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A Photographer’s Progress (3) – The Hollow

After you’ve been hemming yourself in all along that setting stage for too long and struggled with the question: “How is this possible?”, there comes the time to pass on to a new one, which resembles a glass elevator fast descending on the outside of a skyscraper or a cold shower on a summer day or the rude awakening after a party when things, although they seemed gorgeous and coherent the previous night, suddenly prove unrecognizable.

Once you realize that not all your photos are the same and that some or actually most, if not all of them, are flat, wooden and, to put it frankly, worthless, your mind opens some sort of a medicine cabinet whose drawers brim with drugs, yet to no avail as none of them suits your ailment. The little drawers hide questions that have no answer. Out of confusion, misery suddenly kicks in. Nothing simply makes sense anymore, whereas several months ago everything seemed clear just as your photos, as sharp and vividly coloured as they were, seemed perfect. You feel like getting inescapably mired – the early summer strawberries and cherries lose their flavour, the joy of pressing the button everywhere you go vanishes and your beer and photographic gossip buddies become as dull as the dusty odds and ends one usually finds under the fridge on Easter clean: an aspirin, a dried up ballpoint pen, a piece of bread crust or a coin.

Your now-boring-to-death-photographer-friends are excited to let you know a great master is coming to town. It’s a Swiss member of some agency that bears the name of an ice cream, Magnum. He is said to be opening an itinerant exhibition on which occasion he will also talk to his viewers. You decide, therefore, that is high time you got some answers from someone truly knowledgeable. The master turns out to be a sort of an inconspicuous bohemian wearing a grey trenchcoat and a pink scarf with a classic film camera strapped to his neck. Instead of pulling some little drawers to offer the audience the expected prescriptions for curing their ignorance, confusion and misery, he doodles on a sheet of paper, exchanges endless jokes with the public and dramatically sucks on a Cuban cigar. He calls forth the solemnity of an insignificant provincial vaudeville actor who’s about to retire rather than that of a great master.

Then the exhibition opens and your wooziness reaches an all-time high. You are looking at all those black and white prints like an apoplectic sheep unable to understand for the life of you how on earth has this old geezer been able to stir up so much emotion on square centimetre using nothing but his scrimpy autofocus-less camera. A sort of tragic entrancement bordering on dumbness takes over and you hardly resist the urge of leaving the room straight out of the window. You come to realize for the first time that there are two unsuspected truths which you will only be able to express years later, namely: 1. true photography is an interpretation of reality sifted through somebody’s mind, rather than the reality per se; and 2. great photography is emotional memory sealed in a slice of time, whose imperishable savour has nothing to do with devices or even talent, but with the passion one is able to offer as a sacrifice to a given subject.

You wobble back home head down by-passing the garden where your friends have stopped for a beer. Like a boxer who’s just been beaten the living daylights out of, you shove your cameras in the bag, slip the bag under the bed, and lie down on your back staring at the ceiling lamp in wait of someone who might some time care enough to turn it off.

evolutia unui fotograf 3