Wednesday, September 03, 2014

About Minimalism

Lately, I find myself more and more attracted to minimalism. We tend to clutter a lot, in our busy days but I find that there is a lot of truth in the old saying "Less is more".
We are a society characterised by consumerism and we live in some sort of prêt - à porter era that certainly applies to technology. Anyone can buy a DSLR and use it straight from the box, thanks to the automatic functions. Does that make them a real photographer? Yes. And no.
I firmly believe that everyone has a natural talent. And some people are just good at doing things. Digital cameras have made it even easier, as you are able to see the results straight away. The automatic functions also take away the pressure of thinking about exposure, aperture, ISO, etc. All in all, it's a great illusion: you are suddenly able to produce some vivid, decent high quality images. But are you a true artist? Is technology really filling in for the lack of composition, or style? Let alone lack of knowledge.

I was very lucky to start my photography adventure on film, on a very basic camera.  From teenage years till my mid twenties I was tediously learning the old ways of the black & white photography and of the dark room. Working as a news photo reporter is not an easy feat, especially when you are very young and inexperienced. I was far from producing brilliant results - it is almost impossible to do that on daily basis, running around to chase the news, always under the pressure to produce a result. If something big happens, you have to be there and get a shot of it. You only have a few seconds sometimes and you won't know whether you "nailed it" until you are in the lab, after it all happened and you missed that unique opportunity. I won't tell you the story about me going to an assignment without film in the camera and then going back and re-staging the event (yes, it really happened).
I won't tell you how I got teased mercilessly by my older colleagues about my Zenith camera. My standard answer to them was that at least I used my brain to take the photographs and not let the buttons do my job. But what I would tell you is how much I really wanted to have a camera like theirs. Automatic, new, shiny and reliable; one that I won't have to constantly think about its settings. Looking back, I realise now that my father' s old Zenith was really a blessing in disguise. It taught me to see "light and shades" and to visualise what I wanted to achieve.

Changing from film to a DSLR was the biggest challenge I have experienced; a change dictated more by the need to travel, rather than my will. A change that has me re-thinking my creative process, as the digital and chemical processes are not always compatible. I am still learning about things that a DSLR can do and this brings me back to minimalism. I remember a conversation with my father once, when I was in high school and he was studying the Profibus interfaces (his third university degree). I was amazed to find out that the interface was a component in a computer so in my naivety I asked him whether he seriously was wasting a few years on just a component. He looked at me very seriously and said: "no, I am not wasting my time, I am learning everything there is to know about that one particular thing".  Somewhat, that conversation strikes a chord with me today. I think my need for minimalism comes from the desire to find art in the simple things; to de- clutter and eliminate, to reduce an image to essential. Alas, the fact that we can all produce images at the click of a button does not render us into artists.

There is a long way from wanna-be to wanna-do! And it all has to do with motivation, desire to learn, as well with self confidence.

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