Personal Street Photos

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

Bjørn Kvaal attended my photo workshop in Villajoyosa, Spain, this spring, and showed some considerable and impressive progression during the five days the workshop was running. Before attending he was used to photograph for the articles he writes as a journalist – with a detached style, but during the workshop he was pushed towards a more personal approach. Bjørn took the challenge and started photographing people in the little Spanish village with a personal involvement that at first was hard for him, but eventually got the better of him. By the end of the workshop he could show a strong portfolio of intimate street portraits. He got close to the people he photographed, both physically and emotionally, which clearly comes across in his images. Bjørn captures those small moments where people relax and show themselves as the persons they are.

Posted in Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments

Failure is Good

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Failure is inevitably linked with art – and life for that matter. Well, it’s also linked to success if you think about it. To put it a little harshly; if we don’t experience failures it’s because we don’t live – or we don’t create, when talking about arts. And if we don’t dare to make failure we will never succeed, either.

Life and art is about jumping from an airplane without knowing how a parachute really works, but hoping it will. It’s about taking chances, knowing that often they won’t lead to anything – or at «worst» to failure. I use brackets because failures aren’t necessarily bad. On the contrary; you can use them as stepping stones to learn more, to become better next time, to evolve, to grow. In my post Weakness as Potential Strength I wrote: By figuring out where our weaknesses lie, we can take steps to eliminate them – and thus lift ourselves to a next level.

Not every project we do will survive. As a matter of fact most of them probably won’t. Art is sometimes like putting messages in a bottle and hope that someone will find one of your bottles. And then hope they will write something in return – and that eventually the same bottle will find its way back to you. That’s how art works. You may have to accept that you have to put out hundreds of things for every bottle that wind up coming back.

The analogue of the bottle is taken from a speech given by the author Neil Gaiman when he addressed the class of 2012 at the University of Arts, Philadelphia. One of his points in the speech was that if you don’t break the rules – and thus take the chance of failing – you will not be able to create anything new and original. You won’t find your way as an artist – and you will not have success – whatever that means.

This is how he addressed the new art students (you can find the whole speech here): «When you start out with a career in arts, you have no idea of what you are doing. This is great. People who know what they do, know the rules, and they know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not. And you should not. [By not knowing the rules, you will be able to go beyond them]. And you can. If you don’t know what is impossible, it’s easier to do.»

By not following the rules, though, you are in for some failures. No doubt. It’s of course easy to say one should accept this as part of the creative process. The problems of failure, really, are that you want everything to happen and you want it now. But things go wrong.

When I decided to become a travelling photographer and writer sometime in my twenties I set off through then Soviet Union to Japan and then continued around in Southeast Asia, finally ending up in Nepal. I was travelling for half a year and the plan was to send home articles and stories from wherever I went. The intention was to make a living as I went about. It should have been a success. The articles and photos would make me world famous and the next thing waiting for me was National Geographic.

For some reason editors and the magazines didn’t discover my wonderful talent, though… What did I learn then? I did work that I was proud of. I had half a year of great fun. I lived in the now, in a way I have never done again. I enjoyed every moment of it. And I learn how to travel and get around also when things weren’t necessarily easy – which has been very useful knowledge in my later travels. And I did sell some stories, which eventually took me to where I am today.

The one moment of greatest letdown through the whole trip, came at the end in Nepal. I was trekking alone towards Mount Everest base camp. A couple of days into the trekking, my camera broke down. It was a gorgeous morning. I took one photo of the vast scenery (the one accompanying this post), heard something snap in the camera and that was the last picture I took. Back then there was no camera repair, not even in Kathmandu. What did I learn from this failure? Not ever to travel only with one camera. And also not ever live through the camera. The experience is not by any means less just because you can’t take a photo of it.

If you make mistakes it means you are out there doing something. And the mistakes and failures themselves can be very useful – as in my case. Whatever discipline you are in, you have one thing that is unique, you have the ability to make art. That is a lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

When we try to avoid failure, it is because of fear. Fear of failure itself. But by so doing, we turn way from all the beauty of art and the intensity of life. In my post Face the Fear I wrote: We all want acceptance and approval for our work, but if the fear for not getting it or the fear of what others might think about our art makes us cater to this fear, we will never find our own voice.

Posted in Challenging Yourself, Creativity, Photography | Tagged , , | 226 Comments

Where Art and Life Interact

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

© Susan Judd

I have just started a new round of my eWorkshop «Finding Your Personal Voice». As always I enjoy looking at other’s work and to be able to return some feedback. There are still quite a few participants from my previous course I taught in the spring, who I haven’t presented here on my blog. Susan Judd is one of them. She has a very strong visual sense and likes to play elements up against one another. In addition I see a social concern in her photographic work, which radiates from her approach and in the way she visually express her chosen subjects. For her personal photo project during the eWorkshop, Susan chose to work with street art. But she didn’t just want to render the street art as it appears on walls, palings or fences, but were looking for ways to capture the interaction between people on the street and the street art itself. More so she had an intention to make the two elements blend together, so that the people in her images almost seem to blend with the art. The result is a series of strong images. They are full of colours and life, captured in moments of close relationship with the street art. There is a beautiful fluidity in her images; a dynamic which seems almost to stretch beyond the physical and literal subject Susan turns her camera towards. She creates small worlds within worlds. For more of Susan’s work please look up her blog WordsVisual.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , | 64 Comments

Norwegian Mountains

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Summer is on the wane. I have probably done my last backpacking in the Norwegian mountains this season. Last week we hiked around the mountain area called Stølsheimen in the western part of the country. We spent some delightful days in rough terrain far away from people, in the middle of nowhere, with only sunshine, some showers, rocks, meadows and an occasional dot of snow here and there for company. Recharging and gathering strength again (and at the same time becoming very fatigued – if that makes sense…). Because of the absence of any means of communication I have at the same time been away from any kind of blogging. But I am back now, and will soon start to visit all your blogs again. Thanks for the patience.

