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Changes are Coming

And so, life happened.  Last post and update that I had officially made to my photography portfolio has been in October of 2015.  “Serge, what the gosh darn heck?” you may be asking.  Your answer lies in the first sentence of this post.  But I owe my followers an answer.  So, I will tell you what happened!  I found out that I was going to be a father.

I fought valiantly against corporate greed and seduction of time sucking activities.  But, when it came time to help my wonderful wife to prepare for the birth of our amazing son, there was no battle to fight.  Do I still love photography?  Yes, I do.  Am I planning on returning to this wonderful medium?  Less planning, more hoping.

So, what have I been doing with my life?  Well, I have been writing a story.  “SERGE!” you may yell, “HOW CAN YOU WRITE AND NOT TAKE PHOTOS?!”  That is elementary, my dear reader, I write on the train if I manage to stay awake.

Writing has been my passion since early childhood.  I always felt inspired and had ideas twirling around in my head like tiny little ballerinas.  But twirling was all they did.  Not until August 6th, 2013 could I put together ideas and thoughts into one coherent package.  What happened August 6th?  I decided to play a joke on my friend and I started a blog called Chronicles of Bimbly.

Little by little my audience and my content grew.  What started out as a joke lead to well over a thousand pages of verse, poetry and pictures.  This is also the reason that I will be rebranding my site and social media to not just reflect my photography work, but also my writing.  Mainly my writing for the next foreseeable future.

When I started with photography, I was completely clueless about the industry and the challenges that I had to overcome.  All I had to go on were my skills the following advices I heard either from my parents or some cheesy TV show: fake it till you make it, practice makes perfect and when taking each picture, take it with intent of making others weep with joy when they look at it.

Now, as a completely green, about-to-be-self-published author, I am entering the book industry with about as much information and guidance as I had with my photography.  I was told that I had to have a blog to help my readers connect with me.  So, here goes nothing.

Well?  What are you waiting for?  Start connecting!

Sincerely,
Serge Sanin

Selfie-loathing

The more time I spend on the internet the more frustration I find towards these horrible things called selfies. Let’s start from the beginning. What is a selfie? A selfie, is a picture someone takes of themselves and posts it onto a social media site. It is, in my opinion, a way for pretty people to get other people’s opinion on how pretty they are. So if the selfie craze started of someone taking just a quick picture of them at a certain location, then now we are at a point where people just stand in their bathroom and take a picture of their abs or rear ends.

Ladies, you know how there is this big problem going on with women being treated as objects, not given equal rights, and pretty much used only as an eye candy and stuff? Yeah, these selfies of you in a G-string are really not helping. And yet, the funny thing is that if any of these women would catch a guy doing a bit of window shopping, they would be offended. Why? WHY? You are the equivalent of Amazon.com, showing all your goods for the world to see, so why get offended when someone does it in front of you?

But hey, I’m not the one to preach. I genuinely would like to understand what is to be gained by these photos. Are modelling agency scouts out on the hunt in Instagram for the hot human population? Is this how Hollywood is recruiting? If it is, that would certainly explain the ever-growing decline in acting abilities. “Hi my name is Doesn’tmatter, I never acted before, but it is my dream to be on the silver screen. Just look at my butt! It belongs there!” I mean if this is the mentality, then I’m actually afraid for humans as a species.

In conclusion of this glorious rant, all I would like to say is that I am not a hater. I think that selfies, just like everything else, can be smart, witty, and inspirational just as much as dumb, demeaning and plain stupid. It just makes me sad to see so many talented women fighting to be noticed for their intelligence rather than their T&A.

As always thanks for reading.

Endgame

Someone recently asked me: “Serge what is your endgame?”  I was very confused by the question.  Obviously, my endgame is to be rich and famous, living on top of a mountain in Tibet.  I will own a twelve story mansion with my family.  I will have high speed internet access and American cable.  I want to own a llama, a motorcycle, a photo studio, a martial arts dojo, and seventeen 120 inch televisions.  The temperature of the mansion will adjust pending on my mood.  I won’t even get into my preferences for a computer system.  Let’s just say I want to own Skynet (this is for those Terminator fans out there).  After spending another half an hour listing my end of life requirements, I was rather rudely interrupted.  What the person actually meant was my endgame for my role as a photographer.  I don’t see how the above things don’t apply but fine.

My endgame for me as a photographer is not to sell out.  It also includes an overwhelming desire to not run out of creativity, passion and drive.  Like any artist I want my work not to go unnoticed or underappreciated.  It is my dream to be able to be a photographer as my career and doing what I love for a living.  But sometimes I wonder if that is actually possible.

