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Monday, December 9, 2019

Focus on Photography: Petra Cvelbar

Petra Cvelbar by Aleksandra Sasa Prelesnik

By Eyal Hareuveni and Paul Acquaro

What are some of your recent projects? 

I have two projects concerning music: one is titled Sweet Addiction, wich includes my best music photos. Three years ago I made a small book-diary as promotion of upcoming exhibitions under that title. Besides that, I also have a project titled In Women’s Hands which focuses on women musicians. With this project I’m trying to emphasize the feminine touch in a way of richness of diversity that this differences brings.

I shouldn’t forget my passion for yoga and coffee which also are ongoing projects next to my music passion. I hope to make a small book with yoga photos.

Kim Gordon/Body/Head feat. Ikue Mori, Festival Music Unlimited, 2013, Wels, Austria

What is the decisive moment (referring to Henri Cartier-Bresson) in photographing free jazz/free-improvised music/creative music?

For sure there are parallels between photography and improvisation. You have to be in the moment, you follow the music, but not only through your eyes, I use all of my senses to get to that decisive moment when I make the photo. And as musicians are in the communication between themselves they communicate to me as well. They lead you to this moment when you press the trigger. I function still the ‘old way’ (as it was when we were using films) and don’t take as many photos as some photographers do. I wait till music speaks to me and leads me somewhere. You wait, you make maybe a frame of what you want to shoot, but actually it goes in hand with the developments on the stage. When it happens in the music it happens also for you to make that click. Well if the circumstances let me photograph the whole concert of course, if I’m limited to only 10 minutes, then I just do the necessary photos as documentations.

Matana Roberts, New York Winter Jazz Fest, 2011, New York, USA

Can photographs, in this digital and Instagram age, still tell a story?

You tell me ;)

I think they can if you speak the language. The problem these days with photography is that lots of people think that they are the photographers, but actually they are merely the owners of expensive cameras and phones. You have to know the language first and than you can speak - tell the story.

Kaja Draksler & Susana Santos Silva, Ljubljana Jazz Festival, 2013, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Do you have a musician, configuration, setting, or instrument that you feel works well with photography?

Only good music actually ;) that is the most important for me. If the music is good, if a good atmosphere develops and if there is at least some light, then usually the photos are good too. Otherwise, I don’t complicate much. I adjust to whatever there is in front of me. Maybe what can spoil a good photo these days is, beside limitation to the first 8-10 minutes of photographing, are also bad light conditions or light technicians who don’t know how to use the equipment.

Sun Ra Centennial Dream Arkestra, 2014, Cerkno, Slovenia
What is your preferred/recommended camera/lenses?

I use Nikon 810 and the usual Nikon lenses 70-200, 24-70, 50 an 85mm My favourite is probably Sigma pro series 50 mm 1.4 for portraits and Nikon lens 70-200 for concerts. But if money wouldn’t be a limitation I would love to have Nikon D5 (or the new one that will come out soon I guess) and Leica camera for strolling and of course one of medium format cameras for portraits. I could never get tired of playing with different kinds of cameras & lenses … like musicians discover new and new instruments … its the same in photography.

The Thing / Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, 2011, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Any advice for the novice photographer?

Well, if you want to do music photography first read a book or two about concert photography and attend a workshop. Get photo equipment and learn how to use it. Follow & listen to the music you want to photograph. After you do all that then you start in small local clubs, but always get a photo pass and ask for permission to photograph and stick to the rules given by organiser. When you are at the concert photographing be as much invisible as possible & do not disturb. Be aware that concert is for the audience. Photograph only when the music is loud and do not use a flash. What is very important is wear hearing protection. I damaged my ears a bit at some noise festival, so keep that in mind.

Roscoe Mitchell /The Trio Abrams, Mitchell & Lewis, Skopje Jazz Festival, 2011, Skopje, Northern Macedonia
Anything else that we should have asked, but did not?

Well, I have a question for all of you: Can a music photography be art?

This question goes through my head often. We rarely hear much discussion on this topic. Music photography is taken for granted. Whole music industry is actually based on images as album covers, band portraits, promotion materials and documentations of concerts. But everyone usually forget that there are photographers (artists) who took those photos. The most common problem for all of us is that ‘they’ forget to credit photos for example.

Music photography is always perceived as part of documentary photography. And as improvised music is pushed away on the edge of the whole music scene well I think is the same with music photography.
Joe McPhee, Ljubljana Jazz festival, 2012, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Petra (born in Ljubljana, Slovenia) became interested in photography in the final year of grammar school. Her encounter with photography was more of coincidence, because her friend was looking for someone to apply with for a photography course. Later at the Faculty (Social Sciences, Cultural Studies), she pursued photography on the theoretical level, whenever possible integrating photography into seminar papers, and she even graduated in photography. After graduation she neglected it and dedicated herself to studying and exploring graphic design. Currently, she holds the post of Art Director of the Slovene edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Her passion towards photography was rediscovered in 2008 after her first solo exhibition at Festival Kanal in Bohinj, where she also met the great photographer Žiga Koritnik. Ever since his workshop (2009), she has been addicted to photography and music, both of which today form an integral part of her life. She finds music a remedy and invigorating boost of energy. The photos she takes during the concerts are her way of sharing the beauties of the world, which is so nice to rediscover and abandon yourself to.

More info:
IG: @petracvelbar
FB: Petra Cvelbar

Peter Brötzmann, Jazz Em Agosto, 2017, Lisbon, Portugal