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Posted in Personal Work, Photography | Tagged , , | 121 Comments

L’été à Paris

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Paris is a beautiful city. During the summer months millions of tourists visit the French capital, the city know for being then most romantic place in the world. They seek out the areas of Saint Germain, Montmatre or Saint-Germain, visit Île de la Cité and Notre-Dame, the Eiffel tower, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the museum of Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe or just wander along the banks of the river Seine.

This summer I spend a week in Paris with my two youngest boys of 17 (yes they are twins). We had an amazing time; their age is perfect for exploring cities like Paris. We did everything any tourist would do, walked the streets of Paris from morning to late evening, jumped around from one arrondissement to another by the Metro and most of all we enjoy just sitting down on one of the many street cafes, having a shot of espresso and maybe a croissant – and observing street life.

And of course I photographed. A lot. But I wasn’t there foremost as a photographer, I was more photographing as a tourist captivating our exploration of the French capital. This time I didn’t travel to photograph, instead photographing became second priority. It changes the approach – and the final images I came back with, as I pointed out in my post 10 Tips for Better Travel Photography. Without being able to immerse myself in the photographic process I went for the feeling of Paris through the use of space and landmarks and less trying to capture the street life and people on the street. And of course I captured my boys’ experiences of the lovely city. Paris is a great place for any photographer – even when photography is not the main concern.

On a different note; last week I announced another start of my popular eWorkshop «Finding Your Photographic Voice». There are still some spots available if you want to join in. The workshop will help you become better at capturing pictures which show and tell what you saw for your inner eye. We start up next week. Does it sound interesting? You’ll find more information about the workshop here.

Posted in Creativity, Personal Work, Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged , , , , | 116 Comments

A Street Artist

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

© Morten Golimo

Morten Golimo is an artist. During the workshop I taught in Villajoyosa this spring his approach to photographing the streets of the Spanish small-town was with an artist’s eye and understanding of light and composition. All his photos are beautifully composed and bring forward the sense of place and atmosphere. He works with tedious precision and takes his time to frame the subject. And in the post-processing he is more concerned about how the world he photographs looks like to him than how the camera actually captures it. Morten wants to convey the emotional ambience more than the pure physical content of the subject. As the artist he is, Morten is grounded and is able to express his personal vision with conviction. At the same time his is willing to be put to a challenge. During the workshop he was challenge to photograph on the street with a more intuitive approach, to let go of control and get out of his usual comfort zone. At first it was a testing challenge, but eventually he brought back some captivating images quite different from his usual way of shooting. You may find more about Morten Golimo on his website.

Posted in Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged , , , , | 54 Comments

New eWorkshop

Finding Your Voice_Poster

I am happy to announce another eWorkshop that can help you develop your photographic vision. Would you like to improve you photographic skills – become better at capturing pictures which show and tell what you saw for your inner eye when pushing the shutter button? Would your like to develop you personal photographic voice, the distinctive way of conveying how you see the world around you? This workshop may be a way to help you on the way

As you may know I do various photo workshops around the world, the latest took place in Spain this May. At the same time I realize that attending such a workshop can be quite an expensive treat. That is why I have developed this eWorkshop which will not cut as deeply into the wallet.

«Finding Your Photographic Voice» is a workshop which you can do at home. You only need a camera (any will do), and be willing to put in some effort into developing your photographic seeing. The interaction between me and you will by over the internet. Quite uncomplicated in other words. In a more practical sense it will take place over eight weeks. For each week you will receive a little booklet (as a PDF-file) beforehand with inspirations, thoughts, knowledge and ideas for your shooting the next week. Then you will have a week to do the various assignments, of which you will send me an edited selection. Finally you will receive my comments about the photos, included suggestions for improvement – and in which direction I believe you should move you photography. Each week’s booklet consists of 8 to 15 pages of inspiration and ideas, which means that by the end of this eWorkshop you will have a whole book of more than 80 pages about photographic seeing and capturing.

This is not a workshop about technique, but about the visual language, how to develop your vision, what you should look for in order to create catching pictures. As I write in the preface of the first booklet: This distinctive voice that is the focus of the workshop isn’t something «solely based on technical competence although many photographers put all their energy into technical mastery. It isn’t something that is only related to how we use our media, but it’s a combination of how we see the world, how we interpret it and how we express this view through our chosen, artistic media.»

«Finding Your Photographic Voice» is for all levels. You definitely don’t have to be a photographer as such – only wanting to develop your photography. Since it’s not about technique any level of technical knowledge is good enough. My focus with the workshop is really to develop your photographic voice. Of course what you are able to express and how you do it, will depend on your technical level, but not knowing much will not prevent you from developing your voice and becoming a better photographer.

The topics for the eight weeks are:
• Seeing as a photographer. The basics of the visual language
• Understanding colours and the interaction of colours
• Graphic elements of the camera and how it interprets the vision
• The passionate voice, the link to making engaging pictures
• The five elements that make up a good photograph
• Doing the work. Thoughts for developing the photographic vision
• Subject and subject matter. How to bring focus to the story of the picture
• Vision driven photography. The road further on

The eWorkshop will be limited to 10 people on a first come first serve basis. It will start on the week of August 11th. I will create a group where all participants can post their photos and where my response and picture critique will be visible for all participants.

The price for eight the eight weeks eWorkshop is US dollars 240,-.

Does it sound interesting? Sign up by sending me an email or use the same email to ask more about the workshop.

I look forward to seeing you in «Finding Your Photographic Voice».

Posted in Creativity, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments