I don’t sleep. When I do, I dream. When I don’t, I dream. I try to put the pieces together to see the whole picture and I’m throwing stuff around and shuffle the information and trying to make sense of things. It’s bringing up an image that troubles me, but I guess it’s all good. It’s meant to happen if everything happens for a reason. I had it coming.
Sometimes we forget ourselves. If you’re crazy enough it can last for over 15 years and if you’re smart enough you can understand the terrible loss. It’s like being abducted by aliens and dropped down on Earth a decade later into an entirely different world without knowing you were away for any more than a second. It’s not easy to move on… I wrote about living in the past in my previous post. I had it all figured out. I knew where I was going, what I was up against… My plan was clear, but in a project like this, one’s mind changes on a daily basis as new information comes in. New angles on the same story, new understanding of where things went wrong or right. And things have changed drastically since that post. This is not the part where I get to live in the past. It’s the first part that takes me through everything at full conscience. With 15 years of blank space to fill the truth becomes a living organism, a shape shifter living in my head to give me headaches and hopefully soon produce an epic story.
We miss so much as we go along and seeing everything in retrospect can reveal hidden paths and meanings, but also bring up many new questions. Amazingly, the truth can sometimes be far better than fiction. Eventually, you notice parallels, similarities, connections, symbols, the uncanny and unbelievable. It’s like a well-crafted structure that goes beyond what we see. There are mysteries transcending life and all of a sudden you stop ignoring them and start solving them. If novels and films imitate life or vice versa then there’s a possibility that a part of your life is influenced by those uncanny elements and that they lead to a resolve of some sort. Figuring out how is more of a trust and belief thing than anything else. You can’t skip pages to satisfy your curiosity. And you shouldn’t anyway if you believe that you’re always where you need to be at that stage and that everything leads to where you need to be and those elements help you go there. You need that trip, because the story is more about what happens on your way than what waits for you at the end. What if there’s nothing where you’re going?
Easier said than done.
Ok, so maybe we are here on Earth for a purpose. But some of us, I guess, are just cautionary tales. Our destinies aren’t taking us to happiness, but probably to an abrupt end after we’re done showing the world the numerous ways of fucking up our lives. We’re a lesson in failing. Or maybe that one guy on the block who never did anything with his life. A friend of mine in a similar situation said: “When our parents die, we’ll probably have to die, too.” (No chance in hell we can survive on our own…) Maybe we’re the diligent workers who never got a good job. Or that girl whose life hasn’t really started when she fell ill and died. We’re all sorts of bad destinies personified.
Why cautionary tales? Ever heard of the phrase “It’s never too late”? Well… BULLSHIT! Your chances in life are over sooner than you think. It just depends on where your destiny choses to draw the line. You can follow every motivational rule in the book and you won’t get anywhere if your time is up. So listen to yourself, your hearts and minds and bodies. And just open every door that comes your way. Behind one of those doors there will be a path to where you want to go. To happiness, ok, fine! You’ll know it by the way it feels. And if you chose to wait or ignore the doors, then there will be less and less of them until finally you’ll be surrounded by nothing but walls.
Sounds like another crappy motivational speech? It sure does. I know too well that some people are never offered the right door. Regardless of what they do. It’s only when they do everything right, surpass all others and themselves and keep getting nowhere that they realize they’re different. It’s not meant to be. And all you can do then is put your hopes on some of the uncanny stuff and blindly believe they mean something. But it’s just another false hope, because – you know – hope dies last.
Sure, you can see meanings in all kinds of stuff. For example, I produced the majority of my awarded stories on the 21st. One of them even on my birthday, July 21. All the important people in my life are connected to this number in one way or another. It keeps popping up everywhere. And here’s the trouble with uncanny shit. You think it tries to tell you something. I don’t buy it anymore. It’s nothing but superstition coming from hope’s dying breath. Trust me, you go there, and you’ll just crash so hard you’ll end up in more pieces than a box of Legos. Now that’s the real motivational speech.
Be careful what you believe in. Hope is a dangerous thing. It does die, so don’t let it run out of options to survive… But I believe one more thing. I believe sometimes there’s nothing you can do, you just use all your resources. I guess that’s one of the lessons of this project, too. It’s not opening doors, it’s just an insight into all the doors that were there before. It’s a dead end now. No way back, no way forward. There’s no reality hope can cling on to now. The only way to sustain hope when you’re as far gone as I am is through illusions, and that’s even more dangerous than hope itself, so you just doubled your chances to crash irrecoverably. I guess it’s some sort of roulette, a poker game if you like. You go all in, but then you either lose everything or win everything… See, this is why you need to know your life better, because you can figure out when it’s bluffing. You also need to be strong enough to trust your feelings on this bluff and actually quit before you lose. Again, easier said than done, because hope and illusions are a very strong combination.
More likely you’ll end up in some sort of limbo, not acting on feelings, without any investment, no plan, nothing, caught in a bluff. Half knowingly, but not enough to do something about it. Shitty situation. Because the game ends eventually.
Anyway, there comes a time when you cannot run away from yourself anymore. If that’s what you did for 15 years, you have to retrace everything and find out who you really are and where you want to go. At least that’s the theory. I don’t think so anymore. You have to do it, if you need research for a book or a screenplay. ;) The amount of truth you get served along the way and the anxiety it causes is … well, enough to kill an elephant. (Funny fact: elephants never forget!) Who would want to do that?
