Truth saves lives. Lies can kill.
Till now I thought that I depict in my pictures only "what I see". But what I really see? Though never considered myself a photojournalist, my approach was such that I have never tried to alter reality.
Walking on a beach near Athens, visited mostly by immigrants, I saw a white rabbit hopping (happily it seemed) towards the waves, like a puppy dog when first meeting the sea. I followed it and finally met the owner (actually were two guys, with a somehow harsh appearance). They were glad to show me their pet and allowed me to take pictures of what it seemed an unusual kind of pet. I must also add that they had also a cage with plenty of food, water and even a toy "to keep him busy".
They didn't speak Greek, so I approached them in English and so I’ve found out that it's not the first rabbit they owned. So I started wondering (and therefore I asked the owner), somehow suspicious: are you raising them for food? I received an almost convinced "yes", but when he saw my reaction he managed to turned it in a joke. Of course it's a joke I thought, can't be real. Nobody could be so cynical to treat this creature with such a compassion, to bring it to the seaside, to stroke and "entertain" it and some day to slash his throat. So I took some more pictures (including this one) and greeted the guys, thinking that, despite so much difficulties they faced in their lives, they seem to be more sensible persons than many others in our fake world.
I'm sorry I don't remember pet's name, didn't need to go deeper with the story since I was convinced about the good fate of the bunny. I left the place knowing that I had just encountered an unusual kind of compassion from a person you usually don't expect. The doubt started to arise later.
Though I don't have any pets, I love cats and dogs and often I feed stray animals. On my own, I got until now more than 10 stray cats to sterilization. I do not fancy very much the idea of pets (in fact animals that we love and care for, in the meantime feeding them with other dead animals in tins). On the other hand, I'm not an activist, not even vegan, I can understand everybody's food preferences (though we're always very careful with our consuming habits, especially of meat, and never waste food). But to raise an animal as a pet with such a compassion, just in order to eat it, it's far beyond my understanding. Having left them, convinced that they joked, after a few hours I started to ask myself: what if he was serious? And the dilemma was growing in me more and more as I started to receive feedback for the picture, people in general being impressed by the sensitivity of that guy for his pet.
What have I just photographed? A moment of kindness? A man apparently rough, was in fact one of the most sensible persons I met? Or a cynical soab, who can never achieve such a feeling, who could never understand "our values"? I’ve just taken picture of our own prejudices or of a harsh reality that happens daily in front of our eyes? Being myself in the past the target of the racism and bullying in my own country (the same place this picture is taken), I can imagine how hard is for this man to deal with prejudices from people like us, convinced that we're living according to the highest humane values. I can confirm we’re a conservative and arrogant society and a hell for people coming from different cultures, so for most it’s not easy to accept that such a person can have feelings like us or more than we have.
I start thinking this it's a turning point, maybe not so much in my photography style, but in understanding others. So many years I had a preference for "trusted" sources. There are some grand names in media that I prefer to believe, though I ignore many others, proved less reliable. Especially regarding the photojournalism, I’m very critical about the manipulation and staging. Even a portrait seems too much, if the subject happens to raise his eyes and stare on the lens, the
magic moment disappears. The photographer should be invisible. All my life I envied Bresson, I'm convinced that I can never achieve his performance: observe, compose in your mind, raise the camera and grab the moment as you never been there. Though it's obvious in your pictures that you were in the middle of the people or the event when you're using an wide angle or at most a 50mm lens, it's equally obvious when a picture is staged. Let alone over-processed. Shooting with anything above "normal lens", if it's not portrait, then it's deceiving, that's my approach.
But even when you're close enough you don't actually know what you see. It's Antonioni's dilemma: what's behind? Is this a body in the picture? Is there more in the picture than meets the eye?
I'll continue to be very rigorous about photojournalism. Moreover in our world full of fake news and manipulated imageries. Photojournalism and even photo-documentary require a huge responsibility, no matter where you live or whatever harsh competition you have to face. Though "Guernica" had the same goal as Capa's pictures, nobody ever would think to take a painting as an evidence. So here is the biggest difference and the power of photography. Maybe, in terms of aesthetics, some photos can come very close to paintings. Easily you can say that a photo is a masterpiece, a "work of art". But there's also a huge difference in the way they depict the reality. I don't believe that proving Capa's picture fake can make somebody sympathize with Franco. The history already disposed of the guy where he deserved: in the dictators bin. But I admit I was very disappointed when I read about staging claims of Robert Capa photos. The man "that started all".
I'll continue to be obsessed with the truth and hate anything fake. That's why I'm writing this. So it's my duty to make you aware: I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what I witnessed. Meet Schroedinger's bunny.
For me "Zero" is, first of all, zero manipulation. What you see is what we saw. The emotions are yours. Zero compromise.