Images of 2010

Is the Earth moving faster around the Sun or does time really fly when you’re trying to figure out how to live? It seems like I just made a newyear’s resolution to make the quality of my work count in this media space and get a fine job or even better – go abroad – and now I’m at the end of the year, effectively broke, several contract jobs “lighter” and making new resolutions. But you know, it’s about the journey, right?

And it was quite a journey around the sun. In other circumstances (like living somewhere else) the turnout probably wouldn’t be as bad as it is, but I loved the journey. So here’s a look back at what 2010 was like. The decline in media and my own willingness to work for free is seen in the absence of variety and high profile entertainment news you’re used to from the highly popular Images of 2009 post on my blog. There were some concerts this year, though. Nickelback (support: Daughtry) and P!nk in Linz, Austria. And that’s about as far as my finances went.😀

 

Daughtry

The Nickelback concert was actually one of the first notable assignments of 2010. I decided to avoid the long Austrian tunnels that are torture for me, so I took a different route to Linz and ended up driving through even more tunnels, paying more and driving longer. That’s how I deal with problems. I make them worse.😀 But I still haven’t driven long enough, because once in a while, my old Garmin actually hits the right spot, and on that freezing day in January, I was very early when nothing opened yet and I ended up impersonating a popsicle outside the Arena.

 

Nickelback

I’m really a thickhead, I don’t learn, so when I drove to Linz in July to cover P!nk’s Summer Funhouse Carnival, I again miscalculated and ended up roasting in the scorching sun outside the Arena. Due to high expenses and no-one (media) remotely interested in my concert photography (for those of you who don’t know it yet, check News Stories on www.dax-photo.com), I had to (temporarily I hope) abandon covering concerts in Austria. (I think the media just don’t want to pay. When I was publishing it, one photo even ended up as a poster.) But despite the sitcoms revolving around my trips to the venues I loved the journey and must thank the wonderful organizers for having me (especially Birgit).

February was sunny. Our capital didn’t see much of that sun, though. It was a large construction site, covered with walls that shaded most of the sidewalks, and that was my story for a workshop with Ron Haviv at the Slovenia Press Photo. A chance to show my personal style. It got me as far as The Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Istanbul. But regardless of appreciation, acknowledge and praise I was getting abroad, the harsh reality was here, where I’m stuck most of the year.

Well, they say Earth is experiencing global warming. So why am I freezing my ass off most of the year? A strong cyclone moved through Europe in March, causing record high wind speeds in the littoral regions of Slovenia. The Bora gusted at over 130 km/h, causing zero visibility on roads and snow drifts.

No-one in their right mind would go there. But that’s not us. The three maniacs got into a car that we honestly believed was expendable for being one foot in the grave. No offense to Matic (whose car it was), but the thing was like a shack after a tornado and we jointly decided it’s most suitable for the mayhem we were getting into.

This country is really weird. The highway was closed right when you get into the region, but amazingly that’s also where the wind picked up like someone turned on a blower. We drifted sluggishly along the regional roads towards the heart of it all, and got there at nightfall. Perfect. The wind even picked up. It gusted at about 150 km/h. So, the three maniacs took a little stroll around town (funny but I only visited Ajdovščina once before – in normal weather), froze our fingers off, and had to chisel on our noses to free airflow from the frozen snot.😀 The way home was even more fun with visibility to about half way over the hood. It’s a suicide mission but somebody’s got a do it, right?

However, I still had to freeze some fingers off, so I decided for another philantropic mission – covering the Planica Ski Jumping World Cup Finals. For Dax Photo and Demotix Images London, who proved to be really cool and had even bought some images.

Fans hike to the Planica ski jump.

It’s not really that cold in March anymore, but it’s really windy in Planica and it gets to your bones. By then, I got used to being an Eskimo, so I didn’t really feel cold, but I had another problem. I’m guessing I’m a pretty close descendant from a bear. In fall, I get extremely hungry, and in winter, I tend to hibernate. Which means I don’t exercise or move much. So after a long winter, I take the heavy photo equipment and start running up and down the steps of the highest ski jump in the world. Smart as hell. Needless to say, I was about to write my will on my cellphone. Kept looking for the paramedics. But that was day one, and by the time those four or five days of the entire event were over, I was like an ibex. I could run the north face of Triglav to the top! What I liked a lot was the new stairway along the ski jump. It made covering Planica 300 times easier.