How about someone who’s got nothing to lose? As I retrace my steps I keep discovering paths I could’ve taken and I didn’t because I simply didn’t listen to myself. I don’t know where they’d take me. Maybe nowhere, because by now it’s obvious I’m not meant to get anywhere. But I’d have options. It’s an important lesson. This is how you learn and start listening. However, I realized that listening now still won’t get me where I want to be, because it’s either not meant to be or too late. Regardless of the 21’s or dreams or whatever. It is what it is. There’s nothing more to it. And when you do a crazy thing like this, going for the truths and the whole picture, regardless of how far you fall and how hard you crash, there’s no turning back. I didn’t start this project to quit when things get critical. I want it to get critical. I want it go beyond critical. I want it to go fatal, because… You know, contrary to popular belief, the writing process of almost all stories doesn’t start with the beginning. It starts with the end. ;)
P.S.: Just noticed… If you count the paragraphs in this post, there are 12. And when I published this, wordpress told me this is my 212 post. ;)
As I sat at a table of a local bakery and gelateria in Ankaran I suddenly experienced a dejavu that continued for about a minute. I take it as proof that the entire experience is one of the most valuable in my life, because I don’t have dejavus of unimportant events or periods in life. Only the biggest ones.
It was no doubt a strange time these past few weeks. The choices I made were new to me and to others, but I believed it’s the right thing to do. I didn’t see where it’s all going, but I just let it happen. I guess I tried having some faith or something. And it turned out I was right. I arranged for Nina to go produce a great story in Sarajevo and Geneva, an adventure I followed through her text messages from the places she’s been and things she saw. Although I would really like to see my relatives in those two wonderful cities again, I decided to send Nina on her own, a move I myself had to make years ago. (The other reason was work and budget) It wasn’t to test her, but to provide her with what she needs in terms of being the photographer that she wants to be. It’s not about a break or the story, it’s about believing in yourself, your abilities, and proving to yourself you can do it. Little did I know how happy it would make me to see the girl who questioned her abilities do so well and work so professionally on such a big story. It felt like everything is just right… And it’s just proof. She’s been working independently for at least two years, although we did most of the stuff together, so this came as no surprise.
In the mean time, I started my megaproject and diverted my thoughts away from my own photography. You could say I changed in a matter of weeks. Whether it’s for better or for worse is something others should say, but it works for me. I took living in the past to a whole new level and I’ll even raise the bar later when research turns to actual production. It does give me a lot, but the real value of this whole journey comes from what it would give to others. For me, it’s just the ultimate illusion of life and the only possible move. But it’s always been my mode of operation, I just decided to fully accept it now and let go of the present and future. I like it this way. I can survive and I can even be happy. I can imagine a lifetime of open possibilities and just relax.
While regularly reading news from the adventure in Sarajevo and Geneva and feeling great, I continued my interviews with people that have revealed a great deal of information and observation of the world I live in. Most of what I forgot or even failed to notice. Which also applies to the things about myself. I have yet to figure out exactly what drives me in certain directions, up or down, and focus on going up. But this plan seems to be the right direction. And things just happen on their own. The recent short vacation at the seaside with friends, combined with the happiness knowing that Nina is doing what she wants abroad, was probably the best time of what I call my afterlife. The seaside was a trip down memory lane and my friends did a great job at recreating the past without much effort. I’m pretty sure it’s no biggie for them, but it’s actually quite a big deal. At least now. So yeah, I guess you could say I was happy for more than one day. :D Happy for Nina and happy for reliving moments I lost so long ago. The exact moments I need to add to my research as well. So I assume this thing might just play out perfectly if everything turns out this way. If I continue like this. And along the way, I might just end up where I need to be.
And you know what? I don’t feel like posting any photos. Later.
You know me. I can’t get out of my skin. ;) I’ve been busy lately, of course, doing stories for National Geographic Junior, being an official photographer of a few festivals, and it’s clear that I’m not really slowing down. Let’s face it, how much more could I slow down anyway? To someone with a regular job or a lot of freelance work it may seem like I don’t work much. Well, yes and no. A lot is happening off the field. Mostly racking my brain to figure out the future and make sense of the past. And there’s a lot of work that comes with it. There’s more than meets the eye. And on top of it all, are you sure I can’t get out my skin? How do you know I won’t really do something that you thought I would never do? Like quit photography? :D
Don’t worry, I won’t. But the question is whether I’ll hold on to that everlasting dream of working globally, on a big scale. See, seven Slovenia Press Photo awards gave me as much acknowledgment than they gave me sense of reality. I’ve proven that I can make an award-winning story out of every opportunity that I get. I was invited to Istanbul to the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in 2010 and I produced a story there that won Slovenia Press Photo in 2011. I was given the opportunity to work in the Venetian lagoon last year and the story won in Nature category of the Slovenia Press Photo this year. To just name a couple of them. So yes, I have it, but it’s not enough. I always thought I have reserves that I haven’t used yet. I thought that was the reason things didn’t quite pick up. So years ago I decided to go all out. Now I’ve done all I could and realized that my view of this world is way too romantic. I didn’t stand a chance from the start. I didn’t have rich parents that would pay for my extensive story production in exotic remote corners of the world. My climb was my own. And I could’ve done it. Of course I could. Anyone working as hard and constantly improving, questioning his work and building upon it, building a web of connections and doors to walk through (fair and square! – no dumping!), widening the array of his abilities in photography, would probably have made it by now regardless of any social situation. But we keep forgetting this is photojournalism in an economically failing little country that nobody gives a shit about. (How Slovenians do business – or better yet: corruption – you can read in any of my previous posts).
