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EU > Slovenia > Koper

Portrait of a Slovenian

Koper, SI (View on map)

Selecting respondents for my daily interviews is a rather random process. While walking around town, the very few criteria I use to decide whether somebody is a suitable respondents are the following: 1) Looks like speaks English, 2) Looks friendly 3) aged roughly between 20 and 30 years old. I thought of today as a suitable day to write another small biography, just interviewing one person and finding out about his or her life. Presenting today: a 20-minute interview with Simon, 31, photographer.

Simon (30):

`Visual language is much stronger and much more international than any spoken language`
Simon is originally from Bled, a small yet very photogenic city in the North-West of Slovenia. Simon started taking photos at the age of 15, and slowly developed his skills towards where he is now. `I initially graduated in economics, then obtained a degree in photography as well. Most of what I did until two years ago was just hobby photography and it may have stayed like that if I hadn`t traveled to Brazil in 2003.`

Around the world
`Back in 2003, I started to think of photography as a career option. I was planning to travel around the world for one year, but got stuck in the first country I set foot on: Brazil. Just about everything in that country appealed to me. I stayed around for 7 months before continuing my trip towards Central and Northern America. In the meantime, I started questioning myself why I couldn`t make a living out of photography.`

`My career as a photographer does not go back more than two years from now. The definite highlight so far is the publication of a photo series about Lipizaner horses in Slovenia`s edition of National Geographic Magazine, last July. The Lipizaner race was bred in Slovenia in the 16th century. At the time, Slovenia was part of the Habsburg Empire, which still leads many people to think that the horses have an Austrian descent. Anyway, I got this assignment after showing my portfolio to one of the photo editors of the magazine. As it was my first project with them, they couldn`t guarantee that they would actually publish it, but the editor was positive. If I didn`t completely mess up, I would be in there and so I was. Right now, I have one photo in each monthly release. They give me a photo of an antique photo of a certain location. I try to trace the location and take a photo of what that exact location looks like now, and how much it changed in the meantime.`

`My main drive to take photos is the strength of visual language. It`s so much clearer than spoken language. A photo is universal, it speaks to everybody and has no geographical or language borders. My style of photography focuses on geometrical shapes and contrasts between light and shadows. For subjects, I like pretty much everything that has to do with reporting reality. Sports is a recurrent subject.`

`It`d have a hard time deciding whether I see my photography as a craft or an art. I think it has bits of both, depending on the type of project I work on. If I`d have to name photographers that inspire me, I would select different photographers for different aspects of photography.: Robert Capa for the documentary aspect, Sebastiao Salgado for the art element and Martin Parr for his recordings of contemporary society. In preparation for the horses series for National Geographic, I also looked at early photos by Yann Arthus Bertrand, who shot an entire series of horse portraits before leaving on his mission to photograph `The World from Above.`

`I think any subject is suitable for photography but I would personally prefer to stay away from personal suffering. I do not want to interfere with people`s personal unhappiness without being able to help them. I could do war reporting, because it is a social phenomenon, a mass-thing. However, regardless of the circumstances, I will look at everything as if it`s a photograph. I can`t help it, but I don`t mind.`

`My photography now pays for itself, but it hasn`t been like that for a long time. I paid for my trip to Brazil by selling my car, which was a Skoda Favorit bought for me by my parents. They did not mind that I converted their present into cash. They actually encouraged me. I had traveled a lot before and they were surprisingly confident that my plans would work out fine. The camera I took with me was a ?still analog- Canon EOS50E, which I bought off money I earned by selling the shares the state had handed out when Slovenia got independent in 1991. At the time, they were blank and not associated to any company, leaving the choice of which company to invest in up to the owner of the blank shares. I was lucky to have a chance to invest in Krka. This pharmaceutical company was the one of the most successful companies after privatisation, so I got good money for my shares.`

`Being a photographer in Slovenia is not easy from a financial point of view. Only four out of my 20 classmates now work as photographers. The others now work as graphic designers or found jobs at art galleries, museums. I don`t blame it on the study curriculum, which worked out perfectly fine for me. It`s hard to decide how much I learnt at the academy, but it for sure boosted my skills and performance.`

`Earning a decent living with my photography is one of the two main goals I have. I don`t care about getting famous or not. I will spend my energy on making ever-better photographs, making money and being able to keep photographing the subjects I like, in the way I prefer to present them. Like photography itself, I am not limited to borders. I just might end up working in Brazil for some time again, or in Australia which is still on my list.`

Click here for links to the following websites:

Simon`s website
Yann Arthus Bertrand`s horses
National Geographic Slovenia

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