I want to adress an issue that’s been popping up fo a while now. It’s just something I never explained much and I think it’s time to make it clear. Here goes.
I am currently in the middle of my most important story so far. And it seems it might be the last. The reasons are complex.
In a world of multitude of selfish photographers who take pictures to stroke their egos or show off, many of us do it for totally different reasons that unfortunately mostly go unnoticed. Given today’s mentality of the audience, only a few, not even a handful of topics or better said photographers make it into the schedules of people, let alone into their minds. It’s not important what you do if you’re not on that list. You could discover a new Earth, travelled there and photograph it, and still only your closest friends and relatives, about 20 people would show up at your exhibition. It doesn’t make any difference if you promote it or send out hundreds of invitations. The truth is, public interest is biased. Up to the point of ignoring important issues where their presence or voice matters, simply because it’s you. Contrary to those who work or can’t make it, most of them simply aren’t interested. However, if you have the right name, it doesn’t matter what you do, the audience will be abundant.
Facts are clear, but here’s my take on it. If you’re doing it all to stroke your ego or show off, then this is definitely a bad thing. You can’t show off if nobody shows up, right? If you’re doing it for yourself, then you shouldn’t care. Do your thing, never mind if nobody cares, as long as you feel good about it. But sometimes feeling good about it isn’t enough.
Despite what typically Slovenian prejudiced minds think of me, I never worked as a photojournalist to show off or to feel important or whatever. In fact, most of my career I even refused to set up exhibitions. I was forced to start exhibiting my work when I needed to obtain the status of a cultural worker. And it turns out I was right all along. Because 20 people is not much of an audience, although I like such small audiences. It’s cozier and more relaxed. When it comes to light subjects without any social engagement involved that’s alright. I don’t care. If it’s my art, I don’t care either. I do my stuff, don’t give a shit about ignorance. But when important subjects are involved, and in photojournalism they almost always are, I do what I do for the people in my stories. They let me in, they accepted me and helped me do the story. I want nothing else but to show their story to the public. Because I think they deserve it for whatever they represent to me and to the world and different aspects of life. They are the ones I’m trying to help in my minute, but hopefully indispensible way. Small steps are needed to bring issues and new insights into the rigid minds of modern pop culture brainwashed society. And I’m willing to accept that deal. It’s enough for me. A small step is still something. I helped, I made a difference in their lives, and if I do, I’m happy. Because that is my primary objective.
I know I seem rather emotionally distanced from all of it as I am working or explaining the story. Seem. It’s because my life never allowed anything else. It’s my mode of operation that’s not necessarily true. It’s just how I learned to survive. The truth is I make friends when I’m on assignment, and I care a lot for people (and animals) my stories are about. I take personal responsibility to give their story a reach and exposure they need. Because that’s about all I can do to help them, or to make a difference in their lives. I don’t want to be just another photographer who wanted to do his personal project about them. It’s not my show. And I feel like I’ve failed them each time ignorance proves too big of an obstacle. And sometimes I think my unimportance makes their effort of cooperation and letting me close go to waste, because it renders my stories equally unimportant and makes me powerless to do what I set out to do – give them exposure, audience, awareness, support and in many cases help.
But if I fail to do that for whatever reason, especially for being simply me, not some hotshot photographer everyone likes, it’s just a waste. The problem is that liking is all that ever matters in a country like Slovenia, where personal feelings and interests play a crucial role in everything. Even the things that would require professionalism, objectivity – and sometimes not much, but it seems people can’t even muster that much. Consequently, anything affecting them favorably on a personal level, would do well. But something that doesn’t concern THEM, is ignored. Which is why so many times my stories found more audience abroad than in my own country. And it’s not important, it doesn’t bother me for any other reason than for the fact that I have a responsibility to tell the stories of those people to a wide audience.
So if I fail them, why do it anyway? Eventually, it’s better not to do a story if you know it’ll be ignored. Or wouldn’t reach many people. Or wouldn’t matter.
The feeling is even stronger when a story becomes as personal as this last one. Personal on so many levels. An entrapment of spirit and intellect. A wonder and inspiration in a hopeless place. The love and caring as opposed to ignorance, misunderstanding, arrogance and lack of morals that overwhelm our world. And the hardship of their lives. Of people who make this little wonder’s life.
But more on this some other time…