Besides, you don’t get anywhere on your own. Everything starts with people deeply involved in the business being interested in your work. And if you fail at that (it’s easy, just don’t work abroad), you’re dead in the water. But don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been a strong supporter of domestic work, believing that you don’t have to go abroad to find good stories. And it’s true. You don’t. But then again you probably won’t succeed in publishing it, nobody would pay for you to produce the story, and the fee for publishing would probably cover some 40% of the expenses. I was lucky to find a magazine that pays quite well, but unfortunately the expenses are going up, too. So the difference is getting smaller. Obviously I didn’t consider all this when I was 14 and starting out as a photographer, also because in the nineties this country was just starting on its abundant path of nepotism, corruption and all the other ways they found to increase unemployment (that includes joining the EU and failing to adapt). Any way I look at it, I’m like the orchestra playing on the Titanic.
However, there’s a silver lining to the dark clouds above the ruins of my life. (wow, that was poetic – and pathetic!) I may not have (my own) money or any other means to travel and do something for my soul, to pursue my goal further, or even to relax somewhere on a beach enjoying the smells and sounds and tastes and feelings of summer like I did so many years ago. But I can and must do something much better. :D We don’t need reality to be where we want to be. Our own worlds can be richer in every aspect of experience. We can bring back people, old friends, the good old times, sweethearts and enemies. If you consider all that and if you can create a world for yourself that is far better than what you get in reality, then you have the means to travel to a place where others can only dream about.
This is where I was going to explain a very important aspect of what I’m about to do, but I changed my mind. As I have realized all the denial and full life devotion to work won’t pay off I remembered I have tools to create those payoffs. For the first time in my life (amazing, right?) I will stop. Stop pushing myself forward, stop overwhelming my life with work in every way possible, stop occupying my thoughts, stop being blind for myself. I still think I’m not important and I will never adopt even a tiny bit of selfishness, which is why I decided to do this megaproject only after I figured out how I can dedicate it to others.
It’s time. For the truth. For the whole story. For the things that were pushed aside or hidden away. It’s time to see the big picture. I feel I have to do this. I owe it. And I hope the world would play along at least in this endeavor. It’ll be a major tribute not only to people, places and events, but also to imagination, photography, writing etc. It’ll question our notion of reality and fiction, and story telling. It’ll question our entire lives, what we believe is true and what is a lie, what really happened and what was withheld from us. I’ll address some very important issues as well, and since my perception, as anyone’s, is limited, I can’t do it by myself. In the next months I will contact the important players of this project individually. Don’t be surprised if you’re one of them. Everything is a statement now. Even if you decide not to play along – that one is even stronger and it still fits. But it doesn’t mean you won’t be part of the project. ;) It just means the final statement will be different. And the interpretations left to me. I will accept no objections later. ;):)
However, the project will remain a secret for now. Especially during its second part. Not even the people involved will know all the details. Just what it’s all about and that alone is quite a lot. Only all of them together will eventually constitute a concise entity, the entire story. I will not talk about the project, so don’t bother asking me. In fact, don’t. At all. The reason is simple: I don’t want to be influenced in any way. Or deterred which might happen in the first part of the project that will involve important issues. It’s going to be quite a rollercoaster ride, but let me do it. Even if you see something is terribly wrong with me (if I switch from apple juice to orange juice for example ;):) ), don’t ask, don’t do anything, it has to happen. I never said it’d be easy.
There will be changes. My photography continues as before finally enriched with my portfolio website: www.lukadakskobler.com
But since I’ve realized all that it takes (and that I don’t have), I guess my goals will change a bit. I don’t think anyone will notice. It’ll still be business as usual, but there will be a process running in the background. It’ll be slow and long, and even if it never pays off in reality, it’ll pay off immeasurably as I will be working on it. If you’re reading carefully, you’ll notice that I’m talking about something being wrong with me and big rewards at the same time. A paradox, I know. Well, not exactly but the whole thing is too complex to explain. Just trust me. :)
Watching the MMA fights and strongmen competition I photographed a few days ago it is clear how life imitates a fight. Just as in a fight you attack, you defend yourself, you land in a grip that seems unbreakable, you’re helpless and defenseless, you get up, you come back, you turn the table, get out of a deadlock and win or lose at the end. But there’s almost no fight without backing up to reorganize or see your oponent from a distance, no fight without abandoning an attack that proves ineffective or striking when you see a chance. There’s time for an offensive and a time to gather new strength or simply find a new strategy.
It’s not brainless punching around, there’s thinking involved. You adapt to what the oponent is doing. You assess your strategy, see if it’s working or not, and when you know it’s ineffective, you back up, change it and try again. If nothing works, well, sooner or later, you realize you can’t win. And that’s when you stop the offensive.
Everything happens for a reason, they say. Just like in the movies. No word or back story or setting or prop or situation is there for no reason. They play a role, they’re catalysts, game changers, accelerators, turns, twists and supplements. And they all shape the main story. Life in fact is totally the same. With one crucial exception. You can’t predict the end. You do control the main story to some degree. Mostly just points of it that are not neccessarily beats (the most important structural elements of a plot in a screenplay).
You control your decisions based on where you think they’ll take you, and that’s when you imagine the story ahead. Maybe it plays out like you imagined, maybe it doesn’t. In a sense we generate turns and twists, the smaller, but quite important elements of the plot, but beats usually happen independently. You don’t chose to win or lose and have it your way. You make a decision what to fight for, but life will hand you the outcome.
