Exploring The Limits of Photography
When you visit Markus Hediger’s journal (Tradutor) you are struck by a cornucopia of images, which, taken together, make a perfect mosaic of ordinary Brazilian life.
Markus describes himself as follows: “When I was born 48 years ago, I had such a big head that the midwife predicted I would be a butcher or a pope. She was totally wrong about the first. I never managed to kill anything bigger than an insect. The papacy was never an option, as I was born into a protestant family. But as the son of Swiss missionaries I always had a strong interest in religion and spirituality. My parents' ministry in Brazil had a profound impact on who I am. Their work among the poor, their love and selfless sacrifices for the people they worked with shaped my views and priorities. The privilege I had growing up in Brazil as a kid from Europe opened my eyes and my heart to the fact that I can't take anything for granted. Every second I have, every person I meet is a gift. Life has spoiled me with love and beauty and has taught me to give back lavishly.”
Markus did go back to Switzerland after finishing high school in Brazil. He studied literature and theology in Zurich and spent a couple of years working in Swiss banks and insurance companies. But when he met his Brazilian wife - in Switzerland! - and his daughter was born, the family decided to return to Brazil. That was in 2007. Since then, he’s been working as a translator - hence his journal's name: "Tradutor."
The journey to Blipfoto
Markus says that his father was an excellent photographer. He introduced him to the basics of photography when Markus was still a child, and Markus bought his first Minolta with his own hard earned money when he was 14 years old. He photographed a lot during his teens, but stopped after his move to Switzerland: “Work, worries, and responsibilities of adult life got into the things I loved, I guess. It was only a year ago, when I tried to rediscover myself, that I remembered my passion for photography.”
A few years back, Markus had read an article in a magazine about Blipfoto. For some reason he’s not sure he understands, he remembered that article after he bought his Nikon. He went online and signed up.
When he started blipping, he was convinced that he lived in a very ugly town and couldn't see anything aesthetically appealing in it. “Then,” he says, “fellow blippers reminded me that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and I decided to take this literally. I set out to discover the hidden beauties of my little world. This challenge kept me going, and before I knew it, I had reached my 100th blip - and was hooked!”
Since then, the community is what keeps him in Blipfoto: “There's nothing like it in the whole world wide web. It’s like a big atelier with lots of artists. Their doors are always open and you can drop in anytime you want, have a chat, look at their work and learn from them. Many have inspired me to try something new, to explore specific aspects of photography, to insist and dig deeper.”
Exploring vs choosing a theme
Markus says there’s no specific theme he pursues in his main journal. “I photograph everything that catches my attention. If there is an aspect common to what I do here, it is exploring the limits of photography, venturing into new areas, trying new techniques, leaving my comfort zone.” He adds that he’s still trying to find and develop his own style. Central to most of his blips is that he tries to explain and share the steps he’s taking. In fact, for a few months, Markus was the host of a weekly ‘experimental photography’ challenge. “If I can inspire one or two blippers to try something new,” he states, “what more can I wish for?”
His second journal (leftovers) is different. Every month, he chooses a new theme for himself -- phone booths, clotheslines, the front of houses, etc. – that he wants to explore. “This,” he says “helps me to train my eye on something I normally ignore and to depict the place I live in from that perspective. It's a completely different approach to photography than the one I chose for my main journal.”
Markus’ preferred subjects are people. He says he loves portraits and photographing people in all their beauty and vulnerability. The main challenge here, according to him, is that Brazilians aren't used to somebody running around with a camera and pointing it at them. Many are suspicious of his intentions. "Why do you want to take my picture? What are you going to do with it?" are frequent questions he’s confronted with and he spends a lot of time talking and explaining. And very often he gets a "No!" as an answer, and, he says, he just has to accept that.
Another challenge is safety: a camera looks expensive and automatically attracts the attention of people. Robbery can be an issue so he’s careful about where he takes his camera.
Before taking his bow, here’s what Markus wants to tell blippers: “Use your camera as a tool to get to know yourself better. Photography is a spiritual journey. Since taking up photography again, I have discovered amazing things about myself and the world in which I live. It’s helped me to reconnect with that curious, big-headed child that I used to be. And every discovery affects the way I photograph. To sum it up: Be curious, challenge yourself, leave your comfort zone, and learn to recognize yourself when you look through your viewfinder.”
Cover Photo: Markus Hediger
Remarks collected by Michele (aka Alsacienne)
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