PHOTOGRAPHY: THE ART OF SHARING

A few notes on how I feel Photography, a few notes about Me as a Photographer who wants to share his love and challenging work, day by day, since I was an adolescent.

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Passion for photography is something whose roots I can easily trace as far back as my high-school days in Siena.

More often than not, car journeys that took me through the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany’s picturesque south would see me spending these fleeting, ethereal moments, not just in wonder at the sheer magnificence of the landscape, but conjuring up ways in which I might, one day, somehow be able to almost bottle its magical essence. In my daydreams, I would be able to capture its every subtle undulation, every whisper of light, shade of color, even the minutest sensation it stirred.

Not long after this I discovered that the unassuming art of photography would be able to faithfully bring all of these emotions to light. Without a doubt, I am sure every one of us can easily place a finger on that single, defining moment where the passions we hold in our hearts today were ignited and set ablaze, even if it were through the perfect mix of elements. In my case, there is no doubt whatsoever that this defining moment came about through an unexpected amalgam of almost otherworldly beauty, infused with light, color and scents that seemed to issue directly from that familiar yet distinctive stretch of landscape.

When a new dimension such as this is revealed to us, our previously mundane world immediately begins expanding before our very eyes in such a way that new stimuli rush to enter our senses. With the art of photography now part of the mix, the potential, particularly through travel, to explore and create themes and present them through a limitless variety of artistic, technical or documentary approaches presents us with seemingly infinite opportunities. Many of these approaches will be completely new to us in a number of ways. 

At a certain point, I made a firm decision that what had existed in my reality as a mere dream was going to materialise. As a consequence, I embarked on a journey that was then to span over 30 years.

I absolutely adore this job.

There is no doubt that photography has completely changed my life and, at the same time, transformed my way of living. It has drawn me close to an array of diverse cultures, placing me in close contact with people and places I am certain I would not have come across otherwise.  It offers up an ever-abundant wellspring of stimuli and emotions, in many cases by encouraging me to delve that much deeper beneath the surface of both the people and the things we encounter day in, day out, while revealing the beauty and complexity that almost invariably lies within. It is all there, ready and waiting to be discovered. In my view, even the way I relate to people has been utterly transformed. 

Around the mid-90s, I began to lead themed workshops as a means of sharing these fantastic feelings and ideas with other photography professionals, both professional and amateur.  Personally, this led to a period of immense personal and professional growth.

While teaching, consequently, although not surprisingly, I found myself learning at perhaps an even faster rate from the scores of students with whom I had the pleasure of spending many intense and exhausting weeks.

Intense and exhausting, yet unmistakably valuable in every imaginable way. This is something I am sure I can say on behalf of all involved. Each workshop was unforgettable in its own special way. With every workshop, informal group or one-to-one interaction, my main priority is to do as much as I can to transmit my enthusiasm to the person or people in front of me. This, and to share any experience I might have that could see them progress in the direction they wish to take with their photography. An odd consequence of this approach is that it somehow manages to motivate me further each time, inspiring me to give that much more the next time. So much is effortlessly cultivated from these interactions; new and precious friendships, a deeper sense of humanity, respect and, not to mention, perhaps an unintentional by-product of it all: the sheer joy of spending valuable moments together.

The life of a photographer is quite often a solitary one. It can be a lonely profession. As photographers, we need to pay rapt attention to the often-overlooked details of the world that surrounds us, while continuing to interpret how the objective world relates to us subjectively…and how this might be expressed if we were given the opportunity. We necessarily deep-dive into all manner of situations, at the same, time striving to maintain some level of neutrality. Not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. We often come up short. Our ability to select our subjects and achieve and maintain an extremely high level of focus must be our key attribute as visual artists. Once this takes place, our main objective – and responsibility – is to synthesise our vision as faithfully as possible in one frame, one click.

 Color and Form

Even though, overall, my deepest relationship is with landscape and nature, over time I found my thematic interest extending towards other themes, including architecture, portraits, color and nude studies. In essence, I relish any opportunity to explore new subjects.