I’ve seen my life go through several beats and twists and turns, produce many side stories, been followed by influential back stories, and I hope they all made sense. That where I am right now is right where I need to be. And that the decision I have practically already made is the right turn. I don’t see the following pages of my screenplay, but I trust the screenwriter.
I think the impossibility of winning four Press Photo awards in one competition is mostly a good script element, a catalyst to emphasize the main theme of the story. Being shortlisted for Best Jobs Australia was another catalyst, generating an enormous support that was again a catalyst. Now, you could think that not getting into the finals for the job was a setback, but you’d only be partially right. The experience of the shortlist gave me the awareness of the support my work has, and how people see me (which is mostly better than I see myself of course), but doing everything in that scale and so good and not getting into the finals didn’t just beat me down. It gave me the contrast between seeing a future and believing in it again after a long time, and falling back into a state of mind where everything is just idle running, time going by, the clocks ticking in silence, life happening outside.
It sounds pretty gloomy, but I had a backup plan. I fight on, but I’m backing off from this offensive and this strategy. I see this setup isn’t working in any way. I am waiting for a chance now. Maybe it comes, maybe it doesn’t. But I now know what chips out and what doesn’t. Well, mostly what doesn’t. And a year or two ago, I’d still be on the offensive, with the same moves, same decisions … Not anymore. I’ve learned my lesson. Nothing works where I am right now. Geographically, politically, socially, economically. It’s time to take a step back and find a different way. Not an easy task when everything has been tested and proved ineffective.
Everything I did in these ten years has lead to here, where I realize I am doing things right, but I live in the most corrupt country in the world and have no chance of making a living with what I do. I’m not quitting, I’m just not on full power. I stepped back and I’m considering my options.
It feels completely pointless to go for new awards, attend new workshops etc. if I remain here in the corruption mekka of the world, the shithole no one ever glances at. And yes, I call it a shithole, but the truth is I love this country for it’s landscapes, its natural beauty, the size, and of course the MINORITY of good people living here. However, since we got our own country, we’ve proven that all we wanted was to steal like Belgrade stole from us under Yugoslavia. Every other person here will rob you of something.
You don’t get anywhere in this country if you don’t know how to steal. The country is overwhelmed with people stealing in a multitude of ways. Of course, because a normal businessman in Slovenia is not looking for ways to gain advantage over its competition, or improve to achieve perfection or quality. Their focus is on finding ways to screw over the workers, tax authority, subcontractors, everybody in the way of maximizing their own profit, so they can buy themselves a profanely expensive car and spend two months on a sail boat somewhere on the coral reef. Bribery is just another form of income, and they don’t compete with competition. They find a way to discredit and destroy it. Shit, if you suck, it’s normal you need to destroy others better than you. They don’t have the brainpower to come up to their level. They’re the lowest they get.
It is this kind of immoral, self-centered scum that’s overrun our country and made us number one in corruption. Can you imagine we’re on top, the very top of corruption scale IN THE WORLD!? Kenya is second! And our arrogant “bussinessmen” can’t get their heads out of their asses! The EU will make them. Everybody is ignoring the fact that European countries hate working with us (yes, because our company fail to do their job (correctly) and screw them over way too often), but they have to, because we’re on the Schengen border. This summer, Croatia is coming in, but our companies are still so arrogant that they don’t anticipate what will happen. If those countries don’t have to work with us anymore, and if they hate it anyway, do you really think they will, when we’re no longer on the Schengen border?!? And it just serves us right!
This country also destroys or ignores everything that stands out of the avarage. Negative selection is the norm. We’ve seen designers being denied work in Slovenia and becoming one of the most desired designers in the automobile industry in the world. Actors not making into our acting school and becoming successful actors in American TV shows and big Hollywood productions. And I’m not talking about the crap part of tv shows and movies! But that’s what we are. Egotistical. If we can’t be better, we’ll make sure they are worse. We won’t employ them, because they might be better than us and they might take our job that we perform carelessly and only to earn money to take care of ourselves. It’s been more than five years ago, when things were still somewhat ok, since I first predicted that this country will be ruined by egotism and relativism. Welcome to the future.
I don’t say this often enough, they tell me. It is quite shameful of the country’s media that there have been no job offers even after so much exposure and seven Slovenia Press Photo awards. I consider it normal. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Jobs are handed out through very different criteria here. (remember where we are on the chart?) And besides, there’s no money. Which is why I had enough and decided the only option for my life to move forward is to go out. We all know the only way to survive in Slovenia is to go abroad. We work here with no prospect for the future, no money, simply because we think we have to work to earn a living. But very few of us realize we’re working, and a lot of times wearing ourselves out, for nothing. We don’t make a living, we’re deadlocked in place. So here’s my point: why work then? Where’s the sense in working for a humiliatingly low fee while your boss makes a living and drives a BMW? Fuck them!
So my only chance was Australia. It didn’t happen. You can imagine what my other option is. And I’m taking it now.
The Australia defeat gave me something else. The power to do the only thing right now that I think makes sense. The only thing that has a purpose. My long awaited, even longer contemplated, for a long time avoided project. It’s been on the agenda for a very long time, but I keep postponing it. It’s not photography. I’ll be working as a photojournalist the way I’ve been working so far, but as it proved, it’s not taking me anywhere. No, this will be something much larger, and in the coming weeks and months, I’ll finally put my words into action. I am working on my website right now. After that, the project will commence with interviews. I owe it to A LOT of people, but mostly my parents.
