"Why photograph war? Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior, which is existent throughout history, by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance, yet that very idea has motivated me. For me, the strength in photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war, and if it’s used well, it can be a powerful ingredient and the antidote to war. In a way, if an individual assumes the risk of placing himself in the middle of a war in order to communicate to the rest of the world what is happening, he’s trying to negotiate for peace. Perhaps that’s the reason why those in charge of perpetuating a war do not like to have photographers around. In the field, what you experience is extremely immediate. What you see is not an image on a page in a magazine 10,000 miles away with an advertisement for Rollex watches on the next page. What you see is unmedicated pain, injustice, and misery. It’s occurred to me that if everyone could be there just once to see for themselves what white phosphorous does to the face of a child, or what unspeakable pain is caused by the impact of a silver bullet, or how a jagged piece of shrapnel can rip someone’s leg off. If everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands. But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there; to show them, to reach out, and grab them, and make them stop what they’re doing, and pay attention to what is going on. To create pictures powerful enough to overcome the deluding effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference. To protest, and by the strength of that protest, to make others protest."
- James Nachtwey
A friend of mine recently expressed to me that she would like to start a business, but didn’t know what. Then she goes on,
"If you were in my position, that’s no big problem for you. You know what you’re good at and what you love. You can get an income from your photography easily. But not me, I don’t really know what I love."
Then I told her, “Wrong. Everybody think that I have a natural talent in art and photography, and that I love it so much everyday. It’s wrong because there’s a bumpy road along the way. There are even days when I think I should give up photography completely.”
Even James Nachtwey, my hero in documentary photography, sure to have struggled along the way in his career. He came to Sydney and I met him in May 2013.
And I was honest to my friend. Every artists will struggle with their craft, and I have seen a lot of photographer friends of mine who have diverted their creativity into music, painting, writing, or perhaps nothing related to arts. And this is something you have to know before even thinking about comparing yourself to other people. Usually, there’s nothing to be compared to (and it usually lead to unnecessary disappointment).
Have you ever had a crush on a girl (or a guy) and thinking she’s the perfect persona, although you don’t really know her all that well? I have. And I also found out that, no matter how ‘perfect’ her life may be, I actually don’t know the other aspects of her life — at the end of the day, she’s probably just another girl who’s worried about controlling her diet, or wondering whether to get a new purse or shoes in her next pay day… The usual worries as a perfectly normal human being. Ergo, we heard writers and poets who say, “…love the imperfect person perfectly.”
I guess before we were to say anything about others’ work, we have to know deeper than what’s at the surface. If a photographer exhibit ten photographs, it doesn’t mean s/he took only ten photographs (all of which are hanged on gallery wall). Who knows if s/he has taken 1,000 or 20,000 photographs before coming down to the best ten? You will only know if you know the artist deeper through interview or a direct Q&A.
Singapore, October 2012.
Friday afternoon lunchtime. It is another cold day and it is starting to spit a bit (super light rain).
I decided once again to go somewhere not too far for lunch.
A mental map of all the nearby shops in the area formed in my head with shops I have been to this week turning up in red and…
Although one of my favourite portrait photographers Ade hasn’t been taking pictures lately… I happen to dive into his blog today and re-read this piece of entry. It’s such a sweet story that lightens the mood in my super-busy week :)
"Humidity and darkness are very important elements in photography, so you have to be careful with digital cameras because they sort of kill those elements, I say. I, too, use them, sort of recording things in everyday life for fun, though.
Photography needs to be sentimental. That dry…
The old man was right.
Lantau Island, Hong Kong. January 2013
I’ve known all along that more of what I am seeking in the wilds is right here in my home state of California than anywhere else on earth. But… I couldn’t say it with authority until I had all those journeys to Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, China, South America, Antarctica, and Alaska behind me.
—Galen Rowell, A Restrospective
For the longest time, I wanted to write something regarding the picture above. Yes, that was me and my camera, happened in December 2010. The story behind it was quite straightforward: the camera I carried, a Canon 5D mark II and 180mm Macro lens, were a heavy setup (about 2.5 kg), and it was mounted on a tripod. Without any warning, it slid off while I hold the tripod with the camera mounted on it. So it fell off about 1.7m (my height) straight to concrete ground.
Fear not my readers, what were smashed was the Skylight filter mounted on the lens, the lens is perfectly fine except for a small nick on the filter thread, not on the glass itself. I found out about this later after the stuck filter was taken off. Nevertheless, I was extremely startled to witness this, and my brother took this photo for me - I really had no mental strength anymore to take photos or do anything at that time. I literally got dizzy, just wanted to lie down and let it go.
I guess there are many things I can make out from this incident, one of them is to know that these incidents is part of our photography hobby (or profession). This was not the first time happened to me (although it was the most severe). Previously, I’ve had my camera bag dropped (with camera inside), and the filter smashed to pieces, whilst the ring completely intact.
If you shoot a lot - instead of just keeping your camera in the closet - there is always a chance of this happening. I would consider myself a very careful person and I took great care of my gears, but still these can happen.
Putting on a filter or not is another story; it all depends on how much damage you are willing to take if you leave your lens naked. Personally, filters has saved me from a huge bill at least twice, so I love them big time. If you shoot a lot, especially in unlikely places where you are willing to crouch to the ground, shoot in the rain, or you are taking it travel to the mountains with unfriendly weather - it won’t hurt to pay more for a professional build quality.
1. I asked the Canon service centre to remove the filter that was stuck. I asked them how often something like this happen. They said, “Only certain people come to us with smashed filters. But it happens from time to time. Yours is not bad.” They had a difficulty removing the filter (of course without damaging the lens), and added a remark, “It’s very difficult to remove, it’s made in Germany, that’s why it’s very well-made.” It took them about 30 mins, and sitting in the service centre, I feel like waiting for my loved ones going through a surgery in hospital!
2. I remember to put on lens hood to every lens I use thereafter. Lens hood will take damages and will somewhat save me from such grief again.
A few weeks ago, I discussed the book Zen in the Art of Archery with Eric Kim, asking whether he has read it since it’s such an influential book for our hero, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Just a few days ago, Eric has came up with an article about it, which I found very insightful. I found the book itself was a heavy read (written by early 1900s German philosopher), and after reading Eric’s article, I’m surprised at how much I missed when I was reading the book by myself. I found that, a lot of art pathways (be it painting, writing, music, photography, even martial arts), they are revolving around these principles.
Anyway, it’s definitely one of Eric’s best articles yet, so have a read! :)