6: The Interview
There’s still so much I need to learn, I’m still rather fresh in this field. Since I conducted a few political interviews, I thought it would be education for me to interview a few photographers. One of them was Slovenian street-photographer Tom Plevnik. I had been following him on WordPress and enjoyed his style of photography on his site. When I e-mailed him, he said he would love to do but there was one caveat: his English wasn’t so good.
So when I copied the contents of the e-mail interview through here, I had two choices: leave it like or correct his English? I’m not tell you which one I choose. You can probably guess for yourself. This is not to make fun of him since I have an extremely poor grasp of my own native language- which if you didn’t know was Dutch. English had always been my beloved language. I read in English, I talk mostly in English. The Dutch language always seemed so lame.
Most of the questions I asked pertain the surface level of photography. There are some personal ones and Tom has done his best to answer them. To tell you the truth he waited patiently for me to even send those questions. I wanted something from him and it took me more than a week before I finally send him the list of questions. There were some things going on in my life. Some good things -went on vacation with my girlfriend- some bad – the occasional bout of heightened emotional instability. My mind was all over the place. There are the obsessive-compulsive thoughts that manifests itself in a series of manic habits. It makes me scared of this world, it makes me scared of being alone, it makes me scared of myself. Sometimes it gets really bad, you have to give yourself a break and stop wanting things for a while. You can’t do it too long- you’re not allowed to get used to it- but you can’t push yourself so far that you’ll get some sort of mental breakdown. So I choose to relax for a while, have some cocktails with my woman, get a little drunk, have a few laughs, not giving a fuck about my personal ambitions.
Eventually I have to get back. I get a little anxious if I don’t write for too long. You have to get back on that horse. No fucking excuses. You have to do right on your words, so I finally send the list of questions to Tom. I already had lost on interviewee due to my procrastination- which would have been the content of the still unwritten third interview regarding the political situation in Turkey. If you really want something, you have to go for it. You can’t blame others for bailing out on you if you fail to deliver.
After the questions were asked, it was time to write this article. I interviewed the subject, Tom Plevnik, over a month ago. I I knew what I was supposed to do, but I kept stalling it. There was naturally no rush, there was no deadline besides my own. But I’ve learned that you can’t relax too much. Eventually you gotta get to work. But every time I tried, something was wrong. I could have easily half-assed it: write some intro, copy the interview and voila, there you go. But none of that felt write. I felt I needed to go to a more creative route. It needed to be about something more, something bigger, a greater challenge.
You can’t keep doing the same trick, eventually you gotta expand. You need to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes one’s comfort zone can be far deadlier than all the monsters outside it. Perhaps this article portrays a maturity of writing- or progression- or perhaps it shows a lack of restraint. It certainly became more personal, closer to a stream-of-consciousness style -hough I honestly never finished any Kerouac book. I’m not saying he’s bad, he just seemed to ramble too much, which might sound like the pot calling the kettle black.
Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
This article has become more personal and less about Tom. It has become about what it means to be a street-photographer. This was not my original intent but on the other hand, you need to go where your creative spirit takes you. Sometimes it takes you to a completely new direction. And Tom has certainly, taught me things even in his short answers. It would have been easier to interview a more pretentious fop. He will ramble on, he will reveal himself. You have to a choice to dissect his bullshit or go along with his bullshit. To go along with the bullshit is easier. You’re not writing a biography for god’s sake. It’s only supposed to be interesting. Bullshit can be just as interesting as the truth- though rarely as disturbing.
And though I cannot state that I looked into his soul, our correspondence together with this interview proves that Tom isn’t a pretentious man at all. He’s a humble man, the best kind of artist. He just wants to do the ‘one thing’ he loves to do. It makes him feel good when he does it right. There is no illusion of grandeur, there is only the love of the craft.
On his website it says: One Picture Can Change Everything. The picture that changed everything was the one he made with his sister by the sea. I don’t know which picture was the one that changed everything for me. But I hope I can take on in the future, one which will change everything to the viewer who sees it. It will inspire the viewer, it will make him want to do more. He will change the world around him for the better, he will hang this photograph at his workplace.
There is the question of why we venture into the street and make pictures of strangers. I told you my reasons of why street-photography means so much to, now let Tom tell you his:
When did you first start taking an interest in Photography?
Photography has always been present in my life, I don’t know why. I got the first camera in elementary school and the camera was Meikai EL. I still have it somewhere.
Do you remember the first ‘good’ picture you ever made?
I think I made my first good photo with my sister on the sea, still in elementary school and on a black and white film. I think I still have this photo.
Which photographers/artists inspired you the most?
For the first time I was first in Paris in 1998, I saw black and white photographs in a gallery. Later, I purchased the first book in an antique shop and found out that it was Henri Cartier-Bresson. Now I prefer Thomas Leuthard. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a photo with him in Ljubljana.
What is your famous picture from a famous photographer?
That is Robert Doisneau and his Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville.
Do you have any photography books in your collection? If so, which one is your favorite?
I have many books. But surely my favorite is Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image, and The World: A Retrospective, Peter Turnley: Parisians and of course Bystander: A History of Street Photography.
Since I struggle quite a lot with the technical aspects of photography, do you think it’s essential for a photographer to be good in the technical aspects of photography?- knowing the exact ISO, shutter-speed, aperture etc.
I don’t know to be honest. I just stick to the principles of focal length lens and speed of aperture. If the focal length of the lens is 85mm, the shutter speed should be at 1/80. If necessary I’ll adjust the ISO.
How much time do you devote to your art every week approximately?
Because I’m not a professional photographer and I have a regular job, the photography is intended for weekends.
Do you believe in talent or hard work?
It’s hard to say, but it probably takes a lot of hard work.
You goddamn right… How long did it take for you to take yourself seriously as a photographer?
For the last two years, I have been more intensely involved with photography, and I have begun to call myself a ‘photographer.’
Are you sometimes insecure about your abilities?
Many times, ha ha ha ha ha…
Have there been moments in your life that has inspired your future photography?
There were many moments, one was the last weekend with photographer Natalia Wisniewska.
Is it hard to be an artist/photographer in your country?
Yeah, it’s very difficult. Though we do have many Slovenian photographers, such as Arne Hodalič, Manca Juvan, Matjaž Krivic, etc.
What is your favorite kind of photography- portrait, street, landscape etc.
I really enjoy in street photography. But lately, I like fashionable portrait photography.
Are there any dream projects of photography you hope to do one day but are now impossible?
If I could work in Paris as a photographer fashion photography.
Are you able to look at someone’s work, a photography, and see if they have what it takes?
I do not have official photographic education. I learned everything about photography from books. I do not know, I’m just a visual guy, I like the photo or I do not.
And finally; what kind of advice could you give to an aspiring photographer?
Be yourself, take a lot of photos and enjoy.
Which is basically all the advice one needs.
Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/