It’s a project I can’t expect any future from it. It’s not a bread winner, it’s nothing in terms of carreer or making a living. But I let go of those ambitions in this shithole. I’m doing this for a greater purpose. Even if I later decide the project will never go public, it is important that I do this. It is also the only way to make sense of my life. And that’s why I’ve avoided it for so long. Because I know nothing makes sense here. But fortunately that’s just a byproduct. The much larger main objective of the project has very little to do with me and a lot more to do with people around me who need to know they haven’t failed. It’s easy to believe otherwise.
It’s been a while since I had enough time to write what’s been going on. Here it is. After Slovenia Press Photo record things went heywire. And in the mean time, I actually found time to join my parents on a trip to Corsica and Sardinia, which is where the photos in this blog are from. But anyway, after the awards, I was happy to see all the media coverage regarding Barbara’s story, because it was exactly what I wished for. I knew media exposure would grant the story the success that I wanted. The story needed exposure because I knew it needed massive support for what was to come. In fact, in the best possible scenario that I had for the story, winning Slovenia Press Photo was the stepping stone towards the final goal – helping Barbara and her family. I stuck to the plan and contacted Tednik, the program that frequently arranges help for people in their reports. We filmed it, broadcasted it, and I was surprised at how many people responded.
Eventually, we gathered 20,479 eur! A huge ammount. And I was happy. My plan worked. It was probably one of the happiest times in my life. When we were filming the report for Tednik, I was a part of the story. My friendship with Barbara and my wish to help her family. I’m not yet comfortable being in front of the camera, but this was easy. As long as I know it’s all about someone else, someone who’ll benefit from me being in front of the camera, I can do it. But not long after, the focus shifted. To me. I got shortlisted for the job of a lifestyle photographer at Best Jobs Australia, something I thought couldn’t happen, but it did. And all of a sudden I was the news.
I never speak about myself or my achievements. In fact, I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because I just want to get things done. I want people related to my work, whether through stories or in any other way, achieve something or benefit from it, but I don’t ask anything in return. Of course. So it was kind of strange talking about myself and speaking in first person all the time. The media rushed in and all of a sudden I got overwhelmed with public support, media exposure etc. It was touching to see so many people supporting me. I cannot describe my appreciation. Probably a remnant from my past, when I always felt I was sort of left behind. But it was also as if someone threw me in the water to teach me how to swim. And I’m not talking about communicating with the media. It was talking about myself that was the biggest problem, because I never ever do that.
However, things calmed down right before I left for Corsica and Sardinia. We went by bus, first to Livorno, Italy, where we boarded a ferry and spend five hours trying to stay awake. I am very sensitive about ferries. My brain feels every wave, every motion of the ferry, as gentle as it may be. And it manifests as … well, it’s like I was drunk. Or very sleepy.
We started in Corsica. What a beautiful, mountainous island! It even looked great in rain. But what I loved the most was the air. It had a scent of flowers everywhere. Totally awesome. And weird strokes of luck just kept coming. The first such nice story happened on a terribly rainy day in a small town of Corte in the middle of Corsica. Before leaving we went to a small pub. But first some background. My parents are diehard fans of a German TV show Alarm für Cobra 11. Watching the show is a daily routine. But nevertheless, when my mom tells me the guy sitting at the table in the bar is an actor from the show … well, how am I supposed to believe that? Honestly, come on. What are the chances. I though it was just another case of my 53 year old mother jumping to conclusions. And my dad just said: “Yeah, that’s him.” Typical.
I did hear the people at that table speak German, and my mom kept insisting long enough that I decided to ask him. It turns out, they were right. It was Niels Kurvin who plays a forensic in the show. He was on a vacation. We spoke some more, I took their picture and off we were. Corsica is probably the wildest, greenest place I’ve ever been to. But what totally blew my mind was Bonifacio. By far the highlight of the trip was this amazing old city built on chalk-white limestone, but it’s on the coast that’s being erroded by the sea. So a great portion of the town is actually situated on an overhang. The soft limestone rock is breaking all the time and it’s only a matter of time when the ground beneath those houses gives way and everything tumbles into the Meditterranean sea.
The views are awesome. A scenic harbor, the majestic city walls, the cliffs and sea-filled caves… It’s just amazing. We took a boat tour along the coast. The weather wasn’t very good. Waves were a bit high and the wind was cold, but I loved it. And from there, we took a ferry to Sardinia and spent a few days there. Another beautiful island. I’m kind of a sucker for beautiful beaches and emerald sea, so Sardinia was right up my alley. But amazingly, it wasn’t the Costa Smeralda that impressed me most. It was Alghero, a coastal town with it’s defence walls and narrow streets.
The final attraction of the trip was actually a hotel in Olbia. Shaped like a ship’s hull with a hollow inside and rooms arranged elyptically around a common area, sort of like in large prisons where inmates walk out of the cell and overlook the common area below. Incredibly beautifully designed and equpped. Really cool. Although at first it didn’t look good. It’s actually situated next to railroad tracks, surrounded by out-of-use carts and tracks.
