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Documentary Photography Workshop with Antoine D'Agata

“This is the most decent photo I have taken with a girl in a log time,” Antoine D'Agata at the inauguration of FotoVeritas, San José, September 9, 2009. Next to him, me. Photos taken by Lissette Acosta.
“This is the most decent photo I have taken with a girl in a log time,” Antoine D'Agata at the inauguration of FotoVeritas, San José, September 9, 2009. Next to him, me. Photos taken by Lissette Acosta.

There is something with the month of September… it always changes my life… the first time was the time I was born (and men, it did change my life!) In 2007 I came back from a photo documentary workshop with David Alan Harvey, completely decided to quit my job and find my way. Last year I got a confirmation for a two-months scholarship in India…
This year’s responsible for September’s change is called Antoine D’Agata.
They are too many the lessons learned the first 9 days of the 9th month of 2009.

The first lesson I want to share with you is, you should not judge without knowing. ¿Why do I say that? well, because when you click here and you go see Antoine’s work, you probably will feel a little scandalized. I did, and I even though twice before applying to the workshop.

Nevertheless, I want you to pay attention to the quote next to his portfolio: “It’s not how a photographer looks at the world that is important. It’s their intimate relationship with it.” Maybe the relationship Antoine lives with his photography and his world is too intimate for many’s taste, but I hope that after riding what I am going to tell you, you will find it as respectable and admirable as I do, or even more.

In my notebook, the first phrase I wrote during the workshop was “Be responsible for your position as a photographer” and the last one was “I disagree with looking, understanding and explaining without compromising yourself as a photographer,” and I think that summarizes the second learning from the workshop.

As photographers we are so used to be spectators that register, that inform and that have not a single responsible with what we register and who we inform. But, like my friend Rojo reminded me, the moment we raise the camera and frame the shot, we alter reality, and we should be responsible for that.

“We should balance between experience and look.” said Antoine while he was giving a talk to dozens of students at Veritas University. I think that is the secret. We can not keep acting like keeping distance and been unattached is the way to go. What wee see, what we photograph and what we show must mean something to us so it will mean something to those how see it.

The third lesson, I learned during the portfolio review.

I don’t know you, but very often I let myself go by the “dude, what a good photo”. And yes, a photo that attracts because of its “beauty” is a good photo, but maybe its strength is not directed towards the intention the photo was taken. I learned then that I should not keep pretending that simply because the photograph’s got a technical and composition climax, it is a perfect photograph.

We sometimes forget to take the time to choose those right media that helps us reach our objectives. Of course, good light, to choose the right elements, the good composition, etc, etc, can not bee left aside, but as long as they are applied for that particular situation. “It should not be poetry just because of the poetry,” Antoine said.

And the last lesson of life I learned has to do with geography. Yes, geography… well, more like a geographic call for attention.

Antoine pointed out that because we come from here (Latin America, Central America, Costa Rica) we must take advantage of the fact that we understand, live and are part of this reality, to show more…

“Take me somewhere I have never been,” he said.

We can not settle with the light, the story, the color and all of those things that have been photographed (by others that must of the time are not from here) we must get images that people can understand, live and feel like if they were part of what we belong to.

And this takes me to my photography production during the workshop.

Poor women.

“Poor women are anywhere, it is something very much seen and known,” I wrote on my notebook. And that is the truth, I had to show more than that, I could not focus on how does a poor women looks like, but what it might feel like to bee poor, because that is what, somebody that is not poor, can not understand.

Those where 9 very intense days (did I mentioned that?) where I did not have to face the reality of those women but the fact that I, and many of the women of my life, are like them, without been poor.

I openly want to thank Antoine, Adrián, Alex, Daniela, Jan, Javier, Jeffrey, Jose, Gabriela, Marvin, Nestor, Priscilla y of course Pedro (who did some extra work) for giving me so much during the workshop. I learned so much from everybody, their process, their stories and their thoughts (about my work and about other people’s work). I have missed you guys and I will keep on doing so.

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VERSION EN ESPAÑOL EN EL POST ANTERIOR

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“My big preoccupation, I tell you, are my children. I don't want to dye and say my children where left along. Because been with me they might suffer but they have my warmth.” Juana, her children and nothing more.
“My big preoccupation, I tell you, are my children. I don't want to dye and say my children where left along. Because been with me they might suffer but they have my warmth.” Juana, her children and nothing more.
“For me, pay day is really hard, because, one can not enjoy it, I don't enjoy it at all, because, lets say, one can not even see it, not even smell it, because just right there you have to go pay this, the grocery store, the...,” Lizeth, lost by daily life.
“For me, pay day is really hard, because, one can not enjoy it, I don't enjoy it at all, because, lets say, one can not even see it, not even smell it, because just right there you have to go pay this, the grocery store, the...,” Lizeth, lost by daily life.
“A fighter woman, an enterprising woman, a hard worker women, very strong and brave, because I am not afraid.” Lucy.
“A fighter woman, an enterprising woman, a hard worker women, very strong and brave, because I am not afraid.” Lucy.
“That I have been a long-suffering woman, and I am still suffering, but I keep pushing ahead.” Lucila.
“That I have been a long-suffering woman, and I am still suffering, but I keep pushing ahead.” Lucila.

5 Responses

  1. Magda says:

    Oh Monica!
    It was sooo nice to read your coment! Your oppinion is very important to me! Thank you!
    I love the first photo! And the story is interesting.. It makes you think about how lucky you really are.. and all your problems go away and you’re in an other world (at least for a couple of minutes).. All of these pictures say so much about that woman’s life..
    Each of your photos (documentary photos) tell a whole story.. It’s amazing!
    miss you!
    love
    Magda

  2. My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  3. mqcphoto says:

    Hi Piter! I am glad you like my blog! This is my hobby, but photography is my profession.

  4. Dan says:

    Thank you for sharing this experience.

  5. mqcphoto says:

    I’m glad you liked reading it Dan, thank you for stopping by!
    Mónica.

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