Oscar Wilde had a great quote: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  What I am trying to say is that I do not know if I would enjoy photography the same way if it was something that I relied on in order to sustain my family and myself.  I believe that in that particular situation you do not work on your own terms.  You have to take jobs that you normally wouldn’t simply because you need the money.  And suddenly you see your passion turn just into another job.  You wake up groggy, shop for caffeine in Costco on a weekly basis, and finding yourself thinking about the awesome green lawn on the other side of the fence.

Despite everything I still find myself desperately wishing for that life.  I want to see one of my photographs on a cover of a magazine.  I want to grab my camera every morning and go have fun rather than go to work.  I want to sit back in an armchair of my own studio and look at the walls that display my life’s work.  So I will desperately strive to reach my goal as a photographer.  The other one would be great too, but one thing at a time.

Corporate America: Death of an artist.

Alright, I am willing to admit that the title may be a bit too dramatic, but it is my firm belief that is also true in many ways.  Unlike many artists, I work for a big corporation, getting a steady paycheck and still attempting to fight an epic battle with the biggest adversary out there named Time.  But more and more, it seems, I find myself on the losing side.

While working for a company in New York, especially if you are a salary employee, it is considered normal to work sixty plus hour weeks.  It is considered normal to receive phone calls in the middle of the night, weekends and holidays with work related questions.  It is also considered normal for people not to take an hour for lunch.  In fact many companies invest into a nice little snack bar on the floor, or cafeteria or a small kitchenette only to discourage people from leaving the building.  Obviously if a person will grab a bag of chips and eats at their desk they will get more work done.  It is a sneaky ploy, but it works.

Working late nights and weekends is also quickly becoming part of everyone’s job.  If you are salaried employee you are most of the time exempt from receiving overtime pay or late night pay or anything else other than a pat on the back for that matter.  And it is better for a company to have one employee overburdened with work and forcing them into such a routine than hiring someone to help.

Where am I going with this?  Very recently I caught myself asking my boss if it was alright with him if I do a shoot on a weekend.  Luckily I realized how stupid that sounded before the words left my mouth.  Why should I run my personal time off with someone who in no way, shape or form should have a say about what I do with it?  But it seems that once you join a company you eventually get beaten down and broken down to the point where you give your time freely without even realizing it.  Your job is no longer your second home.  It is now your first.  People take time away from family, from hobbies and from their passions just to keep up with the firm’s ambitions.

I have met a lot of people over the years who were painters, poets, writers, photographers, sketch artists, actors and so on.  And when I asked them why they weren’t doing what they loved to do, I got the same answer in return: “No time, have too much work.”  And I will openly stand up and salute anyone who has managed to unshackle themselves from the comfort of a steady income to take a risk and to follow their hearts.

Unfortunately the term ‘Starving Artist’ is not just an expression and certainly not a joke.  There are so many people out there who have nothing but their art to sustain them.  And when that disappears, they find themselves on the street not knowing when they will eat next.  Once you fall down that hole, it is close to impossible to climb back out.  Your credit score is destroyed, you have no phone number or home address and you can forget about getting any prestigious jobs.

In today’s economy it is almost impossible to sustain yourself on gigs that could be here one day and gone the next.  The security blanket of a steady income is too tempting and too difficult to leave especially if you have people that you must care for.  Is there a solution to this?  Is there a plan of action other than standing on the rooftop doing a Howard Beale impersonation and screaming “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore!”  Each of us must decide for ourselves on how to balance our lives.  The only suggestion I can give is a small quote from the movie Home Alone:  “Never give up!  Never surrender!”

We are artist!

 (Rebuttal to THE STORY OF REMORA AND THE SHARK.)

Are photographers artists?  Gosh darn right we are!  We are the seekers of truth and makers of history!  Do you see a painter on the battlefield, charging in right behind the troops and dodging bullets?  Do you see a musician help improve the fashion industry?  Or is there a sculptor who would go out and create a long lasting masterpiece in an abandoned and forgotten factory?  And even if he does, who would be there to capture his work?

Yes, my dearest readers, photographers are artists and so much more.  Art is not just about creating something from nothing.  It is not just about turning gelatinous goo into David.  Photography is a different medium.  It is a medium of freezing history in its tracks.  It is a medium of proving the unbelievable.  Photography will take the simplest garbage and turn it into a masterpiece.  Granted, there will always be Marcel Duchamp and his Fountain.  That sculpture makes me think that Marcel was a photographer at heart, but that is just me.

Yes, the photography world has been simplified and saturated by all those who wish to be those amazing artists whose names would ring through generations to come.  But which art style hasn’t?  How many would-be painters and sculptors roam the streets hoping to be the next Dali or Michelangelo?  Here I am hoping to be the next DeRuiter with this awesome blog.  Speaking of writing, how many millions of books and stories are out there?  Every genre is filled with writers with their unique styles and forms and ideas.

