31 July 2009

meeting Alex Majoli (part 2)

continuation of the interview /made in march 09 in Warsaw/ /part 1. here/

Fblog: Now you’ve mentioned commissions for museum, so I’d like to ask where do you want to show your works? Do you like them to be printed in books, shown in some museums or galleries, in a newspaper? Where does your pictures belong?

Alex Majoli: I think everywhere. I think each project has a better location than others, but not every project needs a special location among the others. I like when pictures are photocopies, so you can just give it in the streets, just like that. Actually “One vote” was supposed to be like this in the beginning.

Fblog: So you like to give pictures to the people in the streets, but to those you’ve photographed previously?
Alex Majoli: No, at the beginning – it was an elecetion day, supposed to give photocopies to a lot of people in the street, photocopies of faces, but…it didn’t came up, because, well… I’m not good on promoting my work at that level.

Alex Majoli, from the exhibition Un monde en partage, 2008, photo courtesy of The Foundation Group TP.

Fblog: Well, you’ve said something about Samurai development, and it’s been your most important quotation, it appears almost everywhere along with your name…
Alex Majoli: OK, everybody ask this! OK, this quotation – when I’ve done some workshop I had to say something, and I didn’t want to make some bullshit like “I’m the best photographer in the world” so actually I wrote something like that as a joke. They accepted it and didn’t understand it was a joke. I think you can’t teach photography, but I think as a Samurai you can do an every day little things. Discipline, determination. You know you need to prepare to take picture. I can not teach you that, I can tell you only: don’t distract, escape, stay there, don’t move, but I can’t tell you how to take it.
Most of my students keep making pictures like this [AM: acts like a photographer in candid, shaking, very nervous]… and then I say: “relax, you can’t make pictures like that. Think about it. Relax.” [AM: acts slowly, knowing what to do, determined and relaxed], and it’s not working, so again I’m saying “Get relaxed, come closer, move, concentrate on process.” You can do only that.

Fblog: What is your process approaching the subcject?
Alex Majoli: Determination, work, work, work a lot. Work.
Fblog: Have you ever asked for a permission to take picture?
Alex Majoli: Depends, depends.
Fblog: In the streets?
Alex Majoli: Depends. Sometimes I don’t need to. It’s something I teach: try to decide before if you really want to take the picture. Sometimes you’re taking picture that you really don’t want to. And then you put yourself in trouble. If a person you photogeaphed sees that you don’t really care about them, and you just play around –
And if you care, you’re taking pictures of people walking down the street, they understand that, maybe they will ask you why, but they don’t do some crazy and stupid thing. If you hesitate: “I’d take!”, “no I don’t!”… this hesitating it’s like a dishonor, the feelings you give though that, it’s obvious there’s no real purpose in that.

Fblog: What would you say to a budding photographer? Go to some exhibitions, see as much as possible?
Alex Majoli: Don’t look at other photographers. Don’t think you’re photographer. Read all books. I say work, work, work, just try to be yourself. Work a lot and read books. Get out from photography and then go back. That’s most important.

Fblog: Are you fan of football?
Alex Majoli: No, but I like this a lot.
Fblog: Well, you’re Italian…
Alex Majoli: You have to be Catholic, you’re Polish.
Fblog: Yes, stereotypes…
Alex Majoli: Even if you don’t believe, but you have to.
Fblog: Do you know any Polish photographer? You’ve been here before, so maybe you had the chance to meet some?
Alex Majoli: I know one Polish photographer, but actually I like you to recall, he’s name is Piotr, he was working for the Polish main newspaper.
Fblog: So you probably mean Gazeta Wyborcza?
Alex Majoli: Maybe. I met him in Kumbh Mela in India. We had a really good time together, but then he’ve dissapeard. I also met him in Israel during the second intifade. I don’t remember his surename. He is a tall, blonde guy. If you know him…
Fblog: I think it’s Piotr Janowski.
Alex Majoli: Well, if you see him, say from me “hey, don’t dissapear like this!”

Alex Majoli, from the exhibition Un monde en partage, 2008, photo courtesy of The Foundation Group TP.

Fblog: How much time you spent in Italy/NY?

Alex Majoli: I would say half and half, and the rest is travelling to take some pictures.
Fblog: You have a company near Milan, it’s called Cesuralab.
Alex Majoli: Cesura is the place where I live in Italy. It became my studio. And now as I have one assistant, and some other guys there, I think this studio might me something bigger than just a place where I make pictures. More than just a studio. I ‘ve invested some money, wanting to create of this a place where the young photographers can come and participate… I want to give them a time and a chance for a proper project. It works fine and they create some “collective of photography” and they spend some more and more time in the agency. I don’t know. At the moment it’s like this. Could be much more.
There is a gallery. We’re doing some workshop there now. I try to do something interesting, not because of it’s interestingness, but the place is like a playground. Like, you know, you have kids and if you give them a place to play, the kids play. I want to do the same with my assistants, but they don’t play. I say: "you have a printer, you have a computer, you have a big beautiful space, you’ve got everything you want!" And they just sit and think. I’m asking them: “hey, why you’re sitting?” Why you don’t use it? They keep philosophying on photography instead. “C’mon guys! Move the ass now! Make some pictures!” And they sit, they criticise other photographers! I mean" "who are you man?!" And it’s common within young photographers, I can’t understand that!
Fblog: Well you know, it’s capitalistic era, you need to compare the things before you buy them, you go to the market to compare, to choose. If you’re making pictures, you still need to compare yourself to the others?
Alex Majoli: Yeah, OK! I know, if you have kids, you can’t tell them “don’t look into the television”, sometimes you have to compromise, one hour and then do something different. But these guys do only that. I say: “take some pictures.” And they reply: “of what? why?" So I’m taking a picture of it and they like it and say: “No! but you’re a good photographer!”. My answer is: “No I’m not! I’m just taking pictures, while you don’t!” It’s always like that! They need to have a big story, they need to go to Iraq to take a pictures. C’mon take a picture here!

Fblog: Who is your best friend in Magnum? I mean: fellow photographers, accountant, secretary?
Alex Majoli: Well, I have many friends in Magnum. Too many, starting from my best friend, a very good photographer who was in Magnum – Luc Delahay. I know there are good friends: Thomas, Antoine, Alex... They are all good photographers and good friends. Alec Soth, Thomas Dworzak, Chris Anderson, Antoine d’Agata definitely good friend and helping, Joseph Koudelka is a good friend. I have many friends there, that’s good. And many others!

Fblog: Thank you very much. Wishing you luck and good friends always around.
Alex Majoli: Thank you!

joanna: I couldn't resist to ask about Polish photographer. It was a nice inquiry who that might be. Finnaly it came up and it would came up to you one day too, I hope. Thanks for you patience while reading this :)