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With Rafal Maciaga on today’s photography

You’ve been photographing business for a long time now. Over these years have you noticed any significant changes in the approach to corporate photography? What were they? Do you think history will make a full circle or things will move in a new direction?

I have been photographing business since 5 or actually rather 10 years ago. The beginnings were quite nondescript; basically no one was using the term “business photography”. Everything was only starting to fall into the shape of something real i.e. photographs of business, corporate and company photos. As I see it finally the era of wedding photography came to an end; a new form of desire and a new form of demand for photographs appeared. Rather haltingly than with flair, because this by far is not the end of development and growth of this type of photography; it is still rather in its infancy.

I try to draw from Western inspirations; however it is still somewhat like window shopping i.e. we are not there yet with the budgets and the awareness of the need for business photographs. Let us take the simplest example of LinkedIn. I do not want to put everyone into a single pigeon hole however there are so many who, though realising this is a business portal and direct customer relations are of great importance, shoot themselves in the foot, doing it indeed deliberately and even in public. Changes have come however there is still a long way to go. The changes are the awareness and the need among photographed persons. The Polish history has not even written the first verse; this is merely the beginning and I am trying hard either on my own or by observing others to give this type of photography a direction.

Henri Cartier Bresson, one of the most famous photojournalists, created the concept of “The Decisive Moment”, which expresses the quintessence of the moment. Does “The Moment” also matter in corporate or event photography? How much?

Practically a legend, a person initially rejected, finally accepted and accomplished. The concept of the decisive moment emerged during the photographic revolution when journalist photography was gaining new meaning. The moment does matter a lot; sensing it gives incredible satisfaction and fulfilment; it is joyful and rewarding in its own right. It does not matter much in corporate photography as opposed to event photos. This is what really is about the decisive moment, though in a manner of speaking. Every photographer will understand it. An event is living, flexible and unpredictable tissue. For an event photographer it is a challenge, provided he has the ambition and desire to grow. Difficult and easy, interesting and boring, big and small. The moment does matter!

Which of the well known photographers do you value most and what for?

Speaking about Polish photographers this will be Rafał Malko, the most eminent Polish photographer with a big “P”. He is able to see what others don’t and to capture it in such a way that makes the message deeper. Apart from that he has ambition and loves to take photographs. He just feels it! I will not mention his numerous awards and recognitions. Perhaps I will also note Darek Lewkowicz; he is into advertising photography and he is a master of his trade.

Making corporate photographs is more an art or craft, do you think? 

Business photos are rather a craft. However the word “art” does appear here in the combination of the most important features of this photography, namely: aesthetics of the photo and its quality. Then we can speak of art, mastery and quality. Generally speaking it is very seldom for a business customer to want something more than just a well made photograph. As I mentioned earlier, we are still in our infancy as regards perception of this type of photography.

What in your opinion is the role of photography in communication?

The visual part of a message is the quintessence and the foundation. Photographs can convey everything without words. Thus photography is an integral part of communication. It plays an aesthetic, moral and social role. Actually photography gives us a different perspective and above all the opportunity to have it.

Photography versus video – in the era of electronic media do still photos continue to make sense; is visual communication opening up to video forms?

In the age of electronic media traditional photography has lost its leading role, however it has gained a new one, that of a road sign and symbol. A time will come when we will miss a picture we can touch, the texture of a photograph or the possibility to put it in our pocket. We are moving forward and I wholeheartedly support this race to a different reality. The opportunities, which are appearing in front of us, are themselves a reward and incentive. There is no more room for traditional photography in terms of media. The media and above all we ourselves are pointing the way to total virtual communication, fast and direct. Video is the future. All devices, which have a photo function, suddenly without no major need for it “basically as a bonus – yet it is a very intelligent strategy of manufacturers and corporations”, have a video recording option, which is becoming something natural and very much in need, though it is gradually giving photography the elbow.

The future is recording a continuous image and selecting the best takes from the recording. Disabling people’s instincts has become the reality. In the past the desire and the effort to make the coolest and most interesting photos was a challenge, now it is only something, which gets in the way and irritates. Technology has gone so far that it has overtaken our expectations. Soon enough we learned to demand from devices and to get what we want. So much for the mass aspect. In business these forms are complementary; photography and video are evolving together.

Are you fascinated with any innovations e.g. contextual cameras?

What fascinates me is aerial photography with use of drones. Let me say yet again that this is the future, especially in event photography. New things are coming and will be here any time now.

What should a good corporate photo be like?

A good business photo is one, which creates professional communication of the photographed person.

What was your biggest professional challenge?

I hope that my biggest professional challenge is yet to come.

What about the biggest failure?

A good photographer will not allow a failure. He is always able to cope because he is a professional and simply must be prepared for any unforeseen situation. Usually these are problems with batteries or the camera. When we do not have backup batteries or the camera broke down just now – then you are in deep trouble. A professional however is prepared.

If you were to plan your career today, you would be….?

A painter. Paintings and graphics is what really attracts and fascinates me.

 Your daughter is growing up and tells you she wants to take up photography. What is your advice for her?

I think this will not happen. Raising a young person from my side will not involve convincing my child to do this, that or other. It will rather be a free form, gently controlled by both the parents. However it is a general and one hundred per cent “NO”.

Michał Szapiro