Being a photographer, and getting paid for it. This is the dream for every hipster and wannabe artist around the world these days. Being published, making exhibitions and lecturing others is just great and fulfilling. We talk with a professional photographer who is in love with her job; she’s passionate about it but also disappointed with how technology is killing art. First lesson: Stop using instagram.
For me photography is most of my life. Since I was a kid I have been passionate about this power, this magic of capturing reality and making it last forever. Maybe this sounds odd for someone born in the 90s, having been surrounded by technology since they were born. But I’m from the 70’s; you have to understand how amazing it was for us.
Photography was a craft, a sorcery trick. I would spend days and days in the lab room, alone in the dark with my radio, mixing the chemicals, controlling the light exposure, testing, testing and testing, and finally developing my pictures. I would dry them up, hang them and look at them for hours, breaking my mind on how to improve, how to get the essence of what I was looking for.
Getting a new film, trying to improve the last result, testing, testing and testing again. Photography was an expensive needy lover, demanding lots of attention. Films, developing liquids and photographic paper were a regular expense, but my biggest investment was on a Leica camera, I worked for months to save the money to get it, as friends would travel and go out I couldn’t afford that, but it was a sacrifice worth doing to get my most appreciated treasure.
And that’s the reward, if after all this time and money waste you manage to take a decent picture, it makes up for it all. An image you will always be proud of, an exact piece of space and time captured –immortal- a mix of emotions all stained in an image. Annie Leibovitz said she feels happy if she takes at least one good picture every year, I think that says it all.
I’m lucky to have turned my hobby into a job. Because if you love your job you will never have to work again. But what about the present? I don’t see that happen anymore.
Photography, that lady who was a classy lover has now turned into a cheap whore, a one night stand everyone rides but no one really cares about, and it makes me sad.
I teach university students, and I don’t see the effort any more. Everyone wants to be a photographer, of course, an artist, they say. What a tricky word, artist. I never dared to call myself an artist, my colleagues and me were just apprentices, humble and hard working to get better. I have done several exhibitions during my career but I still find the word artist queer. I think it should just be reserved for the best of the best, the elite of creators, and then it would get back its meaning.
As many professionals struggle to create and push forward this discipline they get drowned in a sea of wannabes, where everyone wants to be, but no one actually is.
Because nowadays everyone calls himself an artist, apparently it’s something very cool. People see too many movies, they want to be Dali, Warhol, La Chapelle, and they have this wrong thought that to make art you have to be extravagant, dress in motley and have drugs for breakfast, but they don’t want to hear about sacrifice and effort.
I have first year students who can’t take proper pictures yet because they still lack lots of technical knowledge, lots of the principles and basics of photography and yet, they proudly wear the tag “photographer” on their chest. They put watermarks on every picture they take and proudly share it on every possible way on the Internet. Most of them don’t want feedback even though they want recognition.
It’s an easy trick, now with even a phone camera and some Photoshop notions you can take a good looking picture and pretend you know why you took it. Put a filter with a tap, an HDR effect with a click, et voilà, a new masterpiece to be shared. Effort, 3 minutes. You can fool your friends but you can’t fool yourself.
See for example the paintings of Picasso or Mondrian, their most famous works are so simple it looks like a kid could do that right? Well, before doing that they first mastered every technique and style and it took them years and years before getting back to the basics, this time with the knowledge, and that’s why their work has some magic that others will never reach.
There is no shortcut for art, let’s be honest, if you want ready-made shit go to McDonalds. Otherwise work hard, be humble, and never stop learning. Look for feedback and critique; recognition will just improve your ego, not your work. Don’t call yourself a photographer until you really are one, you will know when that happens. And remember that you are not an artist, not yet.
I’m 39 years old and I never stopped learning. I keep going to exhibitions with the same wonder I did when I began, examining every image, trying to see all the work behind it, inspiring my self to go out on the field. And so I do, when the time feels right I take my Leica to the mountains, my excuse to travel and get away from the world. I try to find myself in this strange universe as I take samples of it. The endless pursuit of beauty, my one and true passion.