Ready for a giant understatement? There are wildly creative, talented people in every nook and cranny of this fascinating world. No matter where we travel, I seem to gravitate toward creatives, which I guess is only natural. Before embarking on this quest to travel the world, my life revolved around my career and that career revolved around the development of artists and artistic endeavors.
Each time I meet one of these artsy souls, I can’t help but think, “I’d love for this person to meet this other artist I know,” while always dreaming of collaboration and cross-pollination. Match-making for art’s sake, I can’t resist the urge.
This desire to connect others now leads to this new feature on aGypsyGene, called “Art Makers.” It is intended to shine a tiny little sphere of light on those creatives who inspire me along the road. I hope you will consider connecting and following the artists profiled to help nurture cross-cultural seeds.
First up is a talented, young photographer whom Matt and I met during a Workaway in northern Croatia. Tomislav’s passion for horses brought him to the farm (where we were staying,) as a natural trainer for the animals – one of his favorite hobbies. He can usually be spotted roaming the field or trotting a horse around the ring, often with camera in hand.
The artist grew up in Brdovec, a small village 30 km from Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb. He studied economics for two years, but quickly realized that wasn’t his path. An avid traveler, Tomislav has visited most of Europe (except Russia and the Nordic countries) and he estimates about 80% of Croatia. In the coming year, he has hopes to visit both Mongolia and Iceland.
His work, simultaneously moody and lush, has been featured in a series of group exhibitions in Zapresic and plans are in the works for a solo show.
Q&A with Tomislav:
Q: What drew you to photography?
A: I don’t really have a deep spiritual answer to this question, or a funny anecdote. I remember joining a cinema/photo club when I was fifteen, mostly because of being interested in film and making short films. Being around all the cameras, photo and video editing software, lights and tripods just felt so natural that it was more a case of, “I finally found something I was looking for, but I didn’t even know I was looking for it.”
Film-making came first, I actually didn’t get into photography until a few years later. Most of the people I know who make videos started as photographers first, it seems I chose the reverse way.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: From all sorts of directions and objects, but If I had to pin-point it, I would say books and interesting modern art. I also watch a lot of films, feature/shorts/animated/experimental, and when being exposed to different types of things it just kinda blends together and works.
As far as favorite subjects, I would say landscapes, people and nature (together, not as in “people, nature”, more as “people in nature”), and horses. I could photograph horses everyday of the week and would never get bored. There are so many details and moods and possible photographs to be made that the combinations are endless. But the main thing is to get the photograph just right, it doesn’t matter if its people, buildings, horses or landscapes.
I hear a lot of photographers use the phrase “This is how I see it,” and I wouldn’t necessarily say that they are wrong, I would just say that I try to shoot it “as it is.” When I take a photograph of a horse, I want it to be representative of the whole character.
The whole “horse love affair” is a story that could be an article by itself, but I would say its a combination of me being scared, then reluctant, then inspired and now…obsessed. And very nostalgic. But mostly obsessed.
The family farm of the Sabljak Family (where we met) is a great inspiration. It’s a special place, a combination of people, animals and landscape that always seems to bring out the best. It has made me a better person and a better photographer and every time I take my camera there at least one “magical” photo happens. I don’t know if other photographers have a place like this, all I know this is mine.
Q: How do you usually approach a shot?
A: My approach isn’t, “Well, this is happening, so I’ll just freeze this moment and get a picture out if it,” I tend to think, “OK, I’ll try this with a different angle than it should be, with a lens that is not used for this, or at an exposure/aperture that really is not right for this situation.”
Only when you go to that part of photography, art, or even life and go out on that ledge, take a risk or use a “non-traditional” approach, do you allow yourself the possibility of failure, only then can the truly great images appear.
Q: Like many photographers, I know you pay the bills with wedding photography. How do you keep it fresh bride after bride?
A: I struggled a lot with this. When I started and got really into it, I started to feel this burning out sensation. It was really, really tiny, but I could feel that the potential creativity or freshness could start to decline.
The thing that snapped me out of it was just a random thought, while editing some photos, that even though I photographed/filmed too many weddings in the last couple of years, this current couple doesn’t know that and doesn’t care. This is their first wedding (most of the time), it’s probably their last, and they will have this photograph/video for the rest of their lives. There is no “do-over” or “take two,” this is now, and how could you not give your best and just give that extra bit when people depend on you like that?
Also, it helps that the positive experiences while dealing with newlyweds outweigh the negative ones. And even the negative ones can put a smile on your face, even if they tire out your feet and back.
Q: Tell me about what we’ve dubbed the “once in a lifetime” shot (night image on the farm.) How did that happen?
A: For some reason I wanted to do a “star trail photograph.” I have never done it before, even though I have done some long exposure shots.
I grabbed the tripod, camera, a wide lens and went to the farm during daytime. I set up everything and waited for the sun to come down and darkness to fall. I really wanted to have the house and horse stables in the shot so there was only one way of framing it.
At the time, the Sabljak’s were tending to a fire in the right side of the shot, and even asked me if it would interfere, and while that was a possibility, I didn’t think it would matter. So, I took a chair, programmed the camera to take a 25 second exposure every 30 seconds and waited in complete darkness for 3 hours. Not knowing if the photos were good, if the stars were bright enough for a star trail photo, if there are any satellites or aeroplanes passing on the sky. I couldn’t even tell if there are clouds gathering.
They went to sleep and I was all alone, sitting there, just listening to the sound of the camera shutter every 30 seconds. After a while, the horses came to me (they were out in the pasture,) probably confused with what I was doing. But at least I had some company and someone to talk to.
After the 450 shots were complete, I went home and transferred the photos to the computer. The next day, I did some light editing, but I still did not see the final image. And during the process of “stacking” I could only see the trails appearing millimeter by millimeter. When the last photo was stacked, I couldn’t believe it. Everything came together that day; there was no moon so the stars were bright. There were no clouds. The fire gave just the right amount of light on the house and stables and by wanting to have the whole house in the frame I accidentally got the trails to be round, not just trails.
A lot of the things happened by accident, but as time passes by I think of it more as a subconscious part of me taking photos. It may not be correct but it sounds very good.
Q: What do you hope is next professionally?
A: I really don’t have any plans, I would like to see where this train on which I hopped is going. I just want to be a tiny bit better every day, and so far it works.
Q: What is your camera/equipment of choice?
A: Most of the photographs are done with a Canon 5d mk2 with a 24-70 f2.8 or 70-200 f 2.8 lens. For video I use a Nikon d5200 and a d7100. They are not full frame DSLRs, but have a great full HD video image and are very light (which is excellent for using with a steadicam)
But I really think I’m gonna say goodbye to all the old-fashioned DSLR cameras and I’m going the way of the mirrorless system. Its gonna be the Sony a7r II. As soon as I can get my hands on it.