It has been a while. I am well aware of it. There is no question that both time and daily flow have been altered to a certain extent for all of us. It is especially visible in the photographic industry with currents accelerating and revealing a very different way of interacting, working, shooting and even presenting our work.
These factors do not excuse my absence on this blog. Today I realized that I’ve been missing this special place and the interaction with you all. As I’ve said many times in the past, this blog is my home. This is where I feel truly free, personally and professionally.
Where have I been? For many years I had a very present and active persona, sharing with you here and on many other platforms my work and photographic thought. At the same time, I was working on multiple projects. It was an intense period. I learnt a lot, crafted many great images and met many fantastic people – including some of you.
Last year I started shifting my focus to one project. To be honest, it wasn’t a deliberate decision, at least initially. Not at all. I have always loved writing, photography (of course!!!) and publishing. I remember as a teenager my parents’ kitchen was full of magazines of all sorts. My parents subscribed to them and we could all read them, enjoying the editorials and photography inside. Over the years as I grew up, I always loved the idea of the magazine. In other words, the curated mixture of ideas to view and ponder, slowly and deliberately.
Two years ago, a strange and generous cluster of circumstances offered an amazing proposition: starting and leading a photography publication. Back then, it looked like another kamikaze project which could only find its way to a rebel, or rather heretic, like me. Everyone I talked to told me it wouldn’t work. Those who know me understand there is no better motivation for me than facing a friendly but firm army of sceptics. That is how the genesis of the Medium Format Magazine unfolded. It wasn’t even six full days.
We have now been working on it for two years. My dream project combining editorials, content curation and photography is now alive and well. What a time it has been! You can guess where I’m going with this. Well, this is where my disappearance or rather rebirth comes in. After being a photographer out there almost 24/7, the Medium Format Magazine allowed me to stand back. Instead of photographing, writing and representing my own work, I have assembled a small team of capable and passionate people and together we emerged into the world of the best photographic and editorial content possible.
I loved it from day one. I will spare you the first few difficult months when sceptics and nay-sayers dismissed some of our efforts. Yes, it was difficult, financially and organizationally. To be honest, we somehow made it difficult for ourselves. We decided to work on the quality of the content, which is difficult to achieve. Every month was a balancing act between the financial aspect (yes, we do pay for content, design and editing), the right imagery and high-quality editorials. Every morning I woke up and faced a challenge of some sort. But it was not about my editorials or my photography. With my team we could sit down and discuss our direction, what constitutes great fine art photography and insightful editorials. These are not easy questions to answer but we dare to try.
It has also been an incredibly humbling experience. As our magazine grew and subscribers supported our effort, I had a chance to interact with amazing photographers. Indeed, working on interviews has been one of the most difficult but rewarding aspects of this endeavour. I always wanted to go beyond the “How did you start in photography?” clichéd questions and go deeper into the photographic soul of each photographer. I had the chance to look at the quality of photographic work far exceeding my own skills and visual repertoire. This new role of curating such high-quality work was a fascinating challenge. It has been a constant tension of ideas and rewriting photographic definitions where you move the acceptance line up and down. You make choices and you stand by them. What does it mean when you say the work is elegant? What is great composition? Why doesn’t this particular work fit? The questions were overwhelming but we faced them all.
This work put me in the backseat, under the radar and…I loved every minute of it. I realized this month’s issue is somehow very special to me. We are featuring an exclusive interview with Dan Winters – a photographer whom I have admired for a very long time – and not only for his visual wit. His book “Road to Seeing” has been one of the most important photographic books in my life. After all, it is a book about life itself! It’s all about how Dan grew up and how his curiosity and hunger for knowledge led him to photography. Citing Dan’s favourite quote by Jay Maisel: ”If you want to become a better photographer, become a more interesting person,” I grew and learnt along with it. Indeed, it was an honour to interview Dan for the magazine.
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What about your own photography, Olaf? Honestly, I don’t know. Not knowing doesn’t bother me anymore. I feel this strange peace and conviction that everything will be fine. I will continue to evolve but without pressure to produce and share. In fact, I feel my photography is at a place just before a major turn – a few more metres and I will see more clearly. I am learning every day by looking at the work of the best photographers in the world. I am not talking about mega YouTube stars who are popular due to their personality rather than their photography. I’ve discovered a huge, hidden world of photographers who are not even on social media but who have been working for years on a single project and producing stunning work.
I am thrilled that I can enter this world on a daily basis, admire the craft, discuss the photography and learn so much. It is a humbling and character-building experience. In fact, I believe this is the best thing to happen to me and my photography.
And finally, regarding this blog. I thought about you, my photographic friends, and decided to make it even more personal, a sort of memoir with one proviso – I would love you to do it with me by interacting and sharing your own thoughts and experiences. What do you think?
As always, I leave you with some recent images taken with the GFX 50S and the GF 45-100.
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