About cigars..

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I never smoked cigars in my life. I really hate the smell. But I must admit that there are some charm on it. For photography, it’s a source of expression: body movement, faces and gesture. And there mustn’t exist something better than the first drag after a meal. I just can’t understand how can somebody smoke early in the morning…

To shoot pictures

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This is the introductory text of Wim Wenders from his photography book called ONCE. Some of the most inspiring words about photography that I ever seen…

TO SHOOT PICTURES – Wim Wenders

Taking pictures is an act in time, in which something is snapped out of its own time and transferred into a different kind of duration. It is commonly assumed that whatever is captured in this act lies IN FRONT OF the camera. But that is not true.

Taking pictures is an act in two directions: forwards and backwards. Yes, taking pictures also “backfires”. This isn’t even too lame a comparison. Just as the hunter lifts his rifle, aims at the deer in front of him, pulls the trigger, and, when the bullet departs form the muzzle, is thrown backwards by the recoil, the photographer, likewise, is thrown backwards, onto himself, when releasing the shutter.

A photograph is always a double image, showing, at first glance, its subject, but at a second glance – more or less visible, “hidden behind it,” so to speak, the “reverse angle”: the picture of the photographer in action.

    Just as the hunter is not struck by the bullet, though, but only feels the recoil of the explosion, this counter-image contained in every photograph is not actually captured by the lens, either. (Yet it remains somehow inextricably in the picture, as an invisible impression of the photographer, that even gets developed within the darkroom chemistry…)

    What then is the recoil of the photographer? How do you feel its impact? How does it affect the subject, and which trace of it appears on the photograph?

    In German, there is a most revealing word for this phenomenon, a word known from a variety of contexts: “EINSTELLUNG”. It means the attitude in which someone approaches something, psychologically or ethically, i.e. the way of attuning yourself and then “taking it in”. But “Einstellung” is also a term from photography and film signifying both the “take” (a particular shot and its framing), as well as how the camera is adjusted in terms of aperture and exposure by which the cameraman “takes” the picture.

    It is no coincidence that (at least in German) the same word defines both the attitude and the picture thus produced. Every picture indeed reflects the attitude of whoever took it.

    So the rifleman’s recoil corresponds to the photographer’s portrait that is more or less visible “behind the picture”, only instead of capturing his (or her) features, it defines the photographer’s ATTITUDE towards whatever was in front of him (or her).

    The camera therefore is an eye capable of looking forwards and backwards at the same time. Forwards, it does in fact “shoot a picture”, backwards, it records a vague shadow, sort of an x-ray of the photographer’s mind, by looking straight through his (or her) eye to the bottom of his (or her) soul. Yes, forwards, a camera sees its subject, backwards it sees the wish to capture this particular subject in the first place, thereby showing simultaneously THE THINGS and THE DESIRE for them.

    Every second, somewhere in the world, someone releases a shutter capturing something because he (or she) is fascinated by a certain LIGHT or FACE or GESTURE or LANDSCAPE or MOOD or simply because a SITUATION wants to be captured.

    The subjects of photography, obviously, are countless, multiplied to infinity by every second that passes. Still, each and every moment of picture-taking, wherever in the world it takes place, is a single event, its uniqueness guaranteed by the incessant progress of time. (Even the zillions of tourists snapshots at those specially assigned “photo opportunities” are each a one-time-only event. Even in its most trivial and commonplace moments time remains irreversible.)

    What is astonishing with each and every photograph is not so much that it “freezes time” – as people commonly think – but that on the contrary time proves with every picture anew HOW unstoppable and perpetual it is.

    Every photograph is a memento mori. Every photograph talks about life and death. Every “picture captured” has an aura of sacredness, transcends the eye of its photographer, and exceeds all human capacity: every photo is also an act of creation outside of time, from God’s perspective, so to speak, recalling that increasingly forgotten commandment: “Thou shalt not graven images”.

    To take pictures (rather: to have the incredible privilege of taking pictures) is “too good to be true.” But just as well it is too true to be good. Taking pictures is always an act of presumption and rebellion. Taking pictures thus quickly instils greed and so much less often modesty. (That is the reason why the attitude of bragging is much more common in photography than the attitude of humbleness.)

    If, thus, a camera shoots in two directions, forwards and backwards, merging both pictures so that the “back” dissolves in the “front”, it allows the photographer at the very moment of shooting to be in front with the subjects, rather than separated from them. Through the “viewfinder” the viewer can step out of his shell to be “on the other side” of the world, and thereby remember better, understand better, see better, hear better, and love more deeply. (and, alas, despise more deeply, too. The “evil eye”, after all, exists as well.)