As I progressed through this thematic jungle, I found myself continually surprised to discover links between themes that, on the surface, appeared to be completely distinct. Discoveries such as these, however minute, can be mind-blowing to the artist on his or her journey. This only fuelled my ambition to embark on even more new projects…and with ever-increasing enthusiasm. All in all, I feel that what powers my artistic curiosity is a desire to uncover what is essential and common across our varying concepts of what broadly constitutes ‘beauty’. Across the globe, concepts of beauty can seem to differ somewhat dramatically, particularly when we factor in endless amounts, and types, of subjects and situations. In theory and in practice, the photographer’s potential palette is vast. As a result, when I set out to photograph a subject, my primary aim is not to simply ‘re-present’ it, but to ‘re-create’ within a completely new and different dimension: my own.

In my landscape as in my architectural work, I expressly avoid any approach that could be deemed ‘documentary’. This is completely intentional. I set out to remove any non-essential elements from the frame while including all that represents a faithful synthesis of the scene according to my personal vision. The objective is to explore that fine dividing line between the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’. I have felt an almost bizarre impulse leading me to focus on color from the very outset. Over time, I see this as an impulse linked to my emotional awareness; one that filled my vision and my senses.

Needless to say, I feel I have a deep relationship with color, one that I suspect derives from external elements, not necessarily from my own creativity. Having said that, I am not interested in exact color reproduction, per se; mine is a pursuit of a specific, unique and personal interpretation of what lies before me, one that changes with each new situation. I look to harness those elements that I am able to perceive in that precise moment and this invariably influences my approach.  In many cases, I am able to form an immediate and intimate bond with color via the initial impact that it has on my senses. This is usually the only input I look for before I begin to shoot.

Color, as a form, is mutable and, surprisingly, highly subjective while also being able to possess quite an unambiguous quality. It is, in this light, forever in a state of flux. So many factors are key in how we might perceive color within an object, with the intensity of light that falls on it and its angle of incidence to the form playing major roles.  All this takes place in the context of the form itself having a shape and  in its being a solid. Given this fact, it is key to note that this precise form can also be simply represented in black-and-white.

The Creative Process

From the moment I begin shooting, things tend to become quite intense. I enter a state of pure concentration. My absorptive capacity and my attention-levels feel as if they completely skyrocket in tandem with one another. Mentally and emotionally, the sensation is as if doors were being flung wide open. It is akin to a state of apnea.

Thoughts and ideas develop according to the situation at hand. I look at subjects both in the immediate vicinity as well as those that are far-off. I focus my attention on the main subject and ideas tend to start flowing. At this point, I would say that not much thought is being given to technique, as such, but I will still, however, use this to further develop my idea. The more I am able to enter into some sort of harmony with myself and what I am able to feel during these moments, the more receptive I become and, as a result, the more I am able to somehow find a way to bring these ideas to life. A photographer’s responsibility is simple, yet demanding. It is to be able to look at the world with a higher degree of intensity and creativity than perhaps the regular observer might.

This is especially the case since we are then required to visually re-present this work to the same observer in such as way that engages their senses differently. I try to keep my mind as free from any expectations or pre-judgements about a location or subject as possible before shooting. No set plan of action, no pre-determined approach, no outline. I simply take in all that the scene presents to me, with a vigilant eye and a free-spirited approach and aim to be as receptive as I possibly can. Most of all, I am do not set out to shoot something that I had been expecting to see whether or not it happens to be there at the time.

Using every stimulus and element that is at my disposal at the time, I take a flexible approach. This usually takes place in silence and at a certain depth of concentration and, importantly, all in the knowledge that the outcome is going to be a good one. I start at one point and find that, gradually, as my intuition adds further ideas, I arrive at the point at which I am to bring it all together as a single image. This is what I feel creativity is: the ability to create, almost out of nothing, unexpected, unrepeatable work that is celebrated for its uniqueness.

Without a doubt, with this at the centre of its aims, photography will always be a revelation to those who come across it, with the unique ability to be a source of joy and excitement to each and every viewer.