When it was over and I became the first point of contact for news images for Demotix, I sort of congratulated myself, and in April, so did the Dalai Lama.🙂 Covering his visit to Slovenia wasn’t a philantropic mission, it was comissioned by a magazine. Unfortunately, it later turned out to be partly philantropic, but the screw overs are a standard in our media. The journey, though, was nice. I never thought I’d be this close to someone so important. And shook hands with him as he was leaving. Great guy, I wish his thoughts would stick.

We all love Slovenia, its steeling and corruption, the cheats, frauds, bending of rules for the sake of elitism and clientelism and steeling more and more money to accumulate great wealth and push others to the gutter, the egotism of employers, modern slavery, the government’s idiocracy and shameless pushing of the limits of abuse of its citizens to the point where it breaks. So it did in May. Unfortunately, I’d much rather see workers destroying the parliament than drunk highschool kids, who had no idea why they’re doing it. No wait, they did know. “Because they do it, too,” was the answer. Yes, Slovenia is a developing BALKAN country with the highest number of sheep. In fact, sheep herding is the biggest business here.😉

I’m pretty sharp in my accusations of the country, but the words I’ve heard at the protest coming from the officials and organizers made me stop in my tracks a bit. Hold your horses, lady, I’m the rude and politically incorrect here! It kind of felt a bit too much. And the photos looked like it was a popular concert. All smily faces having fun getting drunk. It was no school day and everybody was there on a warm day to get waisted and do some damage to foreign property. Then they probably climbed back onto a palm tree and ate a banana. Don’t get me wrong, I support their cause, I would even support their actions if they were coming from that cause. But the people who were actually affected by the new law, didn’t do any damage.

Pumped up and waisted, the kids ran to the parliament and one cobblestone supposedly from the (older) anarchists was enough to make the drunken high school sheep start stoning the parliament. That’s no excuse for their lack of brain.

As a photographer, I’m in the front. A large pole missed me by a few centimeters and hit the riot policeman in the helmet. I dodged pepper spray, bottles (the poor teenagers were throwing full bottles of Jack Daniels, that’s how concerned they were for their income), the dildo (Nina’s got that photo – the dildo waiting upright for the PM to sit on it), and brain, since that was again a philantropic mission. The place was so full of photographers that if we all threw every piece of equipment  we had with us into the parliament building, we’d probably do as much damage as the stupid teenagers did.

I also visited Turkey with my parents in May, took some travel pictures and got to know a bit about Istanbul that awaited me a month from then. I wouldn’t have had the money to go to the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Istanbul, but I’m not the only philantropic photographer out there. It was a test for me. I sort of knew I’d get sold on some underground slave market or lost and die of hunger two blocks from the hostel, but I also needed an independent opinion about my photography. I’m of very little interest to Slovenian media etc. Not much constructive feedback here, so I let myself hear what the big guys abroad had to say about my photography.

Some bad luck followed as always. I think she might have me on a leash or something. What was supposed to be at least a two-day story, ended up being produced in one night and a bit of day. Not my sort of thing, but the response was surreal. I did bang my head three times into the sharp end of the table, but the mentors were still there with all the praise. I wasn’t dreaming. I’m not the kind of person who’d let it get into his head, but it did tell me that I’m not doing anything wrong or different than those who make it. Now I knew the quality of my work isn’t the problem either. Yes, for those who know me, that was extremely hard to comprehend. Somewhere in the rank of a homophobe having to accept that his son is gay. Or better yet, that he himself is gay.

I had one of the best times of my life there, especially on the boat. It’s also a time when I started using only three focal lengths: 24mm, 35mm and 50mm. But I can’t end a day without being stupid, so I took the liberty of eating stuff that would wreak havoc on any other normal day. And I did it before an entire night on a tiny boat that rocked like a drunken bobble head drenched in fish slime. Nooo, I didn’t imagine my ass or head hanging overboard, swinging in the air and spraying away like a runaway fire hose. But I guess I’m also lucky sometimes when my brain fails. The chicken kebab did have a party in there, but nobody was thrown out before nightfall when the air got fresher, the heat backed down and the party died. The week in Istanbul was the highlight of the year.

