Creative: Balkan Return

Permalink 3 Comments

Tirana, Albania. Our third trip. The city feels familiar. I only know parts of this place but love the feeling.
Abandoned factory, southern Albania.

Tirana, Albania. Our third trip. The city feels familiar. I only know parts of this place but the feeling of familiarity makes the experience more calming than anything else. A shorter trip this year but with a longer lead time on the front. A few days to unwind from the ten-city, three-week road trip we finished just a day or two ago, and a few days to regain my Albanian traction.

The last time I took a workshop was 2019, here in this same place. Unknown to me at the time, I did my research and formed a plan as to how I would visually engage with this unique country. Old and new was my mental game plan, reflected in the double-exposure. The old of isolated, dictatorship Albania and the new of the burgeoning democracy. With ten minutes of leaving the hotel I realized my plan for doubles wouldn’t work, technically, so I had to improvise and adapt.

I found a way that did work and began to frame things up as we moved from the tight, urban spacing of Tirana to the wide open spacing of northern mountains. My preferred spacing is that middle distance of the suburbs, if you will. I don’t literally mean the suburbs, which is many places are depressing, bedroom style communities. I mean in the sense of the distance between objects in the frame.

Foreground, mid-ground, background.

I work with wide to medium length lenses mostly, 35mm and 50mm historically. For those of you wondering, yes, WHEN I get my Leica Q, whatever version that is, I will begin to use the 28mm. I spent the first three years of my professional career with the 24mm as my main short lens, so the 28mm isn’t a huge learning curve.

I also have the decision to make in regard to continuing with my double and multi-exposure work. My original plan this year was to move away from this work, and I will to some degree, but I also realize the potential is there to continue to build on this type of image. I go back and forth about this work, back and forth between relevant and gimmick. One of the main advantages of multi-exposure work is that I can work in any lighting condition. I can add or subtract the photographs to compensate if the light is too harsh.

Tirana, Albania. Our third trip. The city feels familiar. I only know parts of this place but love the feeling.
North Central coastline, Albania 2022.

I am no longer a photographer who thinks about doing the same thing again and again and again. I spent much of my photographic life in that mold, and I’m glad I did because it taught me many things, but I don’t see the world the same way I did twenty or thirty years ago. Heck, I don’t even see it the same as I did even five years ago. The world changed and so did I. Now I think as much about the written word, or sound, or sketches as I do the photography. (Still consider writing to be the “high-art.”)

And I think about books.

I see page layouts in my dreams. They aren’t great page layouts, as my background doesn’t include a single design class, but I still see images and text flickering by with the turning of the page. On the flight over I had one particular layout playing again and again in my mind. This is often how my body and brain work to tell me that something I’ve done might show promise given the right amount of luck and polish. The book signifies going full circle. The shoot, edit, sequence, design and payment sear the efforts through ink to paper to bind. Test book after test book, tinkering and trying new things.

Tirana, Albania. Our third trip. The city feels familiar. I only know parts of this place but love the feeling.
The beginning of something I can’t quite explain.

Comments 3

  1. Don’t think too much when a good idea starts bugging you. Just follow it, adapt to it and the outcome will reveal itself in no time. And have a nice trip!

    1. Post
  2. Were I in your shoes, I’d think of double exposures as a secondary arrow to your quiver. In other words, I would continue with the concept, but not try for it in camera. That’s just (to me) taking the difficult, and probably pointlessly difficult and dangerous route that stands as much chance of ruining both exposures – if you indeed limit it to two exposures – as getting anything worthwhile. Why not still think about the combinations, but shoot them separately? Photoshop exists; you don’t need to see it as perhaps a less pure version of the old route. You can see many new visual things springing to life when you are sitting down in comfort, without immediate pressures, things that cans simply evade you in the heat of the moment.

    Either way, done well, such techniques can be very evocative of whatever the intention may be yours to suggest. One thing: those pix types are perhaps less prone to becoming boring than much of what else anyone does.

    When we came to Spain to live, back in ‘81, there was a gallery in Palma that carried wonderful paintings of scenes with little portraits cleverly painted in; they looked perfectly relevant and not intrusive at all. I had never heard of Photoshop at the time, and probably neither had the painter. Is there anything, basically, that’s new?

Leave a comment