A collective of journalists based in Asia
  • Text:
    Nicolas Axelrod
  • Photos:
    Nicolas Axelrod

Cultivating a personal space

There is a longing to photograph that builds up the more you take photos. Now, more than ever, this is widely visible – everywhere we go, tourists wander past armed with selfie sticks and smartphones at the ready. There is an urge to have, an urge to possess a memory, an urge to remember and be seen.

I am interested in the route from longing to photograph to being a photographer to crafting documentary photography work. What is the anthropological or historical aspect of an image? Why do we find pleasure in a well composed photograph?

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Storytelling/Documentary Photography

Documentary photography is hard to do well. We still do it, hardly as a selfless act, but as something we feel compelled to do. In believing in the importance of what we are doing, we are pushing for a better understanding of the world and a better understanding of ourselves. While pursuing an intimate look into the ‘other,’ we are continuously looking at ourselves. The ongoing questioning of who we are, and what we are doing to our world is multiplied when faced with the plight of others.

Documentary photography doesn’t stop with the pictures we take; every step of the way is vital. How we choose the subjects we approach, how we research, how we work on location, how we craft the narrative through image selection, and how we write the emails to editors to get the work seen is all part of the complex process that goes into getting stories published. Like any industry it is not only about the effort or the quality, its also getting to know the right people, being connected in the right circles and being at the right place at the right time.

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Motivation

When the industry gets to be too much, when the meticulously crafted pitch is rejected for the tenth time, it is easy to lose drive or direction. Motivation is an elusive beast that grabs you when you want to sleep and drops you when you sit at your desk in the morning. In the downtimes, when you are not sure where to go next, the only place to look for solace is in the image. In our attempt to tell a story, we are also attempting for the perfect composition, the image that can encapsulate everything. We are striving for a shot, the one that may never come around in our lifetime. That is unimportant though, what is important is reaching for something and having that thing that makes us want to keep reaching.

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The Secret Garden

Personal space, our ‘secret garden’ as I have heard it called, is the space we go to when we can’t handle another moment with ourselves. Is a place of deep solace. In a way we are returning to where it all began: that moment you first realised you have a longing to photograph. When we start looking for images in our ‘mundane’ existence that seemingly don’t say much—that is what connects us to the craft. Regardless of the quality of what we produce, the act of documenting or creating is what brings us back to the reason we started down this avenue in the first place.

What do you do with these images that seemingly have no goal or purpose? Where do they go? Some people make books, slideshows, series of them; more often, they live on a hard-drive or in a film drawer. Over the last year I been putting them together two, three, four images at a time and publishing them on a website that nobody looks at.

http://nicaxelrod.tumblr.com/

With this blog post I am attempting to take the space that nobody sees, to a wider audience. I think after a year of publishing, it is maybe time that it got out beyond its hiding place.

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