by Eryk Fitkau
Experimenting with technique
Throughout my vibrant and somewhat crazy life I have experienced a lot of things; you name it, I have done it! But this type of life had left my emotional batteries charged; there was a lot going on inside of me, but this was not reflected on the outside. I wore the same outfit everyday, and my appearance made people develop an opinion of me that was often not accurate. I started to try to express how I was feeling on paper, through my photographs. I wanted to create images that triggered an emotional response from people, aiming to subconsciously trigger responses from all of the human senses, rather than just activating sight. I found this really hard. I was creating images that were ok, but I couldn’t get the satisfaction from them that I wanted. I knew the feeling I was looking for, but for some reason I couldn’t make that special feeling come with the pictures I was creating. I was looking for a sense of euphoria; the kind of pleasure sensation similar to that achieved through orgasm. This problem forced me to look for different ways to produce the type of images I wished to create. Because of this I developed a lot of bazaar methods of working; things, which experienced photography assistants, and sometimes even photographers, did not understand. I manipulated and experimented with everything I could think of. I tried airbrushing; using mirrors; projectors; and tried anything I could to manipulate the lighting. I developed a very original way of working, using methods, which I developed slowly, over a long period of time. A lot of people wanted to copy the methods I had developed, but wanted fast, instant results; so of course, it didn’t work for them.
I was also very conscious of not relying too much on technology. If you look through my folio, you will see a lot of images that look like they have been edited on Photoshop. Of course, there are some that have had the aid of Photoshop, but the majority of them were not done on a computer. I did it all by hand, overlaying an image over an already developed image to create the effect I wanted. That was in the past though, and now days everything is fast, and done in a digital era. So today, I do a lot of my work on the computer. EDIT!!!!!!!!!!!!
I got into photography almost by accident, so this is perhaps why I developed my unconventional, unique ways of working. In these early years, I did not really consider myself to be a photographer. I was working in this field, and enjoying it, but in my head I still considered myself to be an ice hockey player. It still had not clicked that I was a photographer. Eventually, I started to win awards and I thought “what, this is a fluke!” It took six to seven years for it to finally sink in that I was a photographer.
I won a lot of International awards early on, such as the London International, and Cleo. I also won a lot of Australasian awards, and I was also a judge for a lot of prestigious awards. Being a judge for the awards meant that I basically lost interest to participate in them. If I won, I wanted it to be because I had taken a photograph that was better than what anyone else had taken. Being a judge, I realized how stupid and subjective the judging of awards was. My position in advertising was already strong, and I had the knowledge of how to win awards, so it got to the stage where I didn’t feel the need to win anymore. A lot of awards are judged by competitors, and winning an award meant you got money, and to vote objectively when big money is involved means that you have to be almost not human. Unfortunately, we are all human. One time a very famous photographer (who shall not be named) was judging the awards with me and we were both nominated about 12 times each. When on the night of the award neither of us won, he came up to me very angry and said "Eryk, you did not vote for me" and I answered, "no, I didn't, but you didn't vote for me either." Because of this experience I now do not mind judging awards where I don't know anyone who is nominated. One time I was judging an award and the photograph that I voted for won. Some of the people organizing the award were not happy that this photograph had won because by their standards it was bad. They demanded to know who had voted for this photo and why. I said that it was me and I chose it because the guy who took it was taking a risk and experimenting, trying to do something new and for me that is very important! The funny thing is, this photo went on to be the cover of a very good photographic book!
I have had a lot of success in photography and I always found satisfaction in developing images. I find the satisfaction I get from developing images is greater than the satisfaction of getting money for them. For me, it is more the feeling the image creates.
To operate a camera is no different than learning how to drive a car. Every camera is the same, it is a tool, which helps you to express yourself, and the most important thing is to satisfy yourself first, as opposed to satisfying others. Photography requires certain technical knowledge, which differs to painting, which requires paint and a canvas. If I had to put a definition on what makes a good photographer, I would say firstly, to remember that the camera is like an extension of your eye. Maybe one day we will create a camera, which can be synchronized with your brain, but we do not have that today, so a good photographer must be able to understand what a camera can and can’t do. You need to be able to create an image which will open what is inside of you; express emotion and to be able to capture a moment which in normal life is not noticed.
Secondly, is the ability to back yourself and go against the current trends, advancing ahead of them.
Thirdly, you have to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve from a certain photograph, which sometimes requires a lot of trial and error until you achieve sound satisfaction. In my experience, when I achieve my whole satisfaction, others will recognize the photographs.
Fourthly, to be able to create, you have to be able to charge your emotional batteries and try to transport your emotions to a piece of paper; an object which doesn’t make a sound, doesn’t move and doesn’t smell. Photographs are primarily designed to target one sense, to tantalize the sight. But to be a great photographer your photographs should be able to trigger a response in the other senses as well.
I can do a lot of things. I have enough knowledge to build a house with electrical wiring and plumbing. I can catch the fish that elude other fishermen. I have the ability to get noticed and somehow, tend to be the topic on everyone’s lips (sometimes for good, and sometimes not so good!) This brings me to another subject. To become a successful advertising photographer, it is not enough to be able to create a fantastic image. It requires something else, which is, to be able to break to very tricky and sometimes very uptight people; who are part of the circle I call ‘people without substance.’ This requires a street-smart attitude and the ability to be able to overcome certain obstacles created by these people.
I am against art and photographic schools. I describe photographic schools like putting a ladder against a wall and charging people a high price to climb the ladder and trying to explain to people that when they jump from the roof, they may fly, but most likely they will fall. For me there is no right and wrong in photography. There is only one rule; I believe that some photographs work and some don’t and so far I don’t know anybody who is able to put into words how to create good photographs.
I want to create photographs, which people will enjoy. I want to create something beautiful, which stimulates the senses. I have been in the advertising industry for so long, and have seen all of its different faces. I have done enough commercial work, and enjoyed it, but now I want to work on my own projects, where I have no restrictions on what I am able to do artistically.
I quiete often get asked the question “which photograph is my favorite?” My answer is that I hope to take the perfect photograph sometime in the not too distant future. Because, if I have taken the perfect photograph already, then there would really be no point in taking any more photographs.