Beno Saradzic: Circumstances steered me into photography
How did you start photography, the first camera you owned, and how did you developed yourself?
Circumstances steered me into photography. My profession is architectural visualization and illustration. I practiced this craft for 18 years.
I used to produce highly realistic 3D computer generated renderings and computer animations of architectural projects during their design phase. It was 2010 when one of my clients, a real-estate developer commissioned me to create a fly-through animation of a mixed-use development. Aside from the 3D animation, the client’s brief called for a short introduction film, featuring Abu Dhabi, where the project was located. My budget was very limited so I couldn’t afford to pay someone to shoot it for me. It was at that time that I began experimenting with photography with my first digital camera ever; a Canon PowerShot G9. I decided to shoot that intro myself. I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, but after some inspirational research on Youtube, I came across a few time lapse films. They mesmerized me. I was determined to try this technique and after some experimenting, I shot 3 time lapse sequences of Abu Dhabi which ended up in the animation intro. The client was very happy with the result which encouraged me to continue practicing. I learned two things at the same time; photography and time lapse photography. A few months later, I shot my first time lapse film titled ‘Abu Dhabi 2011’ which became a big hit in the area and got me on the radar of my clients and producers. Things sort of progressed exponentially from that point. It changed my life
Are there people or life experiences affect your photography?
To me, the career changing moment was the global financial crisis of 2008 which forced me to abandon the field of architectural visualization because my clients, mainly real-estate developers and architects either went bankrupt or disappeared from the market. It happened quickly, practically overnight. All of a sudden, there was no work for me and I was presented with a big and unexpected question mark; what next?
I knew I had to adapt quickly. The same year, I joined a VF/X and film production company in Abu Dhabi. It was a new field for me and I had a chance to learn something new. I was ready to take the challenge. My first camera sparked a passion for photography which soon became an obsession. Initially, my photos were terrible. But I’m very curious and stubborn by nature so I was determined to learn it and master it.I put myself on a 6-month, self-taught crash course of photography. I was like a sponge for information – I bought tons of books about photography, I studied the work of great masters and read all of them. I browsed thousands of photography websites, forums, blogs and watched pretty much every YouTube tutorial I could find. Whatever I learned in the books, I tried later with the camera. I shot thousands of pictures every month and shared the work on various forums. Slowly but steadily, my work got better and with improved results, my confidence grew. 3 years later, in 2011, I got my hands on Canon 5D Mark 2. I was commissioned by the client to shoot an Ad campaign and later same year, I won my first photography contests. Things were becoming very clear to me at that point; photography wasn’t just something I truly loved. It was becoming my profession. It was one incredibly satisfying feeling.
What is your favorite Category you have chosen and why?
I never liked boxing myself into one specific band of photographic specialty. I think it would only limit my creative pathways. I prefer to keep my options open and keep on exploring. My portfolio is known for its diverse subject matters although I’m very fond of time lapse cinematography, aerial photography, cityscapes, architecture, landscapes and industrial landscapes. I also tried corporate portraits, as well as light painting and other types of photography. To me, photography and cinematography mean one and the same thing. It’s an exploration of light and the exploration of three-dimensional volumes which it intersects. But it doesn’t stop there. Photography is also the study of time and its manifestation through motion. The very first time I used a DSLR camera, I shot a sequence of still frames. All shots were featuring the same skyscraper and as I flipped through the sequence, I couldn’t decide which one I liked the most. Sure I loved the subject, but what really intrigued me was the factor of time; the way it transformed the shadows on the building’s facade, cast by itself and the adjacent structures. They altered my perception of the subject and offered surprise. Time changed intensity of light and its perceived color. Every capture was a slice of frozen time and I found them all fascinating in their own way. What made me equally curious though was how time changed and transformed the void between the stills. That kind of magic could only be appreciated through motion. My love for photography as well as capture of motion is divided in two equal parts.
What are the Description of the successful image? And The idea, the story of Integration of the technical elements in the picture?
I think it’s very hard to define the “successes” of an image. That all depends on who’s looking at the photograph and the agenda they may have when the judge it. A real-estate developer for example, hopes that your photograph will make their property look irresistible once it gets printed in the newspaper. A bride wants to look younger, skinnier and prettier than she does in the real life. Photograph from a war zone needs to appear as raw and authentic as possible in order to draw attention to the conflict zone and to provoke the observer’s reaction and perhaps, action. Photograph of a fashion model needs to sell clothes and sell you the glamorous, imaginary lifestyle you’re never be able to experience. A fine-art photograph on the wall in the gallery needs to attract the highest bidder. But that’s what the world of commerce has done to photography. It corrupted it for a financial gain. In itself, photography is a profoundly terrific and completely innocent art form which takes hours to learn and lifetime to master. Photography isn’t just the light capturing medium. It enables the photographer to express his or hers deepest hopes, dreams and fears. Photography is an insanely delicate balance of physics, technology and human creativity. A successful image is the one which maintains all 3 elements in perfect harmony, captured in a frame of frozen light. There are no rules to define this mix but when you see a great image, you recognize it immediately. That’s the incredible, mystical and enduring power of photography.
