When I finished my first novel, about one year ago, besides a sense of relief (I spent over a decade working on it), I wondered if there were any readers left in the world.
At a very basic level, my book is a story about a photographer who needs a rebirth. It is also about a world overwhelmed by the burden of images. I asked a few close friends for their opinion; they observed that in any form of art I have explored so far, from painting and mixed media to writing and photography, that the unifying link has been visual. There are so many ways of seeing.
I started taking pictures at the age of two. I didn’t start making some decent images until probably last year. For me, seeing is primarily a form of listening. It has little to do with the gear you use, but rather with waiting and understanding your surroundings. Sometimes I see better just by closing my eyes.I started reading Proust, Borges, and Dostoevsky when I was 14. I don’t remember ideas from those books, but I remember images. Ideas came later. Of course, you don’t get these titans at that early age because you haven’t lived yet. You have to wait. You have to allow the world to penetrate your being. You have to allow yourself to be born, to love, suffer, be broken, and re-build, and ultimately even acknowledge your impermanence. In some respect, photography is also a form of preserving, a shot at immortality.We want to remember and be remembered. On a subliminal level, even our selfies are born out of discomfort in face of death. Most of the time, our mission fails. Most of our photos end up in a cyber dustbin or in a cardboard box, and probably they should. On another level, we should never dismiss the joy that’s part of the process of making a photograph.
In the 21st Century, photography has become the primary form of embalming our fantasies. You could argue that one of the prime challenges in modern contemporary culture is not only how to communicate, but how to create meaning.
That aside, more than taking/ making images, I am looking for real connections with the places and the people I collaborate with. For many years, I avoided depicting people in my work. Today, with every photograph I take, I am interested in starting a conversation. On some level, I want to preserve this weird, beautiful, sublime experience I am having. Ironically, while I want to hold onto beauty by catching the butterfly, I have to kill the butterfly in order to bring focus to its allure. Sometimes I only connect with the Universal Debris. Sometimes I connect with the Magic.
I find all the talk about constantly upgrading your equipment, etc. amusing. Of course, you need good tools (one of my father’s favorite sayings was: “I am too poor to buy cheap things.”), but tools are only tools. The fact that everybody has access to a camera these days says something about the false democracy of this art form. A fast car won’t turn you into a top race driver. Cartier-Bresson could lend you his Leica, but you won’t be able to create the same magic. We are all too familiar with the white noise of meaningless images around us – a particular type of pollution. And how many photos of nudes wearing gas masks while laying on railroad tracks do we need?
You need a different propeller that cannot be found in tools; a propeller that pushes you out of your comfort zone, out of clichés. In my case, I think it’s curiosity. I do have a relentless hunger for knowing, feeling, and seeing the world in new ways. I am not sure why this doesn’t fade as I get older, but I am grateful for it. In life as well as in art, every day is a short life and every click of the shutter release button sounds a bit like a heartbeat.
Technical note: I use mainly Fuji XPro1 and Fuji XT-1 cameras, with 23mm and 50mm lenses.
About Florin Ion Firimita
Florin Ion Firimita is a Romanian-born, American visual artist, novelist and world traveler whose most recent body of work was has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (Grand Palais) in Paris. He is represented by GADCOLLECTION Gallery in the City of Light. [Official Website]