15th October 2016No Comments

How long am I doing photography?

Straight and easy is not the only path to success.

Sophia Amorusso

I often get asked a seemingly simple question - How long do you do photography? When did you start? Before I spill out the answer I get awkward like a lover with a complicated history of friendship interwoven with sex before love happened. I want to be able to give a simple answer, because the one who's asking, is probably asking out of politeness but the answer to that question is not simple.

How do you define a starting point? Does owning a camera already make you an amateur photographer? Or is it actually the point you start caring? What if you don't even own a camera and you care a lot? What if you have one and don't actually care about quality photos?

Well, as much as I would like my story to be more straightforward, photography wasn't a love from the first sight for me. When I was younger this profession in my head always belonged to the realm of dreams impossible to achieve such as becoming a president or an astronaut. For a very long time even taking breathtakingly beautiful photos seemed to be in that territory as I could not afford a DSLR until I turned 21. I believed that you can take nice photos with a basic compact, but as you can imagine, my aspirations weren't very high. Just as much as having nice profile picture or holiday snapshots. Keep in mind that was way before Instagram era and mainstream smartphone, when everyone who owned one was automatically given a simple tool good enough for an amateur photographer.

I got my camera with the first the money I saved from my first job as a waitress in Italian restaurant in Glasgow in the only in the autumn of 2012. So when I finally started taking photos with a nice camera, shit started happening and the satisfaction of creating good imagery motivated me to learn more and more. Finally, in autumn 2014 I knew enough about photography and had enough confidence in my craft that I dared to believe that one day I could become a professional photographer.

Don't get me wrong, I would be the last person to claim that you can only take good photos with a proper gear. I believe my on an off interest in photography for years before I touched a camera with interchangeable lens has precisely been the reason why I found it easy to control a DSLR. Having only used crappy contacts before forced me to practice composition, as this was the only way I could control the image. Also never underestimate how much photography education happens behind the scenes, when you're not holding your camera or editing photos.

But let's come back to the beginning. Wherever it was. Maybe you can find me help the day when I started being interested in photography.

Spring 2000

I am 8 years old and I am going for my first school trip in Solina holiday resort by the lake. My parents give me the family camera with abundance of as many as whole 32 exposures of film. I take photos of trees, flowers, buildings, friends and get scolded by a teacher for getting to close to the edge of dam elevation trying to get a shot o gigantic artificial waterfall. Other offences include climbing a roof of a hostel and scaring other children with stories about ghosts and a snake. After I'm back from the trip and the film gets developed and my parents share their disappointment about the lack of photos of me in front of monuments. I think some of the photos are good but I don't understand why in my artistic shot of a bottle the backgrond isn't blurry and the bottles aren't sharp. But I don't get the chance to touch camera often enough to actually care. This pattern repeats every school trip or summer camp once or twice a year until 2007, when my parents finally give up on film and get bored with their digital compact they got in 2004 and let me play with it.

Summer 2006

A wonderful summer of my life. I am 15, listen to unhealthy amounts of punk rock, I dream about becoming a rock star and dress like a seventh child of a janitor that escaped from circus (my father's words). I get invited to spend summer in Toronto to stay with my uncle and his family to practice English. Luckily my uncle is cool, he shares my love for good guitar distortion, takes me to my first music festival, buys me an acoustic guitar and lets me use his hybrid digital camera. This is the first time I discover that actually I am taking some really cool photos, contrary to my parents opinion, and that actually photography could be a nice hobby for me. Nevertheless, I spend way more time "jamming" on my new guitar, having a crush on the boy next door who was teaching me first chords and writing songs. After all I am destined to become a rock star.

2007 - 2008

I finally get to use family digital compact and I use it a lot. As per usual I get blamed for its death in summer 2007. But then the camera gets replaced by a newer model and I continue to share it with my sister. My photos are mainly experimental but no one cares because hello, they are digital. I use photography to enhance my coolness factor on sprouting social media by posting heavily edited photos. By the way this is about the time I discover photoshop, my editing style can be sumarised as a mixture of bw, heavy contrast and saturation occasionally spiced up with selective coloring. I still believe in my future as a rock star.