When I got home things picked up again. It was time to get some endorsements for my best job application and my Nina helped me with that. It was a pretty busy time, calling around, mailing, driving around, and eventually, we got some really nice personalities to endorse my application. It wasn’t difficult, everybody wants to see me go to Australia. :D Photographers even more so, because that way, they joke, they would have at least a chance to win any photojournalism award in Slovenia. :D Anyway, the first referee was my editor at national Geographic Junior, the magazine I love working for (and have been working for for 10 years), because of the highly professional staff. And since every one of them was a bit funny, Irena said the Aussies can only borrow me for six months. :D The second referee was Alya, a rock singer who I’m a big fan of and she first dedicated a song for me at a concert as an endorsement. I love that song. But we did the official endorsement later in a radio studio. That was funny! She was joined by Denis Avdić, our popular radio host from Radio 1. The third refereee was Benka Pulko, Slovenenian Guinness world record holder for the longest solo motorcycle ride around the world, but most of all, my dear friend. To rephrase her words: she worked with me on two world events no photojournalist would ever want to come close to messing up. Interview with Dalai Lama and her wedding. Damn right! She – like me – does not tolerate sloppiness or incompetence. The final referee was Luka Špik, Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medalist in double sculls with Iztok Čop. What a great guy. We estimated to be done with the endorsement video in less than half an hour and we ended up talking on the pier in Bled for two hours. :D In the video, he tells Aussies he’s simply goint to bring me to Melbourne and he jumps in a boat, I follow him, we wave and that’s it. Well, we could’ve untied the boat first but then the video would probably end up in the “epic fail” compilation. With my luck I’d probably crash in the cold lake. :D
Social media played an enormous role here as well. I’ve never seen so much support for anything that I’ve done before. People really wish me best and it’s an amazing feeling. Like I said, I’m not used to it. So I honestly do not know how to thank everybody enough. I really appreciate their support and their hopes for me getting that job. And even if I don’t get it, this whole experience gave me soooo much!
So now we wait. And rest a little. Who knows what the future brings.
It is about time I posted my submissions to Slovenia Press Photo here on my blog, like I always do. No talking, some people who read this truly don’t get my caricature style of writing, so I’ll just let the photos do the talking. And captions since quite a lot has been said about them at the opening of the exhibition.
SLOVENIA PRESS PHOTO BEST STORY
BEST STORY – PEOPLE
BEST STORY – NEWS
BEST STORY – NATURE & ENVIRONMENT
I submitted no other stories. But I did play around with a few singles.
You can see why this fisherman photo doesn’t really work. I entered it anyway in case someone wanted to look closer or figure out why it’s different. :) For kicks. :)
ART & ENTERTAINMENT
I do loads of that in the local club where I cover events, but I decided not to send any of that.
And that’s it. Thanks to anyone participating, joining me, helping me get the story, edit it. You rock!
Alright, I promised my international friends the next post would be in English and I’m keeping that promise. It’s about something I’ve been witnessing on the side of all the protests I’m covering. I’ll keep the report down to raw visual description, no opinions. But if any slip through my “flood gates”, keep in mind they’re personal, that’s also how it’s categorized here, for my friends and in no way part of my covering the protests or god forbid publishing the photos. I report what I see, and this is what I saw at the fourth country-wide uprising in Ljubljana last Saturday.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
I kind of forgot about the attitude of riot police towards the highly dangerous, violent and threatening old ladies and retirees that I saw in previous protests in Ljubljana. But it does stick when you hear military rhetoric and barking of “Keep the line!” and “Prepare to attack!” along with taking out the Billy clubs and raising shields against a group of people aged 45 onwards standing leisurely, hands in their pockets, quiet, just wondering what the hell is wrong with the robocops in front of them. I also remember a middle-aged chubby man walking peacefully towards the line of riot police, probably going there to ask them what’s so threatening that they see in them and believe it or not the police acted like a frightened dog, ready to attack. Fell back a bit, shields raised, were only brave enough to approach this man when he lifted his hands and kept convincing them, he’s not dangerous. Paranoid delusions come to my mind… (and obviously my flood gates won’t hold. Sorry.) The only high risk he posed was that of his hypertension.
But pathological fear of common people aside, as a journalist having radars installed all over my head, I can’t help hearing and seeing stuff even as things are happening fast. I’m sad to report that some of the police is treating regular citizens, even those just walking home from work, very aggressively, disrespectful, inconsiderately and arrogantly. They’re not ashamed of physically stop you on your way home while barking something at you. Those that speak at all.
I just painted quite an unfavorable image of the police. But do keep in mind that not all of them are like that. I haven’t seen such cases in Maribor. Sure, the robocops are mute, but as far as I saw they knew the difference between a hooded hooligan and a middle-aged hard working mother. And I saw the best police tactics and treatment in Kranj, where they didn’t even bring in the riot police or robocops as we like to call them (and even Robocop actually had lines in his movie). Here, we just had one very kind, nice policeman in a hat, smiling and talking with the protesters, calming them down peacefully and (now read this carefully!) REASONING WITH THEM as they started kicking at the door of the municipality building. He alone, stopped quite an angry crowd. His attitude made all the difference. Having no robocop presence and no fences helped a lot! We all know that people get increasingly angrier if they are stopped in public places by fences and mute black turtles that are as impersonal as they get. Remember this for future reference.