    Within every photograph there is also the beginning of a story starting “Once upon a time…” Every photograph is the first frame of a movie. Often the next moment, the next release of the shutter a few steps further on, the subsequent image, that is, is already tracing this story’s progress in its very own space and its very own time. So over the years, at least to me, taking pictures has more and more turned into “tracing stories.” (…) With every second picture the “montage” is already on the way, and the story that has announced itself in the first picture is now moving into its own direction, defining its sense of space and portending its sense of time. Sometimes new actors appear, sometimes the alleged lead proves to be just a supporting part, and sometimes no person at all is at the center, but a landscape.

    I firmly believe in the story-building power of landscapes. There are landscapes, be they cities, deserts, mountains, or coasts, that literally cry out for “THEIR STORIES” to be told. They evoke them, even make them happen. Landscapes can be leading characters themselves and the people in them the extras.

    I believe just as firmly in the narrative power of props. An open newspaper, casually lying in the corner of a photograph, can relate so much! A billboard in the background! The rusting car protruding into one side of the picture! A chair! Standing there in such a way that someone must have been sitting on it only moments ago! An open book on a table with half of its title legible! The empty cigarette box on the sidewalk! The coffee cup with the spoon in it! On photographs, THINGS can be serene or sad, even comic or tragic.

    Let alone clothes! In many pictures, they are the most interesting part. The sagging sock on a child’s ankle! The turned-up collar of a man who we can only see from behind! Sweat stains! Creases! Patches darned and mended! Missing buttons! A crisply ironed shirt! A woman’s life all summarized in her dress, her entire life showing in the sufferings of a dress! A person’s drama conveyed by a coat! Clothes indicate the temperature of a picture, the date, the time of day, time of war, or time of peace.

    And all of it appears in front of the camera just ONCE, and every photograph turns this once into an eternity. Only THROUGH the captured picture does time become visible and in the time span BETWEEN the first shot and the second the story emerges, a story that, were it not for these pictures, would have slipped into oblivion for the same eternity.

    Just as we want to disappear, out into the world and into the things, at the very moment of taking the picture, the world and the things now leap out of the photograph at the beholder, seeking to survive and to last there. It is “THERE” that the stories come about, in the eye of the beholder. (…)

WIM WENDERS. Once – pictures and stories. Munich, Schirmer/Mosel, 2001.

New horizons, old references…

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My first live memory about photography was when I was 4 or 5 year-old. My mother took an underexposed portrait of me, with a little spot of light in second plan. Then I asked my sister where this photo was made, and she teased me saying “It was when you were too young, so little that you fitted inside the camera! That’s why this picture is so dark!” I believed in it for a very long time…

Later, when I was 10 or 11, I became in love with airplanes. I used to live very close to the airport in Brasilia, planes passed by over my head millions of times every day. As an excuse to go to the airport, I took my mother’s Nikon F2 camera, my brother set the light meter for me at home and all I had to do was going to the airport and photographer that beauty Boeings 737 and DC-10s…

Years later, I came across with Sebastião Salgado’s work. I was studying anthropology and I thought that photography should mean Sebastião Salgado… And then, one morning I took the newspaper and read an article about Nan Goldin. It was the first time that I saw something completely different from documentary photography, and I became very interested about how photography is open to all kind of subjects and approaches. On the bottom of the same page, there was an advert from a university in São Paulo, announcing a Bachelor course in photography… I had no doubt. Three months later I was living in there…

I still like underexposed pictures, I still became impressed with tons of iron flying and I bought my first book of Nan Goldin some days ago…

First impressions…

    After four years working as a newspaper photographer, making hundreds of pictures everyday, now I realize how I lost my eye.

    During this time, of course I developed a lot of important photojournalistic  skills: how to work always in hurry and any condition of light, how to choose the better angle, how to behave in all social conditions, how to find a good picture in a boring place, how to deal with stupid press agents…

  Unfortunately, I also realized that I acquired some of the worst vicious that a photographer can have. If your composition is not good enough, don’t worry: cropping photo is a current practice. If you are not a precise sniper, don’t worry: you’ll never miss a moment with 8 frames per second in a Mark II. If you are not inspired in that precise day, don’t worry: forget the visual plasticity and concentrate on the information. If you don’t know how to work with the available light, don’t worry: put a lateral flash, even when it is completely dispensable, and you’ll have an acceptable light. If you are in a big event and you miss that specific photo, never worry: someone from any international agency made this picture and your newspaper won’t hesitate in publishing their photo.

    And more: can be called Photojournalist that one who goes to the office in the morning, get the equipment, a car and a piece of paper saying which is the assignment, when and where?

    What I know is that now I am learning how to compose again, how to move myself again (zoom lenses makes a lazy photographer), how to watch and read the light again and how to think about the world – which means how to find a good story. Here I go.