This, in few words, was my very first time at LOOK3 Photography Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. Not at all what I expected. But certainly a lesson learnt.
See, we photographers have a tendency to stick around one another as if hoping that one’s imagination and creativity could rub off the other in a seamless sort-of-way, as if just by being in the presence of other million brilliant photographers and exchanging instagrams and vines we can inspire one another to be a better version of whom we already are.
Well, I maybe the only one on this earth to believe just the opposit.
One’s creativity influences another, but it can also block it and deflect it in a completely different direction. Opposite to the one the person may have opted for before the merge. It feels very much like studying with a study buddy: Initially you got your own habits, your discipline on doing the homework one way or another, but the more time you spend studying with them, the more your ways become similar to the point you feel you got no stream of consciousness of your own anymore.
This week in Va. was fun, full of joyful moments and stories to share and new people to meet from all over the globe, but it was not inspiring, it was mentally exhausting.
I work alone. I shoot alone. I stand alone in the middle of the street to find my subjects. I create alone. I am not used to share. I am not used to compare. I am not use to explain 40 times in one day what I do and why I do it this way.
This may help some photographers, but it really confuses me. It makes me lose my voice, my own inspiration. I go behind my camera to disappear from the world around me, not to make myself more visible. I take the camera in my hands and I walk alone to find shots to be in the quiet space of creativity and I do so without knowing how and why and without even knowing what are the end results I am looking for. I do not want to lose this. I do not want to shed my creative suit and land it to others around me. And I am not comfortable wearing theirs.
“The best portrait of a photographer are his photographs, so please judge me from my photos,” Magnum photographer Josef Kudelka. And nobody else’s… although we are indirectly influenced by history, the past photographs, the things we see around ourselves. We are also constantly searching for our own voice. That should be the ultimate goal for us photographers or creators in general. And this voice is inside ourselves, nowhere else!
So I think I would continue choosing solitude and quiet spaces where to hide from the world around me and produce my photos or whatever other form of expression I seek to use instead than traveling around photography festivals and seek inspiration by others of my same kind.
I won’t though sit stale at my desk and only look into my work for sure! I will use others as windows to their souls, but I won’t try to read so much into their photography to capture entirely what the true essence of the image is because that would be cheating the whole purpose of the author’s him/herself.
We made photos for ourselves first. We make images to look at for others second.
We unveil the world before our lonely eyes first and then we show it to the rest of the world with no intent, but the one of seeing what they see in the image. If they see what we saw, good. If they see something different, also good, actually great; This way we have created a different way for them to see through life. But ultimately our first instinct to take that photo came from our curiosity of whatever action, person of scenario was behind that camera lens at the moment we pulled the trigger.
No other intent, but the one of fulfilling our extremely voracious need for discovery.
So let there be soulful discovery and let there be an intimate voyage toward the unknown.
To each its own. To each its unique slice. To each a piece of this infinite and complicated planet. No need to rub it on or off others. We have it inside ourselves to be discovered with patience and when the time is just right.
“I am a photographer who needs to travel. If I stay too long in one place I become blind….To stay in one place only is suicide. your home is where you leave from, not where you end up going. Your country is not where you put yourself first,” Magnum photographer Josef Kudelka during his discussion at the Look3 Photo Festival 2013.