Friday, 21 September 2012

My first journey into photography

I recently started a photography course, Encouraged by a friend, but also following an earlier passion of mine. I had always wanted to be good at taking pictures and perhaps a few many times I had lived in the dream of being a photographer. This is when I was a student in Paris studying Economics which I used to find boring and un-interesting. Contrary to that dull theory of numbers, photography seemed a much more exciting and creative option. And so seemed to me all other humanities subjects from social studies to history, literature and art.

Photography though held a special place in my subjects 'pantheon' - that of being accessible, anyone can be a photographer, all you need is a good camera. I had a great desire to be spending my time doing photography stuff, documenting faces, particular happenings, people on the margins, unusual interactions. I wanted to photograph the beautiful but not only, also what was less attractive and striking. I didn't get very close on this first journey, but it is still work in progress.

Meeting similar people and being part of artistic groups was interesting but not really. From my limited experience of artistic circles my impressions had been of self-blown snob artists that talked with an air of superiority. They didn't gain my trust so being part of their company wasn't very inspiring. For some reasons conversing with people that write, rather than artists has been easier.

So back in those student days I invested in a semi professional Nikon F65 film camera. That was in 2001 when digital photography had just started. I didn't think of the digital option as I wasn't aware of it. I also believed I wanted to be a proper artistic photographer taking film camera photos, developing myself (which I did at various occasions in a squat on Rue de Rivoli) and taking such good pictures that the doors of the photography world would one day open and welcome me.

Of course being a student is often a phase in life when we have lots of dreams and ideals. And mine were plenty and varied.

I made a good use of that first camera. I bought two second hand photography books and embarked on a self-discovery journey of photography. I used to love going out in the streets of Paris and later Tirana, documenting things that I saw and struck me.

In front of Centre Georges Pompidou on a snowy day

Old couple resting in Pont Neuf

Street fun at Île Saint-Louis 

Grand father with grand children near an Italian restaurant 'Casa della pasta' where I used to work

But the self discovery journey didn't prove easy. Photography is quite technical and I couldn't quite turn into practice what I read about in the books, various focal lengths and depths of field.

Then things changed, my time in Paris came to an end, back home in Tirana I felt like a fish out of water. Passion for Photography was still there but I embarked on a different journey, closer to literature. I translated from French to Albanian a book from George Bataille, an eccentric french writer of the first half of 20th century. His books are about the dark side of human beings, their sexual desires and perversions and the neurosis and unusual behaviors of his characters resulting from the suppression of their dark side. I translated 'La littérature et le Mal', which will be the subject of another blog post.

So photography passion was superseded by Bataille and later on when I returned to Paris by my Master's in Epistemology and Philosophy of Economics, a re-visit of my economic studies but under a much better angle. Major finding - I realised what I didn't like was finance and not political economy!

Last stop for my first photographic journey was an evening in Paris on 'la Fête de la musique' in 2006 when my dear Nikon F65 was stolen from me. While I was celebrating and dancing to the sound of music in front of the fire station in 'le Marais' some very agile young men managed to isolate me from my camera bag by standing between me and the corner where I had put it. They won and I lost and so ended with tears and anger my first photographic journey.

Some other pictures I took back then are here

L'Île Saint-Louis one of my favorite places in Paris back then - we used to sit on the river's banks, drink beers and chat to everyone

Men fishing in Île Saint-Louis 

Boy selling cigarettes in Tirana

Boy under the statue of the Albanian national hero Skenderbeg

Five years later in a very different place and context I embarked on my second journey into photography... To follow on next post.

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