THE FOURTH UPRISING
The media reported that last Friday’s protests were peaceful. Yeah, they were. If you look at the protesters. Not if you look at the police. Some pretty stupid arrests happened earlier in the day when they arrested people for carrying stuff that they considered dangerous. I think we all know EVERYTHING can be dangerous if used in such a way. In that respect, all women should be arrested for carrying scissors or files in their purses. The disabled with crutches are also very dangerous. It was an anniversary of a big peasant uprising, so a well-known activist and an intellectual, a publicist used a garden fork for holding his sign. I agree that garden fork can be dangerous in the hands of a violent protester. But in a peaceful middle-aged man standing still in a march, using the fork for holding up a sign? OK, let’s just agree it’s better if he didn’t have them (to humor the police), but if we have any respect for each other and if we have any reasonable thinking left, we see that this person is not your regular twenty something hooded hooligan, and we approach him and REASON with him to apprehend the fork. Right?
Wrong! Not our police! They need to release their aggressiveness and frustrations. They send in four robocops to grab him and drag him to the glass wall, press him against it, twist his (previously injured) arms behind his back, try to trip him to fall on the ground face forward as is the usual procedure with violent protesters. The one in charge found enough reason to tell them not to do that, when the pack kept inserting force on him. They didn’t press his face into the ground as they wanted but they did bind his hands and took him to the police car, which is far more than what was appropriate in the situation. And that just brings up questions of the mental state of the people under those helmets. Watch the video of this arrest:
Update 12. 3. 2013: New information emerged about this arrest and provided a twist to why the video is, as you’ve probably noticed, cut form where they stop until the arrest is already in progress. According to an eyewitness the man expressed agressive behavior towards a passer by which is why the police reacted in a way that it did. If that’s true, their actions are not as inapropriate as they seem from the video. (not to mention that the video is of course (deliberately?) misleading). How much less inaprorpiate depends on the way the man acted, now that we know he did something to provoke the police reaction.
HOOLIGANS OUT OF THE BLUE
The protest was a bit more intense than previous ones. A banner was burnt at the Bank of Slovenia, some paint was thrown and some eggs, and that’s it. Plain clothed policemen were among the protesters keeping note, although it always fascinated me, how they can identify the person throwing anything when it happens so fast, and so covertly. But ok, I guess they do. Even if the guy is hooded and has a scarf over his mouth and nose, they can identify him by his eyes well enough to recognize him and arrest him two hours later in darkness. I guess. Don’t know.
I was the only journalist/press photographer present when the arrest from plain clothes policeman started some two hours later in the dark. A small group of protesters was standing in the park chatting when a big hooded thug (let’s make something clear immediately: thug as in “violent person”, not “a criminal”) walked among them and grabbed one of them and started dragging him away. They pushed away a woman among them, an activist, media expert and a professor Sandra Bašič Hrvatin, while two other from a group tried to protect the guy being dragged away. I was pretty close, but I couldn’t hear the attacker introducing himself or showing a badge or something, let alone say why he’s doing that. I just know more of them came. And I know two uniformed police officers nearby just stood there and did nothing, but then again I don’t think they noticed, until I and a man with his kids told them, because I thought it’s a brawl between two protesters.
They dragged the protesters to the underpass where a line of robocops was waiting and finalized their arrest, binding their hands together etc. Half way there, I asked the professor what’s happening and she told me it’s the undercover police that’s arresting them for no reason. Exactly what I saw, too. So I ran there and took pictures of the arrests from a position where I did not interfere or disturb them (because THAT’s punishable, whereas we CAN take pictures of the police doing their job). But this is where things get a little tricky again.
Our taking pictures of arrests is the watchdog function of journalism. So when the police denies us of that, I consider that an effort to conceal something that’s not quite by the book. But in the early stages of the arrests, they didn’t even see me standing above them. They did see some other photographer on the other side and told him to stop taking pictures. By then other protesters were pressed against walls in the overpass, hooded undercover police officers or riot policemen arresting them. I jumped down, passed the first arrest in progress by some six meters when the robocop came towards me pushing me away immediately, barking that I should get away from there and that they’re in the middle of a procedure. Now, when that happens, you obey, unless you want a ride in the police car. I let him push me away as far as he does, but I immediately circle around and come back, after I clearly tell them police work in public places is public and photojournalists are allowed to photograph them (as much as anyone else) as long as they are not disturbing their work. They never say anything back, they just stop bullying you. And in this case, I would consider the officer’s approach somewhat justifiable. They are in fact establishing a safe perimeter. However, not in what happened next.
Two policemen took one of the arrested by each arm and took him up the stairs towards the car. I followed them in a normal walking pace some 15 meters behind up the stairs when this (for lack of a better word: fat) hooded guy with an umbrella and some baggy pants looking like some ghetto bar thug comes swiftly walking down towards me, barking (yes, by that I mean the tone and articulation that immediately expresses aggression and attack) the words: “Get outta here, clear off, we’re in the middle of a procedure.” I honestly didn’t hear him well, so I stopped and kindly said: “Beg a pardon?” By then my mind clicked and I realized what I heard, so I also knew he’s plain clothed policeman.
He repeated, but at the same time, he was still coming towards me and of course, the standard procedure, he pushed me away. Down the stairs. Luckily, I expected that, because it happens all the time with our kind police, so I caught myself. And now some crucial facts. He did not introduce himself as a policeman to justify preventing me from going up the stairs. At that time there were many regular people around, and also tourists. What if it was some of them, not me, coming up the stairs at that time? What if I was a tourist and didn’t expect that push down the stairs? The wet stairs of course, it was raining. And if I fell and broke an arm or something worse let’s just imagine what sort of bullshit story the police would come up with. I could only assume he’s an undercover cop, but his cover was surprisingly good. As far as anyone else knew, he was just a thug preventing people from going up the stairs. ;)
Which makes me question the entire arrest. If they didn’t introduce themselves as cops, it’s normal for a person to defend himself. Which leads me to suspect they really didn’t say why they are dragging them away either. So would you let a hooligan like that drag you away for no reason. Probably not. You’d resist, right? Not knowing you’re making it worse. What a great way to arrest as many people as possible. Well, that’s what it looked like.
