IN SEARCH OF MEANING
2017 was the year of visual risk-taking when my photography was in intentional but controlled turmoil. It led me to deep discoveries and many new and exciting visuals, something I called “unquiet presence.” Early 2018 appeared to be going in a similar direction but from the outset I knew that this was not happening. My seeing had shifted and I embarked on something new but sequential. It has become another step in this lifetime of visual self-discovery. I have spent 2018 in search of meaning. I dived deeper into my seeing to find more and say more with my photography. No, I haven’t succeeded, nor think I ever will, but any image, moment, experience or encounter that brings me closer to this indefinite terminus is well worth the lifetime effort.
No, I don’t do photography for myself. That would be very selfish. I breathe, observe, share and communicate with my imagery. I take responsibility for it and I respect you, my friends in seeing. You see, the final act of image creation doesn’t belong to the author. The image must take on a life of its own. It enlightens, saddens, makes someone smile, think, react. The viewer applies their own feelings and visual sensibility, the image becomes a conversation, a new experience. It becomes the bridge where you and I meet, interacting and exchanging our human experience.
I am privileged to do it with you so many times over the course of this year. You took a conscious effort to take moments from your precious life and meet with me through the imagery. I am so grateful for each interaction, each glance, comment, note, smile, exchange. Thanks to you and your support I could create and live. I cannot find words to express the gratitude I feel. Thank you so much.
THANK YOU, MY PATRONS
While for some, a photographer’s life may carry the aura of success, supporting yourself exclusively from photography is not an easy feat. It is a constant struggle, which I have learnt to accept and embrace. Having said that, many projects would not be possible without financial support from generous companies and individuals who chose to help me and others this year. I am especially thankful for the unprecedented gift of the medium format camera to support my Renatus Project and my photography. You know who you are – thank you so much for your life-changing gift of believing in me.
I would also like to thank my amazing photographic friends. There are so many of you! I would especially like to thank Tomash Trzebiatowski for your friendship and almost daily photographic discussions. Your honesty, intellectual bravery and relentless curiosity made me not only a better photographer but a better human being.
THE RENATUS PROJECT
I have been thinking, dreaming and planning this project for years. After all, this is where my photographic heart beats. I could no longer ignore this impulse and finally 2018 was the year when the Renatus Project opened its doors. I couldn’t be happier.
The idea of the project was born within. In the years of struggling to survive, enduring dialysis and a subsequent kidney transplant, I met wonderful people from all walks of life on my journey. Every encounter provided me with a deep feeling of gratitude, reflection and inspiration. But there was more!
Many of my transplant friends told me their life story. Every one of them was unique, powerful and inspirational. As I maintained those relationships some of the stories evolved into tales of suffering and drama but also unconditional love, redemption, and appreciation of life and people. Quickly I realized that those remarkable stories must be told.
The first story was met with a great response. Now, I have three more in the works and they will find their way to the website in early 2019. As my professional life takes shape and it becomes more organized, I am planning to make the Renatus Project a priority in 2019.
Also, I am really honoured that Spencer Wynn, my friend and an excellent documentary photographer from Toronto, joined me in the project. In a few days, you will find his remarkable first story on the website.
THE MEDIUM FORMAT MAGAZINE
2018 was one of the most productive years in my professional life. One of the milestones was the launch of the Medium Format Magazine. With the release of GFX 50R, the medium format market has expanded quite dramatically with many serious amateurs and professionals deciding to sell their gear and enter the world of medium format photography. One of the biggest surprises for me was the lack of resources on medium format photography so I decided to create such a place. With the help and support of my friend, Tomash Trzebiatowski, I launched the MediumFormat.com website along with the Medium Format Magazine. My team, although small, put in an enormous amount of work to make it happen. First, I would like to thank Kasia, who works tirelessly on the layout and design. Your dedication to visual harmony and care about every word and photograph is unparalleled. There would be no magazine without Sally and her hard work and expertise when editing texts and guarding the fluidity and class of the written word. It is a joy to work with a professional editor such as you.
From the start, I was privileged to work with truly amazing photographers. I must mention Patrick La Roque, Jonas Rask, Lloyd Chambers, Ibarionex Perello, Ming Thein and Take Kayo – thank you so much for joining me on this journey from the start and believing that we can create something new and amazing together. It means the world to me.
As I write this, the December issue of the Medium Format Magazine is going live. If you shoot medium format or consider doing so, join us. I am confident you will love the community, exchanges and exclusive content.
A few days ago, one of my students who is also an educator wrote:
“I felt privileged to be among them [workshop participants] and consider Olaf’s workshop the best I have ever attended! I do not say that lightly –as an educator myself I am often critical of others’ efforts. But Olaf is amazing – I learned so much!”- Rona Schwarz
Please excuse me for blowing my own horn but I take a great pride in the fact that my students find the Visual Poet Experience to be such a profound experience. Don’t take my or anyone else’s word for it. I often share the imagery shot by my students and their work is the greatest compliment I could ever receive.
Most importantly, we often become friends and stay in touch, exchange ideas and learn from each other. More workshops are coming in 2019! I am heading to Melbourne, London, Vancouver, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo. See you there.
It was a strange year for my Simplicity-In-Seeing website. We started strong with many webinars and a lot of content only to slow down toward the end of the year. I quickly realized that in order to deliver this personalized, intuitive and deep photographic learning experience I would need a partner. Fortunately, Tomash of Fujilove invited me to take the Simplicity-In-Seeing program under his umbrella. With these new resources and possibilities, I am now in a position to do exactly what I envisioned: creating a place for serious, both new and experienced photographers who care deeply about the craft of seeing and want to engage in highly interactive and deep learning, and exchange experience. Starting in January, I will be hosting two, two-hour Deep Dive online sessions when we will study photography at its deepest level.
This is not going to be a standard talking-head experience. We will communicate with each other and share our experiences, issues, challenges and imagery. There will be image-centered critique sessions, discussions and assignments. With Tomash’s support I will produce two PDF Photographic Letters in which I will discuss issues you care about the most. To top it off, we will offer our members the chance to meet every year and shoot without any additional fees. Our first meeting in person is planned for London.
I would be so delighted if you decided to join us for this new experience.
TOP 10 IMAGES OF THE YEAR
In December every year I decide to choose my Top 10 images of the year. The selection is absolutely mine with no outside influence. I find this exercise fascinating and highly educational. I strongly believe in discipline in seeing and forcing yourself to choose is one way to nurture this important skill. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 images of the year.
In my next post, I will continue with the summary of 2018. I will share with you more imagery, some New Year’s thoughts and more… Stay tuned.