Whom are you photographing for?
All my life I had many certainties about who I am and what I can do, always finding justification for being one way or the other. And the entire time, since I started making photographs, I was sure the images that I make, I make them for myself exclusively. That I do not care about what others said about my work, that I do not make them to make a profit out of it, that this is just a legacy, just a thing that makes me happy and I am doing it for my own pleasure.
But, as soon as I started getting into researching locations, being involved in social media and see what popular photographers are doing, without even consciously being aware of it, I started searching for images that visually match what I saw around me.
I first started to look for color. We were looking for colorful sunsets and sunrises, for spectacular phenomena in nature, something that would make our photographs pop out. Then, we realized that color was just a way of hiding our week points, our lack of knowledge. A colorful sunset makes an image look spectacular not because of a strong composition that helps the eye flow through the image, but by capturing and holding the eye to the most colorful point of the photograph, a point that is so impressive to the brain that makes the viewer ignores the rest of the elements.
While realizing that sunsets and sunrises were not what I was looking for, I went on searching for composition aspects that could enhance my images. I believed for a long time what is missing from the images that I shoot, that all I need for a strong landscape photograph, is a foreground that could lead the viewers eye through the image. So I started looking for interesting foreground elements that can help me make better photographs. But more than looking for a foreground, I truly believed that not having one is not worth the trouble of getting the camera out of my bag.
I was always in a continuous search for something, some perfect recipe that can make my images better. And these were just two examples of stereotypes of the many I have tried to follow during my photographic journey. There were many others, like: a scene is only interesting if you have a long exposure, you can only put your subject on the thirds to make it more compelling or, the best of the best, you can only produce strong images if you go to iconic places.
I transformed, right from the beginning, what should have been a personal expression of my own work into an activity of pleasing/competing with others. I tried to create images that would follow a certain standard: be colorful, own a foreground, have a long exposure. One thing my mind understood I should follow, was my entire focus while out shooting. Instead of thinking actively about the place, the subject, the balance of the image, about what my subject was and what I want to transmit to the viewer, I focused on making images that would match what I saw all over social media. I started making images for others, for recognition and instant gratification.
While looking back, I cannot say I would have done things differently. I think this is the learning curve that finally lead me to where I am today. And once you realize all your efforts until this point were not actually to improve your work, but to satisfy others, it’s such a liberating feeling. You give life to your vision with no restraint, with no commitment, no obligations toward somebody else other than yourself.