Anyway, before I eventually got up the stairs I raised my voice to the thug (no kind words there, sorry) telling him to stop pushing me down the wet stairs. Simply because I’m at a higher risk of losing my balance, because my left leg is handicapped. And of course I also told him a word or two about photographing procedures, and that’s when he turned around and didn’t say a word anymore. So I got up the stairs and other photographers were there already and when the two protesters started asking why are they arrested, it just somehow confirmed my suspicions that I really didn’t hear many words from the undercover cops as they grabbed them from a group that was peacefully standing in the park. Again the cops tried to get the cameras away, but when there was more of us, they finally backed off.
I can’t help thinking that if we didn’t tell those two policemen in the park something is happening, they would have dragged those three away quite secretly and fast. Instead it triggered an angry response from the crowd that immediately formed a march towards the police station. People were angry and they showed it. Meanwhile, robocops were sent to defend the police station, arriving in cars with lights and sirens just ahead of the group reaching the station. People demanded the realease of those three arrested, but of course the robocops don’t speak. They’re just robots. So the wise ones in front of them demanded the chief and eventually someone in charge did come out to speak with a representative of the protesters. That is finally when they – even the ones from the group that the three protesters were with – found out why they were arrested. For throwing paint.
It appears they identified them during the march and then also later in the dark (I guess they have that ability). So it wasn’t for no reason afteral, but who knew until now? It’s easy to infuriate the crowd if you’re communicating in the wrong way. If they had just explained immediately why, the march to the police station maybe wouldn’t have happened. But it’s as if they only know the language of violence. In fact, when the crowd in front of the police has already settled down considerably and there was just chatter, another ten to fifteen robocops arrived and of course (what the hell were you thinking?!) people got mad again. See the difference between the protests in Kranj and these? The mentality is completely different.
Anyway, the people left when the protesters were released. So what’s the bottom line? How do you explain this police attitude? This indiscriminative aggression and the disrespect they show, the arrogance of their approach to people they are apparently protecting… I don’t know, I just know that’s what they are showing. I know it’s difficult for them in many situations, but these? I’ve defended them for a long time, but now… Because yes, you need a different approach when people throw stones at you. But why treat regular citizens, even older people, showing no aggressive behavior as some worthless nuisance? Why come out with aggression towards someone who’s just passing through for example? I feel sorry for them if they’re really so afraid of regular people. As much or even more than the masked hooded hooligans.
Not all of them are like that, that’s obvious. But way too many are. And I get it, you’re nervous, you know something might happen … — No, sorry, I wanted to find some other point of view to justify your actions, but when I think about how you handled the man with the fork, sorry, there’s no excuse. Mentality is off. I don’t get it. Sorry. Can’t defend you there. Sorry, you’ll need to start communicating differently with regular people… But don’t get me wrong, you are doing your job, it’s just that “customer service” is a bit bad… You might want to rethink that one.
For those of you who don’t understand that I am prone to caricature in my nonjournlistic posts, here’s a bit of explanation. I am NOT saying that the police has been threatening or terrorizing old ladies! WTF? In fact, I had the deepest understanding for the police until Saturday, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see the attitude towards normal, peaceful people in previous protests. I simply justified them, because cops were clearly very nervous. I would be, too, if someone threw stones at me. So yes, I did understand their attitude towards a certain type of protesters, but NO, I didn’t understand the attitude towards peaceful protesters and I am emphasizing their age, because middle aged protesters have never shown any inclination to protest violently. So for all of those out there who want some facts on which this is based on, the frightful attack mode yelling happened on 30. 11. 2012 on the Cankarjev dom platform. That same day, at least two passers by were denied passing on the Slovenska cesta to get to Aškerčeva, because they couldn’t get through anywhere else. This was the only place without a fence or a line of cops. Except for one on the sidewalk who, well, didn’t let them through. People in question were walking home from work with their groceries. BUT on the other hand you’ve probably seen the image from that same day that proves otherwise, right? So what part of the sentence “NOT ALL OF THEM ARE LIKE THAT” don’t you understand?
Once again, it is not my intention to antagonize the cops. I think I levelled it out quite accordingly in this post. I am sorry, but I had understanding for them in previous cases. Even on the 3oth, because I knew they were nervous, although their attitude towards that group of people on the platform was questionable. But on Saturday, they let things get out of hand and there’s no more excuses. There are packs of these socalled robocops who seemingly get sucked into this wolfpack syndrome and lose a bit of their humanity. I won’t defend them for it, sorry. And that doesn’t mean the police in general is terrorizing old people. Whoever reads this that way is just too simpleminded to read my (personal) posts. How come I have nothing bad to say about the police in Maribor? Or the police in Kranj? And in Maribor, I’ve been there at the violent protests and both Nina and I had not a single bad experience with them when we got closer or needed to go around them or pass them or get closer to the action. They simply knew we’re not a threat. In fact, they protected us. One of these robocops told us where to stand to not get hit by a stone.
I’m not against the police. We need them. But we need them to treat us right. The attitude of the robocops (not the other policemen) on Saturday, was far from right. And I’m saying it, because it’s time to fix this, before people revolt against the police.