Throw yourself off a cliff. Figuratively speaking, I mean. Photography is a language. Think about what you want to use it to talk about. What are you interested in? What questions do you want to ask? Then, go for it, and throw yourself into talking about that topic, using photography. Make a body of work about that.
We live in an age in which we have an unprecedented number of images around us,' says Norwegian photojournalist Jonas Bendiksen. 'One cannot walk on the street for more than five minutes without seeing more photographs than we can count. On the web, from news outlets to photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, the amount of imagery available is increasing by the tens of millions a day. How do we stay relevant as photographers in such a situation? For me, the answer is that although we see millions of fairly good images being produced every day, we don't see millions of good ideas, or great stories. And this is what drives me!
I try to always be honest about why I am there, what my intentions are, what I’m trying to do. Because in my experience, people smell whether you are creating a sort of story [or] a narrative that’s supposed to please someone or it’s trying to camouflage what you’re really trying to do. People smell that from five kilometers away.
If I were to say exactly what it is that I like about being a photographer, one of the top things would be that it gets me out there. Near and far. It gets me out there in the world outside of my own head and my own space. I get to meet really interesting people, and photography is a reason that I can have an interaction with them and just look at the world with their glasses [on] a little bit, and visit their reality and their world. So to me, it’s that meeting with people, which is sort of attractive about photography. Yes. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it makes me nervous and all this. But there is that feeling I’m meeting real people and we see again and again out there that reality is so much more rich and strange than most fiction you can dream up. And I just love, love, love connecting and touching that.
For me, being creative and doing photography, it’s sort of an excess energy thing. I just can’t do it if I’m low on energy, or I’m hungry, I’m cold or I don’t have the right shoes… these kinds of things are as important as any sort of deep image analysis that I’ve ever heard because when I’m in the field, if any of those things kick in, I’m dead. You know, I can’t do anything.
You know, you’re distilling it to just a few images. And you’re sort of seeing how you’re going to guide the viewer through this experience. And I think a lot of people miss that part, in the sense that they think photography is all about being out in the field and using your camera and the rest is sort of details. No, I think the other way around… after all the planning you’ve done and all the time you’re going to spend afterwards editing… the actual taking of the photographs in the field, that’s sort of like almost a small detail of the process, which is critical, of course, but it’s really just one part of a lot of important things. So the editing, the sequencing? For me, that’s where a lot of the magic happens.
I’m totally fine with saying, you know, whatever works that makes you survive as a photographer and still produce work that you care about... whatever your system is that makes that happen, then you’re amazingly successful because if you can live off photography and still have some reserve to do work you love… what more can one ask for, that’s a success.
The overarching process of establishing yourself as a photographer... this takes time. And it’s not done in a year’s time, it’s not done in two years’ time. It takes time to find your foothold, to find your way of doing things, find out what you are interested in. I mean, all that stuff takes time… and you have to think of it as a real sort of marathon…Patience is actually one of the things I’m quite good at. I’m blessed with a good patience and that, I think, has served me well.
A lot of people when they’re starting out, they don’t realise how important it is to move around in three dimensions. It’s not just about pointing a camera but really like [finding] your vantage point above or below, I’m always trying to get my vantage point in the right spot. So I’m always sort of clambering up on things, trying things in three dimensions.
I hear again and again people say, ‘Oh yeah, I love doing photography but editing, I’m not so good an editor’ or ‘I hate editing’. To me, it makes no sense because editing is actually most of the job that a photographer does. I mean, that’s the most time-consuming part. The editing is really where you shape your stories and you decide really who you are as a photographer and what this project is all about.
The overarching process of establishing yourself as a photographer... this takes time. And it’s not done in a year’s time, it’s not done in two years’ time. It takes time to find your foothold, to find your way of doing things, find out what you are interested in. I mean, all that stuff takes time… and you have to think of it as a real sort of marathon…Patience is actually one of the things I’m quite good at. I’m blessed with a good patience and that, I think, has served me well