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Înot Sincron revisited

Gicu Şerban: The more seriously you take photography, the fewer certainties you have. Everything keeps becoming less and less clear and, what is even worse, more and more questionable. I see this in the friends you mentioned earlier too, and I can find it in all texts devoted to great photographers. Art or not, photography is a creative act. Fear of ridicule, fear of making a fool of ourselves, of not being on peak form, lack of courage and perseverance, and the spectre of failure make us look for false secrets and follow well-trodden paths and sure recipes for success, forgetting that the secrets of photography are to be found in simple, anonymous things that are sometimes very close to us. I am afraid of people who have only certitudes. Self-sufficiency and logical arguments in photography scare me.

However I do have a climber’s grappling hook that I am forever throwing ahead of me as I advance, and with the aid of which I try to grow and develop (in photographic terms). It is not a certainty but rather a belief, namely that the good things I can do in photography can happen only if I work systematically on projects and complete them. I am not a person who depends on luck. Good photographs have come my way only when I have spent time with my subject, where I have come to love it, when I have dreamed of it at nights and returned to it in the morning. This is not a universal recipe, nor one shared by too many people, but in my case it works. There is a great difference between taking a “seen from the car” photograph, when one stops in front of a house in the country, leans over the fence and snaps a child running after a cockerel (I’ve done that too), and taking photographs by systematically returning to the same family, crossing their threshold, trying to take up residence in their life and, in the end, discovering new things about yourself as well even as you build up a relationship with these people. I like a project-based approach to photography because it is the only one that forces you to stop, to identify with what you are photographing, and, above all, it gives you a sense of responsibility when you present the project concerned – successfully finalised – to the public.

Voicu Bojan: According to Picasso, who left no fewer than 90,000 completed works when he died, the best lesson that a painter ought to learn and make part of him consists in knowing when to stop. “Photography is the art of not pressing the shutter release” I read this morning (12th April, 2010), in amazement, on Frank Horvat’s site. In conclusion, you could define a photographer not only by scaling the mountain of pictures on the peak of which he stands, infecting the world with an excess of pictures, but also in terms of how many photographs he has at one time or another refused to take. Personally, if I look in my own imaginary portfolio, I remember some theatrical mourners at a country funeral in Maramureş, a rainbow half a sky span wide at Măguri, a moustachioed woman on a train in Cuba and a family of tribespeople (orang asli) in Malaysia that I met by chance in the jungle. They were on the move, they were almost naked, they had with them only their children, a teapot, a blowpipe and a machete. Just that. We passed each other on the path without speaking, looking the other way. It was quite spectacular, like something from a documentary on Discovery. I chose not to photograph the scene, and now, looking back, I am glad. On the cosmic scale of things, photography is only something, not everything. Sometimes it needs to be restrained so that it doesn’t get ideas above its station and take the place of really vital things. (…)

I believe that photography continues to be a possible adventure. It is, however, a “game” not to be played with. Its apparent simplicity is full of traps. This is a warning that should be spelled out. For more than ten years I have been trying, without success, to find a key to understanding photography, a universal key if possible, one that can simultaneously unbolt the windows of my mind and the floodgates of my creativity. I no longer have the patience even to avoid quotations. There is a saying of Edward Steichen’s: “Every artist in this world starts with a piece of canvas with nothing on it, with a blank page… The photographer, however, starts out from the finished product”.