2009

I read an reportage about street photography in a Saturday cultural issue of national newspaper ("Duży Format" if anyone is interested, but I don't remember the title of the article anyway). The interview with the photographer inspired me to try to document strangers on the streets. I am very scared that people would shout at me, when they notice I am pointing a camera at them. Elderly strangers in small times aren't very friendly to teenager. Stealthily I capture some good shots. I start to frequently carry around the family compact in my bag and take photos of whatever interests me.I start a photoblog under a nickname dazedandconfused, where I publish the more successful of my photos along with my poetry and thoughts. I get old Zenit as a gift for my 18th birthday but the shutter is broken so I only use it on one film and never again. Around about this time I get interested in street fashion. I throw away my converse covered with ink and dirt and I hit second hands in search of quirky and unique outfits. Around about that time I discover lookbook.nu, which back then was full of alternative and second hand wardrobe and an invitation only community for people to share their style across the globe. I also use the blog to sneak in my outfits and receive the invitation to that secret community which would soon blow out into a international fashion phenomenon and hub for professional fashion bloggers. My unshakeable faith in becoming a rock star finally starts to crumble as years of practice on guitar don't show any signs of talent. But not all is lost yet. At the age of 18 I start opening up to music that does not use divine guitars. I start exploring electronic music and discover that maybe there is more to music than guitars. Inspired by newly discovered truths and a solid argument of straight As in hard sciences to win a battle with my parents and apply to all the Audio Technology related degrees at University.

2010 - 2011

I get accepted to study Audio & Video Engineering at University of Glasgow. My degree is a lie and it turns out to be Electronics with a fancy name. I want to quit uni but my parents convince me to stay at least one more year and eventually I stay till the end. Thankfully, I discover Subcity Radio. I become part of technical team and start my own radio show about trip-hop. I try DJing a bit but nothing I create seems cool, so I never share it with anyone. I meet a lot of talented musicians and DJs during my time in a radio station but not many close friends. Maybe I just don't have what it takes. During that time, I completely stop taking photos.

2012

University workload becomes so heavy I temporarily stop my involvement with Subcity Radio. Temporarily eventually becomes forever. My interest in photography is limited to collecting pretty pictures on Pinterest and running a bohemian tumblr.

Autumn 2012

Third year starts and finally I get that one course that I thought entire degree was supposed to be about - Audio & Video team project. I get to direct one short documentary and become a director of photography of a short fiction film. I get involved with side projects and assisting one of my professors, Bernd Porr, who apart from being a researcher is also an independent filmmaker. He's a living proof that when creativity meets science great things happen. He becomes my role model till the end of my degree and inspires to learn more about cameras. I finally start believing that maybe all the things that I'm good at will eventually come together with things that I love. I finally get that damn first job waiting tables and save some extra money. I buy Canon 550D with intention of shooting my own films but the degree is so intense in the third year that I barely get to use it. I only take photos at occasional parties. I start playing with photoshop again, nothing better for hangover than photoediting. I am adding zits on faces of people who annoy me.

Autumn 2013

I buy an m42 adapter and mount the old Helios lens from the broken Zenit. The magic begins. All the photos start looking the way imagine. I get more and more hyped and I start taking my camera everywhere. My friends get annoyed but eventually they get used to it. After all no one makes them such cool profile pictures on Facebook.

2014

Me and my camera become inseparable. I start identifying as a photographer and become an active member of Flickr community. In the summer I travel and  extensively document my journey with photographs.

Autumn 2014

I start a graduate job as a software engineer working on Video Encoder Team. I move to Watford alone to start an adult life and earn some money. I don't know what to do with my life so it makes sense to accept an offer after my summer placement in 2013. I leave my boyfriend and all my friends behind in Glasgow, needless to say, the transition from freedom of University to a full-time job in a company full of geeks in a small town is rather painful. Photography and frequent visits to London keep me sane. I need hope that things will get better because frankly I can't see myself living like this until retirement. I am clueless about what to do with my life, so I choose photography, as this is one thing that I love and I am really good at. On a dark rainy night November 2014 I decide to pursue photography as a profession.

