Be Prepared! Musings on what I think it takes to be a Photographer

 

 

As a child, I so desperately wanted to join the boy scouts. My parents, for their own reasons, thought that the scouts were an autocratic organisation based upon a military structure. I didn't get to join… However the scouts motto stayed with me: “Be Prepared!”. OK I added the exclamation mark. 

 

Being a Photographer is not easy. It is a constant struggle. I need the access, I need to get close, I need to be unobtrusive, observant, in the moment, concentrated, alert, awake, interpreting my surroundings, looking for the light, get over my fears etc… But all of this doesn’t mean anything if I am not able to act when a Photograph presents itself. 

It has happened to me that I was in a hostile situation at a protest, standing in a crown of “Anarchists”, specifically behind the one holding a brick, and as he reached back to through it, I turned on my camera (at the time a D1X) and due to the start up time of the camera, completely missed the shot of him throwing it at the police.

Jolanda Spiess-Hegglin's Day

Jolanda Spiess-Hegglin's Day

 

I was already doing what I am about to tell you, so please keep in mind, if it seems that I am pointing my finger at you, there are three fingers pointing back at me. My work is far from perfect, but I try to learn from my mistakes. Trust me I have had many learning opportunities : ). 

 

Markus Hürlimann's Day  

Markus Hürlimann's Day

 


My advice to aspiring Photographers: Be prepared. Go out and shoot every single day. You can shoot the streets, rent big lights and shoot portraits of friends, photograph birds, cats, kids (your own if you have them, but don't go to a park photographing random kids you don't know. I have naively done this and it ended ugly). Give yourself an assignment that is simple enough to do almost anywhere. I remember a time when I shot shadows for a month as a project. I learned things then that I still use today.


The point I am trying to make is be in command of your gear so that using your camera becomes second nature, then you can dedicate yourself to more important things, such as observing what is going on around you, whats happening with the light, or better yet, your subject.

I try to remember that whenever I think I’ve “got it” I’ve actually “lost it”. Being complacent is the best way for me to stop growing.


And another thing: If I go out and aim for “good enough” I will never progress. At times I get really anxious before really banal shoots, because I hate to take pictures that I find boring (unless thats the point). 


Jolanda Spiess-Hegglin Having a private moment

Jolanda Spiess-Hegglin Having a private moment

I was in the Parliament of Zug this week. It was the first session after a sex/rape scandal broke between two politicians. They were both present. I got photos of them sitting, staring at their phones, shuffling papers, talking to other politicians, voting in session, drinking coffee. Neither was talking to reporter or posing for portraits. It ended up being a 13 hour day where I tried to be completely present and concentrated on both politicians. I transmitted about 130 images throughout the day. During the last coffee brake of that session, one of them walked over to the window to talk with members of her party. She looked tired, but the light from an overcast sky was hitting her through the window in a very soft and beautiful way. I exposed for the light outside and was able to capture this image of her. This was lucky, because I am not in control of the events unfolding before me, however what I could control, that day, was capturing the Photograph as it presented itself to me. 


The mood of the photograph is very intimate. She seems un self-conscious compared to the other images of her. You can see she has been through allot, and it is costing her strength to be there. I shot 3 or 4 frames before she moved. The end result is my favourite Photograph of 2015 so far. It is wonderfully serendipitous and rare when all elements fall in place and I manage to press the shutter release in a moment that tells the story in a way that makes me step back and look.


Being there is important, but without practice I miss the shot.

I nearly chocked on my Croissant the morning I saw the placement of the Photo as a full page in Sonntags Blick

I nearly chocked on my Croissant the morning I saw the placement of the Photo as a full page in Sonntags Blick

also got published in the Tages Anzeiger