Some 4 years ago I have spent several days with a small group of passionate photographers in Berlin, all of us in love with rangefinder cameras, especially Leica. We attended a Street Photography Workshop led by Thorsten Overgaard, a Danish photographer. Tony was there as well. At that time, he was studying photography at the FH Bielefeld Art College. I can remember that he was very passionate about photography and wanted to learn a lot. Since then I have followed his work and I am now happy to present it to wider audience. Tony is a first photographer in my new blog and I am grateful that he had time for our small interview.
The photographs I have selected from Tony Melvin’s portfolio are from his 3 projects (Sicily-Easter Procession, Romania -the regions of Moldoviţa and Maramureş and Turkish Oil Wrestling) and some Street Photographs as well as couple of portraits.
I would like to say few words about Tony’s project in Sicily, represented here with 8 photographs. This is also my favourite part of Tony’s portfolio and I would name it A THUNDEROUS SILENCE. It would be unneccessary to write a lot about the photographs, as obviously, there are here and you can feel them and observe them in your own way, however I would just like to say that I love all what these photographs are telling: a loud silence, the commitment to tradition, a respect, a communion, originality and of course the emotions concentrated in masterfully selected scenes.
©Tony Melvin All Rights Reserved
INTERVIEW WITH TONY MELVIN
Q: Who are you?
A: My name is Tony Melvin. I am a Canadian photographer living in Germany.
Q: Are you a different person when you have a camera in your hands, in comparison to how you are without your camera?
A: Photographers view the world through a different lens. I am a completely different person when I have a camera in my hand – I feel like a child once again. Searching, and seeing the world with open eyes. It is like a slowing down of consciousness and being present completely in the moment.
Q: What does Photography mean to you?
A: Photography for me is letting it all go. Escaping from my ‘normal’ life, forgetting about everything. It is the time that I create and express what I feel.
Q: Do you consider yourself an amateur or a pro? Considering quality and knowledge and not earning as a photographer.
A: In my mind I like to think of myself as an amateur. Hoping never to lose that innocence of discovery. But, adhering strictly to the definition of a professional, yes, I am a professional. I have developed and refined my abilities, and know how to use my tools. Over time, I have grown better at finding that light / moment.
Q: How do you see your development as a photographer: when we talk about different categories in photography, different fields of interest, moving ahead, changing the way you photograph?
A: I truly believe that my development as a photographer is directly connected to my development as a person and artist. Trying out new genres is important- Landscape photography has become an interest for me in the last years. Also printing, exploring the printing process as printing one’s work can be very challenging; challenging because I want it to be exactly like I experienced it.
Q: In your opinion, how do you differentiate yourself from other photographers? What are you doing differently? Is this in line with the perception of the viewer?
A: As a photographer I try to do my thing and be true to myself. I do not consciously try to differentiate myself from others. Everyone has something different to say. And this is what is so wonderful with photography as an art. I hope the viewer enjoys what I have to say.
Q: How often do you take photographs?
A: 99.9% of the time I have a camera with me . At this stage I find myself, especially in winter, oh that German winter, wandering with my eyes. I usually save my energy for when I am travelling in Romania, Sicily, or Turkey. But because I do work on Photography assignments, I shoot quite a bit.
Q: Do you work on a special photo projects and how long does it take to complete one project. Please give an example.
A: My biggest personal project is ‘Processione dei Misteri’. The Easter Processions in Sicily.
In 1907 my Great Grandparents left Sicily for Canada and brought their Catholic beliefs with them. As a child these religious ceremonies were ingrained in me, so I decided in 2010 that I should photograph and reconnect to my roots there. Every year when I return, everyone always says to me ’you are going back again?’. It will be a life long project. I feel that I am home when I am there
Q: How important are people in your photographs?
A: People are very important. I really enjoy deeply connecting with people and sharing moments. Sometimes it becomes an image and other times an experience. For me Photography is always a question of trust and a matter of mutual respect.
Q: What is it that what drives you to take photographs? Is it a final result or the act of photographing? Please elaborate.
A: It is a combination of both. I enjoy wandering and getting lost in strange places, and meeting new people. My M9 in my hand. The sound of the shutter. That feeling, when you know you captured a moment. But then there is that other moment of seeing your print hanging on a wall.
Q: What do you think about the photo competitions? Can art be a competition?
A: Well, I usually do not do competitions, but I have tried a few times to win that Monochrom! That is a camera I would like to work with.
I think that if people are into competitions, then why not. I believe that we should not take them and ourselves to seriously though. Prizes can not replace passion. That internal need for expression is what Art is really all about.
Q: Black and white or color? Any preference, and why?
A: For what ever reason, I dream in black and white. Black and white allows me to focus more on the light and scene in front of me without distractions. For my work it is the best form of expression.
Q: What is your favorite lens?
A: 35. It is the way I see the world. I just love that 35mm.
Q: In your opinion, what tells a better story, a single photo or a series of photographs.
A: For me a series of images tells a better story. I believe that I have the chance to show a bigger picture. There is that rumour that photography is a lie.
Q: Photoshop or not? What percentage of photographs do you take on spot and not process?
A: Photoshop is normally only used to prepare for printing. Profiles and all that other stuff. But my main work is done in Aperture, and that wonderful Silver Efex Pro. As a rule of thumb I never work more than 15 minutes on an image. What you see is what get.
Q: What is photography? Give us your favorite statement about photography which the readers will remember. It should be yours.
A: Photography is the language that I speak best.
Q: My favourite statement is: Love. Light. I believe that we need to be passionate about who and what we photograph. If we are not feeling connected then this will show up in the images we take. It is that special ingredient. But the light, it is all in the light.
Q: Do you have a set of private photographs which you are not willing to publish?
A: No, anything of value to me is always shown. My images are pieces of myself.
Q: One well known photographer said “Why photograph if you do no show the photographs to other people.” What is your view here?
A: Everything is relevant. I believe if we do choose to show our work we should only show our best work. And if that means one image a year, then so be it.
Q: What is the most frequent mistake you make when you take photographs?
A: Not being ‘awake’, and being seconds behind that scene that was unfolding before my very own eyes.
Q: Could you please share a little piece of knowledge (around photography, taking photographs etc.) which could be useful for our readers?
A: Printing is important. The same image, in different sizes and on different papers. My girlfriend, Julia, and myself then live with them, stare, and talk about them. Good and bad. It is how I share myself with family and friends. It is how I try to learn from my mistakes.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say in closing to our readers?
A: I feel very honoured and humbled to be apart of this. I Thank-you.
Tony, thank you very much for your time.
You may visit Tony’s work on: http://www.circlemotion.com