Not everyone has their photography, some are in the process of finding themselves. Here I asked Andreas Bruhn a few questions about his Street Photography in Bangkok, Thailand, where he's trying to find himself photographically.
Andreas, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a background in education, teaching biology, and this is really the reason why I bought my first camera. When studying biology in the university I discovered the often hidden and extraordinary world of plants, insects and microorganisms. I was absolutely mesmerized by the variety and combinations of shapes and colors that is right in front of us if you just stop and look. I wanted to photograph this world and show other people what I had discovered.
My interest gradually shifted from biology to photography and I have explored many different genera of photography. For a long time it was a hobby, something I did when on vacation and months could pass without me picking up a camera. This all changed when I fell into a depression a few years ago due to working too much. To get myself out of bed and out of my house I decided to take at least one photograph every day.
When I looked at the images I realized I had shifted focus from trying to document the outside world to trying to communicate my own inner world of emotions. From that day on I don't think I have ever gone a day without photographing and it has since become an integral part of who I am and how I process my thoughts and feelings. I can no longer separate my self from photography and the thought of not being able to photograph scares me to death.
Is this project complete or ongoing?
This is an ongoing project. I started it a month ago when I moved to Bangkok and it will continue until I get bored.
Where was this series shot? What gear did you use?
The series was shot in Thailand, mostly in Bangkok. I used a Fujifilm x100s.
What is it about?
Its a highly personal project about trying to find a voice that is true to myself. By trying to shoot on instinct, in a very reactionary way, I want to find out what I am all about. What I connect with emotionally.
Why did you want to shoot it? What does it mean for you?
I often find myself feeling quite lost after finishing a project and trying to intellectualize it. What am I trying to say? Why did I shoot it this way? Is it honest? Is it me? This project is about letting go of all that and trying to be free in the entire process. To shoot with my gut and not with my brain, as I believe Anders Petersen has said.
There's a flair of morbidity in your images, why do you think that is?
Yes, I agree and my mother is quite concerned with my state of mind when I show her my images, but I honestly don't walk around feeling all that morbid. I believe we all have a darker side within that we try to keep secret and out of reach of those around us. Most of us are afraid of what people may think if we let them all the way in and I am more afraid than most. Maybe this is my way to let people in.
What does it mean to you “to find yourself?”
It means finding a way to photograph that is my own. Of course it is impossible not to be influenced by other photographers, especially when you start out photographing, but now I feel I have reached a point when it is time to try to forget all that for a while and try to understand what is my own way to see. I am now over 30 years old and most of the time I feel confident in who I am and in the belief system I have developed. I have accepted many of my faults and every day I care a little less of what people think of me. But in terms of my photography I am still a teenager, insecure and desperately trying to find an identity.
What do you think it feels like when you do?
When I have found myself photographically I am able to shoot what I feel, without any filters, such as expectations and trends, in between. It has a lot to do with being honest and trusting my own choices. I still have a long way to go. I imagine there will be a sense of freedom and relief, but mostly I hope that I will be confident enough to stop worrying so much. This constant worry about whether a photograph or project is good or relevant enough, whether I should shoot in color or black and white, snapshot or tight composition, flash or no flash, analogue or digital, blurry or razor sharp, it is all just noise that is distracting me from considering the fundamental question of who I am.
Of course it is important to consider all these questions too, in order to be successful in communicating, but they have a tendency to overshadow my more pressing issue of understanding what makes me press the shutter and when I do press the shutter, is it really me or is it some other photographer that I am admiring? Using the teenager analogy again I focus too much on what to wear to school every morning. I hope that when I am done with this project I will be able to focus more on subject matter and finding interesting stories, choose what ever techniques fit the project best and be confident that these choices are my own, honest and not based on current trends or other photographers that I look up to.
How are you trying to find yourself??
This project is about that and only that. This is important because as soon as I start thinking that this could be about something else, I will add that filter onto everything and I might loose myself again. The first thing I did was to remove myself from the security and routines of my everyday life by moving to Thailand. When I go out to photograph I set my camera to fully automatic and then I walk the streets. The hardest part is to shoot before starting to think about why and how. Say for instance I see an empty wall ahead of me.
I stop and point my camera at the wall and then the questions pop up; why is this wall interesting? How does an image of a wall fit with previous images? Should I use flash or ambient light? How should I compose? Should I wait and see if someone comes by to make it more interesting? All these questions overshadow the initial feeling I had when I approached the wall and most often makes me not press the shutter or Ill end up creating an image I have seen taken by other photographers.
Therefore I try to snap the shot fast and only once and then move on before I corrupt myself. Some days I cant do it at all and other days it takes hours until I get there. I have to concentrate extremely hard to get to that mental place where I can just shoot in a reactionary way, but when I do it is amazing. I feel completely free and present in the moment. In editing I try to follow the same line and only choose images that I am instantly attracted to emotionally and not because they fit a certain theme, has a strong composition or beautiful light.
Any closing comments?
Thank you for showing my work and for creating such a great space for photographers.
Thank you Andreas for thought provoking answers! It's a lot to chew on in my opinion, and there's many valid points. How much do we like to hide? How much do we like to overthink? Andreas will be back as he completes his project.
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