2015

A very active year. I build my first portfolio, launch a website and social media platforms. I start blogging and collaborating with other creatives. I am still not entirely sure what direction in photography to choose. I contemplate on wedding and reportage photography but as I crave more and more creative control over my work, I start drifting towards portrait and fashion photography. I move to London but I am still working at my day job.

2016

"When routine bites hard and ambitions are low and resentment rides high but emotions won't grow." My unrealistic expectations about how fast I can build a career as a photographer finally get confronted with reality. I get frustrated with the quality of my work and lack of progress and I feel clueless about my actions and their results. I experience a major creative crisis and a breakdown in general. I take 2 month break from photography and nourish my tortured soul with chocolate, wine and therapy.

May 2016 - now

I am back in a game, but this time I am going slow and steady. It does not matter how long will it take me or whether I will ever get there as long as I get to create some beautiful photography on the way. However, to my surprise, my effort finally start bringing results, first freelance jobs, first publications and more interest with collaborators.

So how long are you into photography?

23rd October 2015No Comments

Subjectively On Dismaland

I have probably missed the best timing for publishing the photos from Banksy’s Dismaland which I visited in the beginning of September with my boyfriend Ivan and my friend Reya. I intended to publish them once the exhibition has been closed. I didn’t want to spoil fun for anyone who was hoping to visit it but still provide some inside perspective of my own.

Time passed, a lot of things happened that occupied my mind more than the exhibition. I missed a perfect opportunity to stir some publicity on a hot topic. Everything has been documented, photo­graphed and published in the web. There is not much to add.

I had an impression that the exhibition itself was not especially insightful. We all know that the society is wrong and we are doomed. Ever since I remember from the early childhood, my generation has been projected with the image of this global doom. However, what made the most powerful impression on me was the style and the shock it was supposed to convey. The concentration of artworks representing the dysto­pian perspective of our world did leave a lot to think.

Bansky’s stated “Instead this is an attempt to build a different kind of family day out – one that sends a more appropriate message to the next generation – sorry kids.” in his exhibition catalogue. “Sorry about the lack of meaningful jobs, global injustice and Channel 5.[…] The fairytale is over, the world is sleepwalking towards climate catastrophe, maybe all that escapism will have to wait.”

My personal interpretation of the exhibition was that it was supposed to be an insight into the future. We are already one foot into this boggy reality and this is the last chance to stop instead of continuing to ignore what is happening. It brutally reminds us where the world is leading with desperate cries for help. The desperation seems very evident in the entire place. The gentle reminders on the packaging to recycle haven’t been successful. Perhaps the punch in the face will help.

Banksy is also painfully aware of how unsuccessful the educational aspect of his exhibition will be in the central piece.  This was also the single installation that made the biggest impression on me. When you enter the derelict imitation of the Disneyland Castle, you are invited to pose with your camera. Bored staff directs you in where to stand and point your camera. After the souvenir photo has been taken, visitors go through a dark corridor to a covered with darkness main hall. In the centre of the dark hall you see a fallen Cinderella carriage surrounded by a group of soldiers.  Instead of the machine guns soldiers shoot with cameras. Visitors around them try to capture the scene with their phone and cameras. There is no one fake or alive in the scene symbolically trying to help injured Cinderella. However, there is a lot of excitement in the air. At the exit from the castle there is a souvenir shop.  You can purchase there a picture which you initially posed for at the entry. Once you get the picture, you realize it has been photoshopped in such a way that you appear to be part of the soldier crowd attacking Cinderella with the cameras. The entire irony of the photograph is that is what most of the people really did.

I understand this installations as the most surrendering piece in the entire exhibition. It must have been clear to Banksy from the very beginning that the entire pro-active, shocking call to action and educational purpose of the show will not be as strongly conveyed as the spirit of sensation that surrounded a mysterious exhibition that appeared in a middle of nowhere, in a ghosty seaside town Weston-Super-Mare. The sensation of the artwork will be monetized, people will be queuing to get in for 4 hours, it will power up the news and media and subsequently vanish with time. Yesterday newspapers fill out bins of today creating even more unrecycled rubbish. No one talks about Dismaland anymore and it has only been a month since the exhibition has been closed.

