Hazard reported ahead! - There was this life alarm repeating itself, every moment, every day, during the past months. Somehow I managed to press the ignore button, conveniently hidden at the back of my mind and headed for Vama Veche, to live the last edition of VSLO, the festival that took my soul last year only to give it back fully charged. And there I was, against all odds, ready to jump into my racing car, grab the steering wheel and drive right through all these much needed experiences again.
It's been one hell of a ride! I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, I missed my "old crew”, the girls I had so much fun with during my previous race, VSLO IX, but I was lucky enough to make new friends. Thank you, Aysel, Rosana and Ciprian, for adding your friendships to my journey, Marius and Irina, for sharing that beer until my acute felling of loneliness went away.
Those who have already lived at least one edition of VSLO know the drill. For the others, I will only say that it is a unique mix of experiences and knowledge, adrenalin, suspense, utter joy and excitement. I can only imagine the hard work that lies behind it. Cătălin Rudolf, Andreea Han Rudolf & the Team, thank you for your idea, for believing in it and for making it happen. Thank you for the stubbornness and perseverance you embraced when the road became bumpy. Thank you for your time and hellos! I wish one day you'll feel only the happiness your dedicated efforts brought to others, like me. You touched all the bases!
All kinds of emotions were animating the familiar places of the Festival, travelling from the mornings at Famagusta to the long evenings at La Frontiera, from the lecturers to the participants and back again. I did my best to attend all the morning classes as I can never get tired of listening to people speaking about photography, regardless of the genre. This edition was enriched - in the order of appearance - by the presence of: Vlad Eftenie, Michail Moscholios, Cornel Lazia, Chris Suspect, Andrei Ciobică, Cătălin Săvulescu, Radu Tudoroiu, Jens Krauer, Dragoș Cristea, Florin Ghioca, Marek Czarnecki, Spyros Papaspyropoulos, Vali Bărbulescu, Olav Urdahl and Paul Păun.
I would like to give thanks to some people that made my days during this VSLO edition. I’m still under the spell, I remember every moment and all the talks! All the beers too, because there were few of them, having to drive back and forth all day. As you might know by now, I had my 2 kids in 2 Mai. ;)
Bogdan Iacob. Former winner of the VSLO's trophy. Always had a hello at hand. It made a difference. He also found the time to shed some light on the #outofthephonephotography mystery. Thanks to him, I have a smarter relationship with my phone and one frustration dead and buried.
The Olympus Team: Rox, Gina, Bogdan and Paul! Simply the best. Impeccable, like Vistara Airlines and Rigzin! (Ever since my journey to India, I cannot find a better superlative.) I stepped into their office asking for a winning camera. Guess what, they gave it to me! :) Thank you for the fun, laughter, advice and friendly presence!
Paul Păun is the one who can transform the Olympus digital cameras into these perfect, obedient and smart photographic toys. He also teaches analogue photography courses because analogue photography is a never ending joy.
Chris Suspect. Street and documentary photographer. I met him last year and he left a strong impression on me. He’s the kind of teacher that lights up your perspective on street photography in 5 minutes. No matter how hard I try, I can't find the right words to express my gratitude for all I have learned from him.
Michail Moscholios. Photographer & Writer. Author of The Anti-manual of Street Photography. I have never heard of any other author to write about photography the way he does. Nor have I ever imagined that one of my photographs could be described with such a power of expression that the description would become more beautiful than the picture itself. I owe him a strong boost to my self-esteem when I needed the most. Also, it was Michail who brought VSLO to my attention.
Canon Romania. My picture won Best Photography Contest powered by Canon. This recognition brought me one more precious minute of confidence and happiness.
Cornel Lazia. Photographer, fascinated by Urban ecosystems, as his instagram page says. The perfect example of a gentleman, I might add. It is the work I did for his cinematic portrait assignment that gives me great satisfaction. I spent one day trying to find the right person, when it had been easier to use my daughter and get it done in a flash. Choosing the harder path led me to Ioana. While taking her pictures, in a hurry and under a torrid sun, I asked her about her favourite movie. The line taken from the science fiction thriller Inception proved to be the perfect match, not only for the image itself, but for me too. ;)
Florin Ghioca. Theatrologist. Journalist, editorialist and photoreporter. One man show. Unbeatable translator. :) He revealed the secrets of theatre photography without holding anything back. He was all in, for the art, and the art was there, three nights in a row, when we were lucky enough to see Paul Cimpoieru on and off the stage. I don’t know about the others, but to me, Paul Cimpoieru is the mirror of empathy and kindness. He is the believer.
Spyros Papaspyropoulos. Try to say his name out loud. I guarantee satisfaction when you manage to do it flawlessly. Street Photographer. StreetHunters.net is the place that might just help you "remove the blinds from your eyes". I had been familiar with this site for quite some time when I met Spyros in person. His name came as a total surprise and I exclaimed: I know you by your name, I just couldn't associate a face to it! I think there will never be a better time to confess: I have always thought it was Dr. House in his profile picture!
Flash Street Photography is about being honest and courageous when facing the street and its stories and there is no better teacher to learn all these from. I can swear I saw him jumping with joy while he was walking with us, trying to share all he had gained by experience.
-Are you enjoying yourselves? I analysed that question while I was lying in my bed, incapable to send all that adrenalin to sleep. It was the only thing he asked, several times. There's no room for lies, if the act of photography doesn't bring happiness, it's futile.
Last but not least, Jens Krauer. Street and Documentary Photographer. His words about candid street photography got stuck into my mind last year. “Take 100 pictures, delete 99 of them, publish one or none!” If photography were divided into levels of difficulty, I don’t see how the Candid Street Photography's level of difficulty could be beaten. I have never been a keen observer of the outside world, always trying to handle the fights of my own mind, so the above genre was kind of untouchable, until I listened to Jens talking about it. Then, everything became doable.
Without being aware of it, Jens facilitated my first encounter with real, round, perfect happiness resulting from a photographic endeavour. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone and the fact that I was able to do it was a success in itself. Taking a Jens Krauer home with me - I am talking about the autographed picture I won - perfected the beauty of the day. Right there and then, I was ok and willing to dream bigger, dropping the constant need of backing up for just one second.
I cherish the little gesture people make, so I feel I should share the story of the autograph. As a general rule, I just hate to disturb people. That evening, when I was looking for Jens, to get his autograph, I found out that he was leaving the next morning. Three minutes later I saw him enjoying dinner and a conversation with a friend, in the garden of La Frontiera. It took me 10 more minutes of thinking and balancing do’s and don’ts in my head until I breathed deeply and headed to their table, holding the picture in my arms. Long story short, there they were, a few moments later, the two lecturers and street photographers putting their beers aside and spraying the autograph written on my picture with whiteboard marker - the best writing tool we could find - with hair fixing spray. Like that was the most natural thing to do while having a beer, in the garden, by the sea.
That night I went to sleep with a smile. There was beauty and kindness all around me. When I woke up, the same smile was floating on air, waiting for me to acknowledge the moment.
Here I am, smiling again. I wouldn't change anything. VSLO, you’ve been good to me. For 10 full days, no hazards were reported ahead. I wish you well!
*** I wanted to provide a Romanian translation, but I believe it is not really necessary. My mother will hear the stories from me. Florin Ghioca would probably translate it like this: Sorana zice că are 2 copii în 2 Mai… Și că e dependentă de VSLO.