Are you planning before taking a picture?
Oh yes I do. Good photography doesn’t just happen by chance. I honestly don’t believe in luck. I only believe in good preparation; good spot, good light, solid technical knowledge and having the right gear for the job. Good light and circumstances certainly help, but never without good and thorough planning. I usually pre-visualize my shots, before I even pick up my camera bag. I imagine the scene, the light, the subject and how it will all come together in post-production. Then I research online for references, permits, access, etc. Lastly, I go out, looking for that vantage point which matches the one I imagined. Last phase involves the execution of the shot on location, followed by post-production where my idea becomes reality in shape of a perfectly executed photograph. I’m not always successful in this quest but most of my best photographs happened when I was best prepared for the job.
What is your opinion of the Editing programs in photography like Photoshop?
I get this question a lot. It’s a very controversial subject for some reason and I really don’t understand why. Photographers have been re-touching, enhancing and manipulating photographs in the darkroom from the day photography was invented, over 180 years ago! Camera is where light is captured but darkroom, analogue or digital, is where image is created. These two processes are equal and can never be separated.Photography legend Ansel Adams said: “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”He couldn’t be more right. If I gave my Canon RAW file to 10 different photographers and asked them to develop it into a photograph best then can, I would get back 10 completely different looking photographs. In fact, I have done this test one time and the results were stunning. It was incredible to see how we all ‘see’ and visualize things differently. You can’t control how your camera captures the light. But you absolutely can control how this image becomes your vision.Unless you’re a photojournalist where the authenticity and integrity of the photograph is scared and can’t be altered in any way, you, the photographer, can do whatever you want. I mean it. There’s no right in photography. There’s no wrong. There’s only you and your vision. Photography is a highly individual, creative expression which comes from deep inside of you. Each time you capture and process a scene, you tell a bit of your personal story. Don’t listen to naysayers. Darkroom chemicals or Lightroom or Photoshop. You are the artist and your photos are your art. I encourage everyone to practice Photoshop as much as they can because it is an amazing tool which can take your art to another level.
What is your message that you want to be reaching through your works?
I don’t really have an agenda but I really want to tell people to look at the world with different eyes. I don’t think that you need to travel to an exotic location to find your amazing shot. Great subject can be found where you live, in your backyard. What’s hard isn’t learning how to shoot. What’s hard is learning how to see, and I don’t mean your eyes. Great photos are usually those who managed to surprise us somehow. It can be an unusual point of view. Unexpected combination of elements. Stuff which his out of ordinary. This takes fresh, out-of-the-box thinking, not an expensive camera or lens. I enjoying surprising myself when I look at my work and I love sharing those surprises with everyone. To share the beauty in the mundane world, surrounding our mundane life. That and the ability to create wonderful visuals which were conceived in my mind is my greatest satisfaction.
What is the photography project, which hopes to achieve?
I’m working on an extensive series of aerial photos captured in this region which have never been done before. My time lapse photography projects have been very interesting lately but I know that I can do a lot better. I’m pushing myself into every brand of photography and cinematography. My motto is to always go higher, further and deeper with every project I do. For as long as I can pursue my passion, I will never allow myself to slow down.I hope to be surprised by discoveries along my photographic journey and to come up with an idea which will motivate to work even harder, far into the future.
Are there any prizes you owned want to talk about?
I have won a lot of photography awards for my work in the past 4 years but the one I’m most proud about was the Emmy Nomination for my achievements in time lapse cinematography in October 2014. I was shortlisted along with the BBC Natural History cinematography team for the work done on the ‘WILD ARABIA’ TV series. Emmy is the most prestigious award of the Television Academy so the nomination alone is a huge, life defining moment. I’m also very proud of the Silver Dolphin from Cannes (2015) for my work on the time lapse film commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Government.
What is your advice for the beginner photographers?
It’s a very short one. Stop reading camera reviews. Spend less time on Facebook. Buy a cheap camera, whatever you can afford. Shoot more. I mean this. Shoot more. Shoot 5,000 photos per month, non-stop, for 2 years. Meanwhile, learn how to use Lightroom and Photoshop. Practice. Share your work on image portals like 500px.com. Get a critique. Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, if you don’t fail, you’ll never get better. Watch what the masters are doing and learn from them. Before you know it, you’ll be as good as them if not better. That’s pretty much it.
Masterpieces from the photographer Beno Saradzic