Dax Photo started a multimedia section with a slideshow of this story. You can see the section here.

Another big story of the year came in July. It was the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide and a record number of newly identified bodies was to be buried at the Potočari memorial cemetery. Long story short, it was sad. And extremely hot. If I had been there for another two hours I’d be dry cooked and ready to be served. Water was scarce, and the crowd was overwhelming. Thousands of people all cramped in that cemetery. I never saw so much sadness in one place.

None of the media cared to consider my photos again, so it was a philantropic mission number … hell, I lost count. But the journey was … I don’t know. But I think it is worth showing that story, simply to never forget the horrors human beings are capable of.

After that heat, most of the rest of the year global warming was nowhere to be seen. Clouds rolled in and settled down. They pissed on our heads on and off for months. Sort of like an old man with a worn out prostate. But in September they obviously had lots of beers (Octoberfest came early this year) and it rained like in the tropics, causing some of the worst floods in the history of our country. And off we went again. Wading through the cold water, sometimes up to our asses – in jeans.

When I turned that corner in Kostanjevica na Krki and it was already very dark and nothing much was behind that corner, while my family jewels were bathing in the chilly Krka river, I learned two things. If every sign is there that nothing special would come out of such a sacrifice, save your strength; and how terribly hard it is to find your dick with a magnifier and pincers.

Back in the warm confines of my home, I remembered a contact I was given at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan and put the flood photos up on Polaris Images. Another highlight, that faded quickly. Because let’s face it. Who gives a crap about Slovenia? Two thirds of it were under water and not one foreign media picked up the story. If it flooded all together, Italians would probably take less than a month to expand Gardaland into a sea theme park, Austrians would build hotels on the shores of this new Adriatic bay, and Croats would probably take less than a week to send in their fishing ships. In a year, they’d be saying: “Oh, I thought this bay was here all along.”

During the time of the Slovenian floods a storm blew over Manhattan, tore down some trees, cut power supply – and that was all over the news all over the world. But then again, Manhattan is twice the size of Slovenia.

Why would anyone care what’s happening here? And the things that do happen here, the skiing and ski jumping, is all covered by the big agencies that supply the entire world of the media. Environmental issues etc.? No. Stories of lesser importance have been published or televised from other countries, but as long as we’re not one of the big ones, we could make contact with extraterrestrials and no-one would care. Oh, unless it’s an issue that the big ones are a real sucker for. Like people of African descent on governing positions. You know, searching for the Obama cover.

So how about those newyear’s resolutions now? I will make peace with my bad luck, embracing it, working hand in hand. That simply means that when something will go wrong, I’ll just make it worse. Sort of like what I did up to now, except that up until now, I was aiming for a solution and now I’ll just switch camps. I will also go back to writing screenplays until bad luck erases my hard drive, and I burn the manuscripts. I will (because I must) have a couple of photography exhibitions, don’t know what’ll go wrong there yet. I’ll have a couple of lectures about behind the scenes of the biggest stories I did in a decade (the NGM ones, concerts etc.) and about the stories themselves, but considering my tone of lecture and the behind the scenes stories I can’t decide weather to qualify it as a lecture or a stand-up. I also pledge myself to leave the country in 2011, in that case the lectures will be over a webcam. And that’s where things could go wrong. Shit never works… I will continue producing photographic stories, my style, serious topics – basically I will go bankrupt. That’s career-wise. Personally, I will grow one year older. I hope. Depends on bad luck.

Happy 2011 everyone!

P.S.: A great THANK YOU to all who made it happen.  No, I’m not thanking the weather for doing damage, or the teenagers for being dumb, I am thanking people who were with me on this journey and helped me produce these stories. My Nina, Matic, Matej (x 2), Sezayi, Ron, Jared, Birgit etc. And everyone who takes a hammer and hits me in the head with it when my brain stalls – you know who you are.

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