A photographer shoots. Like a gunman standing by a little gate in a prime minister’s garden, like an assassin in a hotel lobby, he must line up a clear shot, he must try not to miss. He has a target, and there are crosshairs at his eyepiece. He wants light from its subjects, he takes their light and their darkness too, which is to say, their lives. [...] The inhibited photographer should set down his camera, I thought, and never work again.*
I had read this quote years ago for my university studies, when photography was just something I quietly ignored, and then forgotten it. I read it quite by chance again a few weeks ago, when leafing through the pages of some of my books, and since then it has been spinning in my head.
Years and experiences later, photography is now for me something more that just a simple hobby, and this quote has acquired a different meaning for me, striking intimate chords, questioning me as a photographer… or as a camera holder.
For my start, I had chosen landscape photography. This choice was quite obvious: I grew and still live in the country, I love nature and spend most of my free time outdoors. Cities suffocate me, nature liberates me. But there is also a subtler and darker reason for my choice. My character is an extremely shy one. Sometimes people scare me. I flee from humans and run in nature’s arm, where I can be and feel the truly Me.
Last year I started The Lonely Walkers project also as a challenge to push my photography a little further. Shoot at an environment that is not mine. Dive into the city and feel it. The current result is a series of pictures with a very limited human presence. My visions of Torino – and in part of Barcelona – are semi deserted streets and corners. (At my defence – for I am not a sociopatic! – I must confess that I very often shot most of those photos quite early in the morning, on my way to work… a time of day when the streets of Torino are not swarmed with pedestrians.)
So, am I an inhibited photographer? Yes, I am. I admit I am afraid of people’s reactions if I shoot at passers by on the street. I admire and envy street photographers. I lack the guts to really shoot, and maybe I lack the power of becoming invisible and disappearing into the work*.
Should I just set my camera down and never work again? No, I should not. For I am willing to push my limits further, to learn and improve. To shoot and become invisible and disappear into the work.
I did my very first step on my little journey in Switzerland. I missed some good shots, one in particular that I greatly regret (ok, I wouldn’t have won the Pulitzer Prize for that missed photo, but I regret it nevertheless!), but there is no turning back.
Here are some of my attempts. Be clement. I can do better.
*The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie