During a recent lull in my usual busy, somewhat stormy lifestyle, I was experiencing, not for the first time and definitely not for the last, a feeling of dissatisfaction about my photography. Trying to find inspiration and perhaps some answers to my “artist’s block,” I picked up a book by Reza Deghati, entitled “War and Peace,” (www.nationalgeographic.com/books).
This book had been given to me a few months ago by one of my ex-students as well as a dear friend, Charles Mifsud. I had not yet had the time to savor it fully.
Until a couple years ago, few of us knew who Reza was, but then we were lucky to have him in our midst on the occasion of when he came over to Malta to inaugurate his photographic exhibition at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. I was fortunate enough to talk fleetingly to Reza, but from the outset, I could grasp the stature and sensitivity of not only a great photographer, but also of the humble man.
Most of you might place this incredible man’s work as it was also innovatively exhibited on the Sliema promenade.
Seeing the incredible images in this book left me spellbound and with mixed, confused feelings.
On the one hand, one cannot but be inspired and deeply moved, as well as sometimes shocked, by his images, but on the other part, it set me thinking.
The more I leafed through the pages full of top world class photojournalism, most of them made possible by the unbelievable courage and resilience of this National Geographic photographer, the more I got that deep sinking feeling in my guts that the bulk of my current photography, as well as most of what we are seeing in Malta, is story less, gutless and just pretty pictures.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some super photojournalists on the island as well as various photographers who regularly show us images with a storyline, with mood, with feeling.
But what actually set me thinking is the question of what images are we actually leaving future generations?
Just glamorous pictures of girls and models? Just semi or totally abstract images? Just record or “chocolate box” photographs? Are we sacrificing raw reality to arty, easy to achieve, contrived images?
All well and good, but I would really like to raise awareness in our local photographers to go out there and sweat on images which really capture for posterity our current lifestyle and issues. Where are the images of our troubled youngsters’ lifestyle in Paceville? The vanishing trades and crafts being taken over by industry? The problems of overcrowding, of pollution, of our children’s daily educational life? The giant construction business, the old coffee shops, the “kazini”, the corner grocery stores being pushed out by monster supermarkets?
Even most of our wedding photography does its best to portray idyllic and classic romantic images when it seems that these weddings are not lasting too much. Does it not make one think that we are living a lie?
Let’s all become more sensitive and aware of what is going on around us and start trying to capture these images before it is too late. Let us attempt as photographers and, as Reza himself aptly puts it, begin “Acting as witnesses to what is happening around us.”
Let us use the power of the image to better not only our way of life but also that of future generations. As the saying goes, “A picture can say a thousand words.”
Let us start “talking.”
Note: Iranian photographer Reza Deghati is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. A renowned international photojournalist with over 40 years of work behind him, he has captured the world in photographs for many leading periodicals and his publications include over fifteen books. Reza lives in France because of forced exile from his country.
Reza has devoted much of his life to documenting conflicts as well as to humanitarian efforts. His fearless dedication to showing the truth has not only many times caused him physical injury but he has also undergone torture during the Shah of Iran’s despotic rule and is still currently unable to return to Iran as his pictures depicting the Iranian Islamic Republic’s repression did not go down well with the regime.
In fact, Reza has not been on his beloved soil since 1981 because of the specter of a pronounced death sentence should he ever return.
© Kevin Casha FMIPP FSWPP AMPS AMPA