Challenged in Naples

Last week I had the pleasure of being challenged—photographically. Life can always surprise us with challenges, sometimes more than we can handle, but this one was completely of my own choice. I wanted go be challenged and I was happy being challenged, despite the struggle and despite the frustration and despite the feeling of failure that I had to fight all the time.

Why challenged? I attended a photo workshop with the Swedish photographer Anders Petersen. It took place in Naples, Italy. Petersen pushed all of us beyond and out of our comfort zone. And when we started to become comfortable with the original challenges, he pushed us even more. As I have written many times in this blog, growth and creative development is all about stepping out of the box, pushing oneself—or being pushed out of the comfort zone.

What you are afraid of photographing is exactly what you should photograph, according to Petersen. Close and very personal.

Anders Petersen is one of the most important European photographers alive today; he has shaken up the world of photography since his debut with raw and intimate photographs of late night guests in a Hamburg bar in the 1960s. Today, he is 77 and still going strong. His images are as provocative and intense as they have always been.

One of his mantras, which he talked about during the workshop, was for the photographer to be like an animal. Attack and be hungry—but in a gentle way. It’s OK to feel intimidated when approaching strangers, say on the street, we all do, also Petersen, but we still have to do it and when we do, we need to take control and not let the person we photograph be in charge. It’s our responsibility to create images that are the best that can be made.

Being able to photograph like an animal all comes down to being able to connect—connect as a person with the whole of yourself. Don’t do it for the sake of the photograph, but be genuine interested in the person. Be curious about the person—and be completely open about why you want to capture a person’s image. Photography is about communication, also the process leading up to a final image.

After the week in Naples, I was completely wringed up, we all were, I believe. But what an experience, what a lovely way to immerge completely in photography—and only think and do photography.

The photos here are but a few I took during the workshop with Anders Petersen.

On a different note, let me remind you of the possibility to receive my Sidewars, monthly thoughts and ideas about photography and creativity. Sign up and I will send it to your email once every month.


46 thoughts on “Challenged in Naples

  1. The people clearly seem at ease with having you photograph them, so also clearly, you’re projecting trustworthiness, communicating well and able to make them comfortable. I would think a lot of that is the photographer’s personality and demeanor, the necessity of “genuineness.”

  2. Your close-up portrait photos are really incredible, Otto. How wonderful that you took advantage of such an inspiring challenge. I’m truly impressed.

  3. Sounds like a very memorable workshop experience, Otto. Your results are wonderfully intimate and seem to parallel the work you describe of Anders. I will look him up. Thanks.

  4. Wow! These images are amazing. My first thought was a flash of Yousuf Karsh (who of course is my photographic hero). Anders Petersen always reminded me of Karsh as well. How amazing you could spend time with him and learn from him. I can’t imagine. I’d say you definitely had a very bountiful experience.

    1. Thank you, Michelle. It’s hard to judge when you are standing in the middle of an intense workshop week, yourself. I didn’t feel very happy with the result, truth be told. So thank you for the encouraging words.

  5. As always Otto your advice it’s great, no doubt from your experience in capturing images, through years of keen observation, and hard work.

  6. Brilliant post, Otto. The photos speak for themselves, wonderful portraits, and then your words take us into these shots even further. Close and very personal. What an incredible experience this must have been, and you also show how important it is to not only be pushed outside your comfort zone, but also in engaging with people you can learn from (your subjects and especially Anders Petersen). What a great photography session this must have been, I’m envious in the most positive way with your work and post here. Fabulous. I hope autumn is treating you well, it sure looks as it if it is off to a great start 🙂 Take care and great to be back on WP to see those I learn from again.

    1. Good to hear from you again, Randall. The week in Naples sure a fantastic experience in many ways. Thanks for the feedback. And may you enjoy the autumn and the slow opening of the world again.

  7. It is exciting to see these photos~they are compelling. I enjoyed them all. When you hone in on a person’s face, you can see their beauty, I feel. You almost get the sense you know them, have always known them. The accordian player, the way you handled the accordian itself~that one is my favorite.

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