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.)
You get what you deserve. We deserved magic, and found it.
It was supposed to be a nice & easy weekend trip with Anna-Maria. Then we heard a five centuries old story of love & murder.. and of a stone cross carved by the hands of a grieving father, standing still in a distant, inaccessible part of the mountains. Mesmerized, we set off to find it.
If you get to wander in those post-German woods.. you get to find things.
Every autumn brings a sudden desire to load my camera with slide film; and with every roll, the inevitable magic happens. I shot these along Peggy’s residence project; and as usual, those few snaps carry memories that will stay with me for the lifetime. I don’t know if slide film is the cause or result of magic.. but it always accompanies it.
Emotional attachment to a specific medium is a peculiar thing. I routinely burn through dozens of Ilford HP5+ rolls; doing everyday snaps in black&white feels like my second nature. Color negatives elicit even less emotional response – I just fire and forget them. But slide film.. it’s different. Comparing slide film to black and white is like putting a honeymoon against a grocery trip. They don’t deserve to be compared.
The hardest part of shooting slide film isn’t the steep price of film & processing… it’s knowing just how much those photos will mean to me.
I’ve come to a peaceful conclusion that photography is essential for me. I need it to form memories. Aside from a few boundary experiences, I don’t just forget; I fail to remember.
I need to shoot more. Develop more. Whenever the dreaded feeling of emptiness and worthlessness comes, I need to shoot more. Develop more. Explore the treasures of that little box where I store undeveloped film… a box that’s always overflowing, always storing fragile memories.
If not for photography, I’d probably have little to live for.
We decided to wake up the neighbourhood. A slightly disturbing performance turned into a puzzling exhibition turned into a lazy afternoon turned into a psychedelic evening turned into a fiery romance turned into a story to tell at night.
[Seemingly, everything we do is a catalyst for everything else we do; every party, exhibition and meeting of minds is a cauldron where we do nothing but make more cauldrons.]
Coffee workshops with Ewa Kochanowska and Adam Przybyłek from Czarny Deszcz. This is not a sponsored post; I just fucking love their coffee. It’s nothing short of orgasmic black cocaine.
(Posting this I realized I’m almost out of coffee. Time to get some more.)