it, taking in as much emotion and feeling as possible. The world she portrayed… it was one of a perfect dream. I never thought of her as a real person, someone I could one day talk to, laugh with, walk the rainy streets together… but after many years of not knowing each other, in an impossible yet somehow effortless time and place, this was about to change.

* * *

When you meet someone for the first time, there’s always this anxious feeling, a minuscule possibility of disappointment. It was there… but it was fleeting; it dispersed like a wisp of smoke, gave way like the shadows yield to the light of gently rising sun. That morning had the softness of an Instax picture, an unsaturated, heartwarming glow. An it left a desire – for long talks, for change, for people whose fire never stops burning. For travels, books, the unknown. For photographs.

* * *

Her name is Jola. You’re missing a lot if you don’t know her.

Continue reading “we sing the body electric”

Lightroom duty, day 1169

Colors are completely off. Instead of focusing on the important aspects of photography – like choosing the best set of photos – I’m painstakingly moving the white balance slider 50 degrees left or right, trying to find a point where the scene looks at least half-natural. It takes all the joy away. I don’t want to be a photographer anymore. Why the hell did I agree to shoot color in the first place?

Lightroom duty, day 970

One day I though: what the hell; I’ve been shooting this peculiar kind of personal documentary for so long that I might as well start doing it commercially.

How do you start as a professional personal photographer when you’re me? You start by filling your bag to the brim with film. My first resolution was to never run out of film; the second one was to stop shooting digital. The final one was not to listen to people who are driven by fear; who won’t take risks, won’t face challenges and won’t ever let anyone else chase their dreams. In other words, I ignored all my friends’ advice and did it anyway.

First assignment: a wedding.

I’m hooked… forever. The results came out so good I don’t even know what to say; I get overly emotional whenever I look at my own photos. It never happened before. If this is how my photographic life is going to look like from now on, count me in. All in.

Lightroom duty, day 883

I recently had a brief period of change where I decided to stray from the usual camera/lens/film combination. It was nice and fresh, but can I please have the original set back already?

(APX is unusable. Tri-X curls like a hurt child. Neopan is black-and-white with nothing in between. Delta is usable if you aim for 100% midtones and weird grain that reminds me of awkward virgin sex. And don’t get me started on lens that are too sharp… now I get why some are deliberately undercorrected: to prevent the world from looking too creepy.)