Week of Life Masters is probably the most viewed and observed section at our portal – be it its fascinating photographic content or the ability to understand and fulfill all of the recommended rules and conditions of our project. This is the reason for the section not appearing on a regular basis, since we usually have to wait for someone eligible to appear. Someone who is worthy, based on the photos as well as their personality expressed, and brings forth such interesting material, worthwhile to observe, explore and obtain a few confessions from the author. Such description fits our newest acquisition, a graphic designer with a slightly mysterious name, perhaps a pseudonym, kevin v. ton. The decision process was long but we have reached a decision eventually and after reviewing his answers, we were able to confirm that our choice was spot on, not only thanks to the photos he has shared with us.
How did you get acquainted with the Week of Life project and what made you join its cause?
I found out more information about the project in the middle of October last year from my old friend from southern Bohemia. I came across some basic ideas of the project even before that, but nothing concrete or precise that would catch my attention. Only when my friend showed his upcoming week to me on the monitor, as well as weeks of other photographers portrayed on WoL , finding out that it was a project of Mr. Zika, have I decided to try it out myself. And indeed I started in the scope of the next 14 days. No one knew, not even my family, about me being involved in the project only until a few months later, when all the images were already scanned and the whole week was ready to be published.
The whole idea to merge results of the weekly artistic documentary visions of photographers scattered across the whole world ‘under one roof’ is not only unique, but also useful and necessary in my eyes. The possibility to see individuals from all corners of our planet living their lives in the scope of days and weeks makes us aware of their existence; people with their happiness and everyday issues no matter the color of their skin, the regime into which they were born or the economic prowess of the country they come from.
You work as a graphic designer. Can you be more precise regarding the field of graphic design?
Even though I consider myself as a photographer, I make a living mainly as an artist, draftsman, typographer and a PC graphic designer. Every job involving creative freedom is a challenge, be it a CD cover for a starting underground band or a corporate identity of a flourishing corporation.
As one of the few, you shot your first black and white week on a celluloid film. What led you to make this choice; was there any specific thought behind it?
I’ve been working with black and white celluloid film for almost a quarter of a century now and I still enjoy it very much. After so many years, I’ve managed to learn to carry around one or two of the elderly F3s from Nikon and an M-series Leica; each body with a different glass and a separate celluloid film. Most of the times, I use the Ilford Delta 400 and 3200 or the Neopan 1600.
I still have the feeling that it has unique characteristic features including the resulting visual image, hard to be superseded by digital technology.
Documentary photos and celluloid film shooting are like the groom with a bride – together, they can form a perfect couple, a family able to bring beautiful offspring to the world in the form of astonishing photos. Despite all that, I do use a digital camera and truly search for the charm it undoubtedly has. And thanks to the work connected with the WoL project, I’ve found it – the speed at which it processes and converts the documented data.
It’s quite pleasant to read and find out that there is still someone out there today to trust celluloid films and classic photography. Tell us what you think about the situation in the future and how will it evolve; will the analog world cease to exist or will it survive forever alongside the digital world.
A rather confounded question I must say, as if it concerned foretelling the future. Personally I am convinced that there are many more years to come when analog will go hand in hand with digital. And I certainly hope so. It’s a similar situation to what the good old LPs experienced in the beginning of the 80s when CDs emerged with the digitalization of music. Despite its massive withdrawal from the market, record-players and LPs are still being made and sold thirty years later. Luckily, there are still enough people that like their classic sounds of the records in spite of their ‘nuisance’ such as squeaking, cluttering or the necessity for manual turning of the record to listen to the other side. CDs no longer experience this, but don’t have that extra aspect a person needs as a human being; the element of randomness, the disturbance of stereotypes. The same applies to cine film or the celluloid material as a whole. What tends to be regarded as imperfection, I perceive as an advantage. Having only 36 images available, a person learns to apprehend each situation physically and emotionally, concentrate on the essence of what is at stake and be able to see the resulting image in his or her head before the whole exposure.
To stay simple and practical, another reason to ‘think before you act’ is simply that it takes a while to change the celluloid. For its characteristics, I usually choose the one applicable and corresponding to the given scenery. Frankly, scratches are the cherry on top. Plus, they can always be edited afterwards.
In contrast with the analog, digital allows for massive increase in quantity, but never with the guarantee of higher quality. In reality, it doesn’t really matter which camera you use, analog or digital. Content is the important factor, along with the message, the silent moment. The audience rarely looks at how the image was created; it’s just a technical matter. They either accept the image or they don’t.
When looking at your photos, it is rather obvious you are not afraid to work with dark situations, the atmosphere at night. Do you feel affiliated with black color or the other dark vibrant colors?
I don’t think there is any kind of special and stable affiliation with a specific color, not even black or any other dark color, or white for that matter, since we are mainly talking about my black and white sets. These two colors are counterparts, opposites, unable to live without each other; Jing and Jang. However, I do admit I savor the moment while searching for people in the shadows of the night, looking for the truth exposed by the light from the street lamps, the abandoned store windows, the blinking neon lights or the lights of the passing cars; the search for a human being in murky pubs full of smoke or in corners of a quiet town.
This kind of search for light I do like indeed – roughness of the world, authenticity, moments when the hyped up human desires and needs stand out from the dimness of the night.
The ‘grandmother leaning against the wall’ was chosen as a cover photo for the Editor’s Choice. The homeless under the lamp also cannot go unnoticed along with other similarly themed photos. You seem to have a social sentiment; do you enjoy taking pictures ‘below the main deck’?
I’m interested in human beings above all; their fate, their place under the sun, the fulfillment of a person’s dream as well as the consequences of his/her failure. I tend to look for the essence behind things, the essence of humanity. I seek a person, whoever he may be, wherever he lives, whichever profession he occupies. I seek the person within a person.
Your photos are emotional and frequently evoke reactions, being the main idea behind documentary projects. Would you consider Week of Life to have the possibility, the potential or at least a small chance to inspire emotions, feelings, thoughts in people in the future and maybe make the world a slightly better place?
Week of Life is a very fascinating project and has an enormous amount of potential in the documentary sense. As it goes with documentary projects, it’s a long distance run. And with Week of Life, the distance is infinite, unable to count how many times it makes the way around the whole planet. The possibility to view the world through the eyes of a colleague photographer, perhaps living exactly on the other side of our planet Earth, is simply amazing. If the high standard set will be kept above a certain level on a long-term basis, perhaps even kept higher than intended, and will not demean itself to more or less a shared family album with characteristic legends as it is with other social portals, it will become a magnificent photographic archive, a document so large in extent and uniqueness with no equal. Emotions, feelings and thoughts – something that WoL already evokes today and I am once again convinced that this photographic path gives us the possibility to get to know each other and remove all kinds of prejudice, traditional stereotypes and attitudes, contributing to the advancement of thinking of mankind and making the world a better place, even if it’s by a tiny bit.