“I love photographing. It’s that simple.”
Every year the Arena Photographers group, which I am a member of, organise a weekend dedicated to photography and photographers. The Arena Seminar brings together a first-class group of speakers and photography enthusiasts for a weekend of lectures, discussions and the opportunities to share inspirational photography.
This year, similarly to previous years, the speakers line-up was excellent. Each of them different, and each of them equally inspiring. Each of them left a lasting impression on me personally, and I don’t think I am far from the truth if I say most of us in the audience.
Alan Hayward, Arena member for over twenty years, a former Arena Chairman, a freelance photographer combining his life-long passion for art and science. Alan’s presentation was a wonderful and fascinating insight into the diversity and mystery of the natural world. His connection with nature was clearly visible in his thought provoking and inspiring images of intimate, quiet landscapes.
Ben Hall, a professional wildlife photographer with many well-deserved awards behind his name. His presentation was packed with breathtaking images, which kept everyone mesmerised. Ben’s creative approach to wildlife photography and his perfectionist eye for detail were truly admirable. His images were not only stunning images of animals, but also of their habitat. They were so wonderfully composed that if you took away the animals you would be left with beautiful landscape photographs.
Alixandra Fazzina, an independent photojournalist focusing on under-reported conflicts and overlooked human consequences of war and displacement. In her talk she shared her experiences of documenting the exodus of migrants and refugees from Somalia to the Arabian Peninsula over two-year period. In her powerful images she captured horrific and touching stories of people sacrificing everything they had and risking their lives for the hope for better future. It was a very emotional hour an half that put what we do, the trivial problems we have into perspective.
Adrian Dennis, a staff sports photographer for Agence France-Presse for the past 16 years, capturing a wide variety of sports. Adrian photographed many of the world’s major events including the FIFA World Cup, the Ryder Cup, World Athletic Championships, Rugby World Cup, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, London Olympics and the Rio Games. In the past I never paid much attention to sports photography. However Adrian’s passion, gentle humour, captivating images and his creative use of light and composition totally converted me.
Stuart Franklin, an acclaimed photojournalist, a member of the great Magnum Photo Agency since 1985, and its former President. He covered major events around the world, from the Middle East and Africa to Northern Ireland and the Heysel Stadium disaster. Stuart took one of the most powerful photographs of the twentieth century – the “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 1989. In his presentation Stuart talked about his latest book Documentary Impulse, which explores history of documentary photography. His deep passion and knowledge of this subject made his talk unforgettable.
I felt privileged when I was asked to give a presentation too. When I first thought of it, I struggled with the title. How can I sum up everything that I would like to talk about in one simple sentence? Then Martin said: “Remember the picture I took of you a couple of years ago?” And I did, and it all suddenly made sense. The picture summed it all up.
It was about THAT moment, which we are all waiting for. That perfect moment when everything suddenly comes together, and we can press the shutter and preserve the moment the way we imagined. And what happens when the moment doesn’t come. As my Mum says: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.”
It turned out to be a subject that all of us, the audience and the speakers, could identify with. All of the speakers mentioned Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”. All of us were talking about our own moments that we are waiting for. Alan his meditative time in quiet landscapes, Ben capturing unique moments that natural world creates, Alixandra documenting people’s touching stories of hope and sacrifice, Adrian preserving the times that happen in split second and after that are gone forever, and Stuart exploring “the moments we experience and wish to preserve, the things we witness and might want to reform; or simply the people, places or things we find remarkable”.
It is one of the things that connects us all. The other is the passion and love for photography. When I felt that my landscape photography was totally insignificant compared to capturing most important events around the world or tragic stories of people with no hope, Stuart summed it up in one simple sentence: “What matters most is that you love what you do.” And hopefully that is what brings all of us photographers together.