In the beginning…

It is quite fitting I should write my first blog post here, at the Café Vincent in the modestly quiet municipality of Konstancin-Jeziorna near Warsaw, Poland. There are three reasons for why it is so:

For one – I like coffee a lot. I love taking a moment out of my day to enjoy a small cup of bitter espresso and reflect on things. It gives me time to muse about photography and I usually end up doing exactly that while I sip my tasty, sandy cup of freshly brewed black.

Reason two is that taking a day off work is what needs to happen every once in a while to afford me those moments of reconnecting to my creative side which is precisely what I am doing at the moment and it is bearing fruit, as you evidenced by this initial post.

And reason three is that I am here among others who took time to pause and ponder, or at least pondered pausing to take their time. With my trusty old Leicaflex SL sitting on a polished hardwood table next to some flowers in a vase, this makes for a perfect setting to start a photography blog.

A classic Leitz-Wetzlar made Leicaflex SL with a 50mm Summicron-R f/2 lying on a wooden table at Cafe Vincent.

The curious irony of it is that I am not a photographer at all. Not such that I could tell someone I was one had they asked what is it I did. That’s a harsh thing for me to admit to sometimes. I really wish I was a bonafide photographer, but I’m just not. I am your average, lower-middle management corporate stooge. That’s what I do.

I am not a writer or a blogger either. I am not even an expert on cameras or photography software. So, why start a blog about photography? The answer is quite simple, unlike the path I traveled to arrive at this idea.

The short version: if you asked WHO I am, I would, without a smidgen of doubt or hesitance answer that I AM a photographer.

What does that mean exactly, if I don’t claim any special expertise or professional achievement in the field?

Many things. It means I observe and see and record with a camera a version of life that is intimate and unique to me. It also means I love nothing more than spending my time with a camera or a photography book, being around cameras and images, or watching documentaries about accomplished photographers.

My whole life, I never liked studying anything, really. But I always loved reading about photography. I don’t necessarily memorize or practice everything I’ve read but I am a keen reader and a student of everything photography.

My whole life, I was looking around for something that I could announce with full, heartfelt honesty as being my passion. There were a few things here and there I enjoyed doing and even spent a few years at a time devoting myself to practicing. But none of those came close enough in terms of intellectual and emotional involvement.

Well, after years of maturing towards that realization I can finally admit to myself that photography is, indeed, a true passion of mine.

Whether I will ever become a photographer or not is anybody’s guess. It depends on so many factors, not the least of which is figuring out what kind of photography I enjoy most or finally matching that to some sort of financially positive, entrepreneurial effort. Maybe this will never happen, I cannot be sure.

But what I am certain about is that photography, to me, is life. Everything about life that is of interest to me is driven in some way by the way I perceive it photographically. By that I mean esthetically, visually, emotionally. Because that is how I relate to the world and that is how I find beauty and vitality in all that surrounds me.

For a while, I thought having my portfolio sitting on this website and posting my work occassionally to some social media profiles would satisfy my need to share my experience with it and to track whether I was making any progress. But it felt very unfulfilling, despite some positive feedback. I’m not an aggressive enough self-promoter to seek a giant following on Instagram and I don’t really want a ton of followers who will accumulate views and clicks, with minimal interest in my work apart from just catching a glimpse of a shot that briefly caught their attention. I found seeking that affected my shot selection negatively. It made me prone to creating and choosing photographs based on their forecast popularity, instead of opting for those most gratifying to me.

For instance, while I started honing my photographic skills a few years back to record my kids’ childhood with better quality images, I recently found myself cutting out all family pics from my online presentations deeming them to lack enough professional or artistic quality. I wanted to do more alluring or intriguing photography, not show my family albums, which I thought was trivial. There were some privacy concerns associated with that decision, too, but mostly I figured it ’unprofessional’ to mix my private moments with a public photography profile. I believed it would emphasize my amateur status that much more, since I’ve never done any real commercial photography. A couple of years spent actively pursuing my passion is a start of a collection of such lessons and experiences.

Nina and Timmy in an armchair

And so I realized I want to write about it all. Hence this blog. This won’t be about cameras, equipment reviews, comparison tests or photographic techniques. This blog will deal with the emotional state of being a photographer, in the broadest and, at the same time, most intimate sense of the word. I intend to document, in words, photographs, and possibly some videos, the journey I take through the rest of my life as a true heart and soul, all-in photographer.

Unsure what (if any) benefit this will bring to my readers or myself, I am taking this as a necessary, natural, Forrest Gump’ianesque effort in a Field-of-Dreams-if-you-build-it,-they-will-come-type vein. Whatever will come of it, I shall go on and just keep this up as long as the juices keep flowing.

If I am not mistaken, there are at least a few other photographers out there who will enjoy reading this stuff, just because they enjoy reading anything about photography they can get their hands on, the way I do.

Disclaimer: This blog is not sponsored or affiliated with any camera or photographic equipment brands. However, I intend to express personal preferences and opinions about various products and aspects of photography, and so my natural bias will veer towards brands I trust most, but if my motivation ever changes, I shall express this in an updated disclaimer to whatever piece of content is affected so.

Also, I wish to thank several actual photographers for inspiring me to start writing about my experience as a photographer at heart.
Those are, in no particular order:

Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton for creative inspiration and fantasies of someday becoming a world famous photographer.
Bruce Barnbaum for writing the best books on photography I have ever read and making me realize I do not have to compromise on my creativity to produce worthwhile work, just need to get better and better at what it is I find interesting about the images in my mind.
Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau for charming me with visions of street photography that slowly turned me onto the subject and filled my frames with people.
Many other names in the history of photography, of which new ones I keep discovering, who never fail to surprise and impress and who continually inspire me.
Matthew Osborne, whose great portrait work with the Hasselblad and Leica cameras pushed me to strive for higher quality and looks I wanted to achieve which paved the path for my equipment ambitions, as I realized the camera and lens are only tools, but then photography is a very tool-dependent art.
Thorsten Overgaard, whose own pages on shooting with Leicas have provided hours of enjoyment and ultimately inspired me to start this online creation.

Thank you and I hope you will enjoy this blog.

Martin Yastrebsky