Photography is just the latest greatest format that has become accessible to the general public.  We, as photographers, should not get upset or discouraged that our, once fairly small, world is being invaded.  We are artists.  Each one of us has our own style, our own view of the world and our own way to capture it.  Do not be discouraged.  Learn from your peers, improve, and never try to be like anyone else.  Because art is about showing who you are through whatever medium that best represents you.

The story of Remora and the Shark.

A single thought terrorized me with sleepless nights, poor appetite and cold sweat upon my troubled brow.  The idea that photographers are not true artists, but rather remoras or sucker fish who just latch on to the greater being and rely upon it for sustenance and are never capable of actual creation.  Don’t get me wrong, sure we do contribute to the greater creature’s well-being, but are just unable to survive without it.  At this point many of you are probably outraged, some might be mildly confused, the few might even be intrigued by this statement so please let me elaborate.

A painter will take a blank canvas and with a brush and colorful goo create a painting to rival their imagination.  A sculptor will take clay or rock or whatever medium they desire and turn the unshapely mess into something truly unique and extraordinary.  A musician will mix and match sounds to create a symphony… and so on, and so on.

So, that being said, what of us photographers, why aren’t we true artists?  Well to create a picture all we do is use the elements in front of us and click a button.  Now, of course, those of us with fantastic imagination can go out and assemble complex scenes and then taking a picture of them.  But is the photograph the true masterpiece or the subject?  Is the model the true talent?  Is it the people that contributed to the model such as hair and makeup artists?  Could it possibly be the setting?

In this day and age how hard is it to go out and purchase an expensive camera and go to a remote destination and just snap a few shots off a mountain top.  Granted, these pictures capture a breathtaking view, but are they truly art?  Are these pictures not simply a cheap and quick imitation of reality?

Yes, photographers have to capture just the right moment, with perfect precision, lighting, at the correct angle.  They have to constantly worry about focus, bokeh, shutter speed, ISO, aperture, zoom, framing and so on.  But despite all those things, each photograph still takes roughly a second to create, not counting post edit of course.

To use computer terms, a photograph is just a screenshot of life.  So if we take a picture of a building.  We post that picture on the internet and someone goes out and takes a screenshot of our photograph of this building.  Then, they go to change the color scheme, add a little flower in the front lawn and superimpose some birds and some fog.  At this point is this new picture a copyright infringement?  The law says yes.  We, as the original artist say yes.  But could this person just as easily have been there, standing at the same exact spot taking the same exact picture?  But who is the original artist?  The man who built the building or the person who took a picture of it or the person who took a picture of a picture?  Or are they all artists after a fashion?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

Of snowflakes and snowstorms.

I think that browsing through as many photographs on daily basis as I do, has made me extremely impatient and prejudiced towards certain subjects and styles in photography.  At this point, I do not think I will ever take a picture of another dandelion for as long as I live.  I am very hostile towards dandelions right now.  I think next time I see a dandelion I will yell at it and tell it exactly what I think of it.

But seriously now, does looking through other photographer’s works stifle our own creativity?  I mean I could take a heck of a picture of a dandelion and be proud of it and set it as wallpaper on my phone and show it to people.  Only to find that there are about three billion similar photos already surfing the web and I’m really not that original.

I find that a lot of times when I work with other artists they always request for me to send them photos of the concept that I am thinking about.  At first I was confused.  How can I send someone photos if I haven’t taken them yet?  Then it was explained to me that I have to send photos that were taken by other photographers that are similar to what I want to shoot.  So I got to work looking for my concept photos.  After I was done I didn’t want to do the concept any more.

A snowflake is only unique and original when it is melting on the palm of your hand.  But when you look outside during a snowstorm, they are pretty much all the same, and you couldn’t care less what they look like individually, all you know is that you want the storm to stop.

I think that there is a narrow line between being inspired and mimicking a style.  After you see an amazing photograph in a certain style you yearn to reproduce it.  But you are never the only one.  And so, in comes a whirlwind of photographs in the same style of the same concept.  Yes, you have taken an amazing photograph.  But the creativity value of it is cheapened when you see other works that are very much like it.

Take the slow shutter speed on water style.  First time I saw it I was blown away by the beauty of such a photograph.  The water looked smoky; the sunset burned in the background and the details of sand and rocks was unparalleled.  But now I have seen hundreds of photographers use it.  And some photographers use this style exclusively.  Yes, it is very pretty.  But it is also boring and I think it’s time to stop.

A letter to Instagram.