28th June 2015No Comments

Graduation Nightmares – 7 Tips on How to Survive a Post-University Rollercoaster

I graduated university one year ago. I remember how confusing and overwhelming that period of my life was. I am not going to lie, this one year after graduation was probably the hardest one in my life but I am not writing the post to freak you out even more. Quite the opposite. I remember desperately searching through the Internet looking for popculture pieces picturing the struggles of recent graduates, searching for blog posts about graduating university and friendly souls that could understand. I felt completely alone, because it seemed as if all of my friends were either still in University living completely different problems and summing up all my troubles with a sentence 'at least you have a job', or older, so my problems have been long behind them.

For the first time becoming 100% financially independent from my parents I managed to appreciate some things my parents did for me while trying to bring me up and became more compassionate towards their negligence of ideals in favor of just having a peace of mind. However, even if I can understand it better now, I still can't bear to sign up for it myself.

Floating between the land of monsters and all-nighters recompansated with a bitter-sweet careless emotional rollercoaster of freedom and fear with the mountains of adulthood and full time jobs on the horizon.

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Take a deep breath and dive into the deep waters of your life. There are going to be hard days ahead of you but as they say a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. Open your sails, this is just the beginning and the whole world is there at your feet.

I have prepared a handful of tips for you to remember, whenever you get confused and upset.

1. Don't be afraid of failures.

Nothing is graded in real life anymore and your failure won't matter to anyone. What's the worst that could happen if you fail an interview, miss a perfect flat or screw up an application? You are going to have an evening with ice-cream, tears and Bridget Jones and next day you are going to get up and try again. That leads me to another point.

2. We are living in the world of opportunities, and this sea is full of fish, so go out on a hunt and try to catch a next one.

Making your dream come true at the first go is nothing more than luck. Making your dream come true after battling a series of obstacles and sea monsters is a skill. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger and in the real world you actually get the chance to learn from the mistakes and correct them with more attempts than just a mere resit exam.

3. In 6 months no one will care if you did or did not nail that First Class degree.

Even you are not going to care yourself. What will become important is how much you actually learned from your university times and degree and what lessons you derived from your mistakes.

4. You are not going to be the best anymore, so give yourself a slug.

It's important to keep your aspirations high, especially if this is what keeps you going but most likely you will be working alongside people with as many years of experience as you are walking on this earth in total. None of your grades can compete with that, so learn as much as you can but give yourself time. Don't try to rush things that require time to grow. If you concentrate on your aims and devote yourself to your projects, you won't even realize when things once difficult became easy.

5. Do not listen to the rules of the old world.

Do your own research. The job market of start-ups and freelance opportunities is expanding and by the time you are going to have an established position on the world of work, these things are going to be even more ubiquitous. So if you fear corporate life and you are afraid that if you don't do everything by the book you are going to be a lifetime looser, I am telling you once again - these are the rules of the old world - you can obey them as long as the old generation is in charge. This will not last in eternity though, they are at the front steps of retirement and at their footsteps there are young people, willing to introduce the order of our generation. Make their own rules. If you fear selling out for a corporate life while you're dreaming about faraway lands, use this time to save up money for your dreams and learning from people wiser than you. It won't hurt to be smarter when you finally feel ready to set your sails for your dreams.

6. Live like there's no tomorrow, dream like you live forever.

During my degree, I always postponed learning new things that interested me and all the things I wanted to try for 'the day I will have more time'. I was naive to think that after graduating, when the coursework will not be my priority anymore, I will have sea of time after 5pm and tons of energy for all the hobbies in the world. That reality turned out to be quite the opposite and I faced constant lack of time and tiredness. However, it made me realize, that if I want to do all these things I have to start now, because 'the day I will have more time' doesn't exist, so if I want to make all these thing happen, I need to go out and get them. As busy as my degree was, I still could have devoted some spare time to work towards my passions but I couldn't motivate myself to do it. Surprisingly, it was the lack of time that was a kick strong enough to make me do it. You won't run away from the impression that you don't have enough time, so if we agree on that matter, ask yourself a question - what do you value more - your dreams or shenanigans on Facebook and reddit?

7. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Sometimes life puts you in a situation when you have no other choice than learning new things that are very contrary to your nature. As hard as it may be, you are going to learn new things and you are going to come out smarter out of this thing. I learned how to become organized, something I thought is impossible and I am completely doomed to failure with all my attempts to master it. It's incredible what a human being can learn, when put in a situation when there is no other way out. Who knows what new skills the future is going to bring your life? Maybe you always had problem with improvisation? Or maybe you are unable to work under pressure? Most likely you will be exposed to these things whether you like it or not and yes, it's going to be terrifying, but there's a limited amount of stress we can stand before we learn how to deal with things.

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These are 7 golden tips I thought of, that are going to help you with this confusing period of time, but I could probably go on like that for ages! I hope I managed to fill you up with a good vibe about your upcoming independence and I am here to answer as well as I can. Let me know, what are your thoughts on upcoming graduation. I feel this topic might reoccur here on the blog as I strongly identify with the young and the confused but in the end I want to leave you with my recent motto "We are going to be tired, but it's going to be worth it."

15th June 2015No Comments

How To Kill Yourself?

This is a heavy and difficult topic for a blogger debutant but an important one. To drown the Internet with relevant texts about suicide.

I have experienced depressive episodes in my life three times. I was on the edge of nothingness, vegetating, feeling deeply meaningless. I did not want to be a burden to people and ironically this was one of the reasons I chickened out of the final trigger. I thought of how much trouble and pain will it cause my flatmate to clean my corpse, inform my family and organize my funeral.

Three times I have reached such bottom, that I could no longer bear that meaningless existence. The only thing that was painful was the ghostliness of the entire experience. I could not bear it and I started looking for help.

I turned googled phrase from 'how to kill yourself' into 'how to save yourself'. I have lost all my dreams and all my ambitions, all the things I cared about. Perhaps, I lost them long time ago. Only one thing mattered - to be happy.

Surprisingly if you focus solely on being happy rather than the things you think will bring you happiness, such as love, money, ambition, travel, career, beauty or whatever is that matters to you, only one thing is left to complete - happiness. You don't have it but you start looking for it everywhere possible, in the places you have previously ignored, things you previously dismissed as too cliched to make you happy. Happiness of good night sleep, happiness of a soft fabric, happiness of sunrise, happiness of taste of coffee, happiness of a walk on a fresh air, happiness of relief that you found a courage to speak up and tell someone about your fears, trust me they will listen. Happiness of a cinnamon smell, happiness of a song, happiness of healthy meals.

Simple things bring happiness.

Find a soul, that is more lost than you. They are everywhere. Your world might be falling apart, I believe, but someone's else world might be shattered to pieces too. Make them smile, even just for a minute.

Other people suffer too, connect with them, do not isolate.

Almost two years ago I was coming back from my therapist on a bus. I saw a girl walking in to the bus with a face full of tears. I did not know what happened but I knew how she felt. Before leaving a bus I wrote a note:

'Smile, world is full of beautiful things and strangers care.'

Before leaving a bus I handed it to her and when the bus was driving away I saw her smiling through the window to me. I know this is silly and cliched, but if I managed to make one upset stranger smile that makes me happy.

Try. It is really worth it. When fighting for your happiness and recovering from your depression you will also enter the sphere of magic. If things are so bad that it cannot be worse, you have an enormous capacity to appreciate every little thing that makes you feel good. Caught up with daily routine normal people do not see it. You can. Your aching heart is so desperate to find a little bit of happiness, you will be able to notice every detail that contains it. I call it post depressive circle of happiness and I am inviting you to dance inside with me and other people who have faced the worst.

At the very beginning of your new quest for happiness start from checking this small simple list: Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up.

If you don't have anyone to talk to, talk to me. I love getting to know new people and making strangers happy. All my friends were strangers once upon a time.

And if you are a blogger, who has stumbled upon this corner of the Internet, I am encouraging you the same as I was encouraged by Riennahera's post) to write a similar post, let's flood the Internet with the really relevant advice for those who want to know about 'how to end your life'.

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