By CATTLEYA JARUTHAVEE
The word photography itself invokes discussions of contrasting views and disciplines. At the same time, the physical act of working a camera is so fast and simple to the superficial eye. This complex yet simple art form is an attractive duo in itself, a very special practice that can get you lost in time.
I was attracted to photography not whilst I was taking a photograph or even holding a camera, but it must have been a melting pot of what I had seen growing up in South East Asia. I was exposed to society’s ups and downs through a lot of travel and open discussions about politics and society.
The idea of photography was rather sensational at that point and only a glimpse. A part of my family were conservative and did not completely agree with making a career out of the arts, so that thought was put on hold for the next decade.
The beginning of my career started with wanting to become a photojournalist. Covering war and conflict seemed appealing at the time. There was a need to tell the truth to the world, and I thought that being where breaking news was happening was the only way this was possible. As my career unfolded, my work evolved into documentary photography and lately, overlapping with fine art.
I’ve always enjoyed speaking intimately with others and at times photojournalism isolates you from that personal relationship with your subjects. I wanted to be involved. It helped me reflect on their place and my positioning in the perspective of that specific project. I enjoyed the process of each project, taking my time and not feeling under pressure. I really admire full-on photojournalists who have dedicated their lives to being called up to cover breaking news, but as I found out early on in my career; that was not the life I was looking for.
Depending on the nature of my project, I alternate between film and digital, trying to use film whenever possible. It encourages reflection. There is not much room for mistakes these days, with the price of film skyrocketing… But I like that. I love being lost in time, waiting for that very moment. You become spoilt using digital. It’s a genius invention but when it’s in your hands, there is definitely the tendency, at the very back of your mind to put less thought into your shots… because you know the system is forgiving. Unless you miss the moment of course, then you’re doomed regardless of what camera you are using.
The increasing availability of photography equipment has given rise to an assumption that anyone can be a photographer if they have a DSLR. Hobbyists send their photos to online news sources, free of charge, simply because they want to get their photos published without making a career out of it. This phenomenon has decreased the value of photography and has given people the wrong impression of career photographers.
They say the world has reached sexual equality but from experience, I have experienced some minor prejudice. The photography circuit is rather man-centric and as a female photographer you have to fight hard, especially if, like myself, do not fit the stereotypical image of what people expect a female photographer to be. People often ask whether I’m a fashion photographer or work in advertising, because they can’t seem to understand why someone that looks like me (thin, enjoys dressing up and having manicures) would be shooting society’s anomalies or exploring heavy subjects of contemplation.
There is definitely no set formula for starting your career as a photographer. It always comes back to following your own personal artistic sense, and not comparing yourself to anyone else. It’s difficult, with the rise of social media to ignore what others are saying and I see people getting wound up from it but it gets you no where. At the end of the day, you only have yourself to stand up against.
For more of Cattleya’s work visit Cattleya Jaruthavee.