Dear Instagram,

I love you.  You fulfill my narcissistic fantasies and give people like me a chance to be famous for ten seconds.  You have made photography accessible to everyone and not just the people with knowledge of Photoshop and in possession of really nice cameras.  It is so simple now to just walk and snap photos as you go.  Sure, an occasional accident and misstep may occur but it’s not your fault.

Thanks to you, Instagram, I can now see every single possible angle of the Eifel Tower and the Empire State Building.  I can now meet every would-be model or comedian.  You have opened a floodgate where every person in the world with a camera phone or a tablet can upload their work to the World Wide Web and get random people to see and comment on it.  Prior to you, one would need a website and a whole lot of advertising to achieve this, but not with you.

Oh Instagram, you are my love and my vice.  My hands feel empty without my phone; my nerves tense up if I don’t refresh the feed for over an hour; I get moody if one of my pictures doesn’t get a sufficient amount of hearts; and I must stop at every puddle I see to attempt to capture the reflection in all its glory.  How else, if not for us Instagrammers, would puddles, dandelions, trees, taxi cabs, rain drops, pebbles and skyscrapers get their time in the spotlight?

We need you Instagram!  You give people jobs!  Thanks to you, some people can now own companies selling Followers to people who feel cheated and unpopular, regardless of the quality of their content.   Others tend to post pictures of their products instead of paying for ads in newspapers or magazines.  So not only do you give people jobs, you also save businesses money.  Thank you Instagram!  You are awesome!

Sincerely,

Your follower: @SergeSanin

A very special thanks.

I find it interesting that almost at every photo shoot that I do, I get the same question:  “How does your wife react to you doing this?”  At first I found the question a bit odd.  What is it that I am doing that should incur the wrath of my wife?  I didn’t understand and so I have asked my wife if she minded.  And with a bright smile on her face she told me that she did not mind.  Quite the opposite, she supported and encouraged me.  And me being me, I didn’t give it much thought thereafter.

It took me quite a bit to understand that taking pictures of models might arouse hints of jealousy in some people.  And why shouldn’t it?  The time that you could be spending with your significant other is now being spent on photographing beautiful people who are acting seductive and sexy for your camera.  But it goes beyond just photographing models.  Every time we pick up the camera we take from our loved ones and give to our passion.

To have a someone who supports you and who understands that photography is art and not adultery and despite themselves, help you, push forward while they stay behind waiting for your return.  And I think it falls to us, artists, to understand that we are not the easiest people to deal with.  We are needy and sensitive creatures.  We need love, support, healthy criticism and social media likes.  We want to be recognized for our work and to be desired by people who we never met.  We want to see our names written in tiny letters on a building size advertisement.  And while we crave all of the above we sometimes may forget the one person who is there for us, who understands us and who will step over their own fears, doubts and insecurities without a moment’s pause if it meant for us to continue doing what we love to do.

Thank you Anna, I love you.

B&W or Color?

Breaking away from black and white was probably one of my first and biggest challenges.  I can take a picture of the garbage on my desk and as long as the exposure and contrast were right, it looked like a cool photograph.  In fact, I actually did that and it looked pretty cool.  Black and white photography is very forgiving in that sense.  All you have to watch out for is your blacks and your whites.

So the question comes in, when do you want to shoot in color or when in black and white?  And at the same time, if black and white is so forgiving, why not just stay with the classic instead of attempting your luck with color?

To me, the reason to break away from the monochrome was simply a matter of a personal challenge.  I knew that my color photography was awful and I needed to learn it if I ever wanted to be a well-rounded photographer.  What I find amusing is that once you shoot color, you rarely can leave it as is.  A regular shot in color always seems a bit bland and a bit amateurish.  However once you brighten the colors, deepen the contrast, blur here, dodge there, increase the saturation, and do an overlay of another color, your picture can look quite amazing.  Yes, it is a bit more involved then that but you get the idea.

Color photography is a lot of work; however I do believe that it is worth it.  Color draws the eye of the viewer.  In black and white, you achieve this effect by using your contrast and negative space.  With color photography you pretty much highlight everything that is important.  If I had to pick the uses for black and white photography and color, I would have to say that black and white is more artistic whereas color is more commercial; not exclusively of course.

Now there are some photographers who would mix black and white with color.  So for instance have red lipstick in an otherwise black and white photograph.  I am one of those snobs who just happen to think that style as tacky and unattractive.  To me it has the same effect as a book publisher releasing a book and highlighting all the important parts for you.  Don’t do that.

In conclusion, always consider what you are trying to say with your photograph and adjust the medium to fit the idea.  If find yourself stuck in one medium, it is probably time to attempt the other.  The more versatile you are, the more knowledge you possess, the better artist you become.

As always please post your thoughts, opinions and experiences.