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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Focus on Photography: Ziga Koritnik

Ziga Koritnik by Mats Aleklint
By Eyal Hareuveni and Paul Acquaro

This profile is the first part of a short series of profiles on photographers focusing on the creative music scene.

What are some of your recent projects?

For last few years I have been working on my new book of music photography Cloud Arrangers. We published it in January 2019, through our foundation PEGA, financed by a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. It consists of approximately 270 pictures over 376 pages, the size of the book is 20 x 30cm. The text was written by Joe McPhee, Joelle Leandre, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark and John Kelman. For now, I am distributing it mostly on my own. Since the beginning of the year and through end October 2019, I presented it at 13 different locations around Europe – among others I was at Galerija Fotografija Ljubljana, Konfrontationen in Austrian Nickelsdorf, Jazz Festival Ljubljana (+ exhibition), Skopje Jazz Festival, Porgy&Bess in Vienna, Ai Confini Tra Sardegna E Jazz on Sardinia/Italy, Music Unlimited in Austrian Wels, and Forli Open Music festival in Italy where I had presentation/exhibition as well. At many of the presentations, musicians and promoters like Zlatko Kaučič, Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Han Bennink helped me by enriching the event. In Munich / Germany and Villach / Austria I had presentation at a Joe McPhee / Paal Nilssen-Love concert.

From time to time, for whoever is interested, I present music photography workshops. I am starting to prepare myself for the Christmas Artmarket in Ljubljana, where I am selling my “wall” art, along with trying to find some commercial work as a hospitality, portrait, and event photographer, along with my studio work.

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

When you are enchanted by music everything is easier and natural. The main conditions for getting into the groove to get good pictures are good music, good atmosphere, and situations at concerts and festivals where you can feel good and welcomed. Decisive moments for getting the best results and the best transfer of the energy happening on stage to your medium is through the sincerity of interpretation and being prepared to catch it on camera. Somehow, you need to follow the wave, be at the right time at the right place, and press the button when needed to catch the decisive moment. I believe that from anywhere you are, you can get a good picture. Also, you must be technically prepared so that you are getting a proper and sharp exposure. You have to be constantly focused on what is happening on stage and around it. A picture must contain just as much as it needs - nothing more and nothing less - to tell clearly with the photographic language what you want to say. Even though in free jazz it is hard to predict what will happen in the next moment, at least you need to be familiar with the content currently played by the musicians you will be photographing. When interesting things start happening, you try to catch as much as possible moments of that time. There is something un-explainable in every talented artist – you are simply able to make a picture interesting and good.

Peter Brotzmann and Joe McPhee
Can photographs, in this digital and Instagram age, still tell a story?

A different kind of story, not demanding story – pictures could be as strong as those done on real cameras – but in my opinion they cannot replace the quality of “real” camera. Big cameras still have different better lenses and views that phones don't have. In general, for people the average phone is perfect. It is great and we can all use this tool, but it is bad that we have so many awful pictures. Everybody thinks they can be a photographer. For some uses, these pictures can be ok, but who is behind the camera or phone camera is still important – the device is just a tool and we are the “captains of that boat.” Instagram is just another way of helpful communication between you and the audience that is following you. It is a diary of your work, it is a document of your time.

Sophia Jernberg

Do you have a musician, configuration, setting, or instrument that you feel does not work well with photography?

Natural evolution brought me through different periods and genres of music in my life to improvised contemporary music, which I like the most. Here I feel at home. Of course there is a lot of other music, that I like and follow - like African, world or good mainstream. In general, I like all good music.

I don't have a musician that could be bad or good - there is only good and bad music. I avoid, and am not interested in, people that don't like to be photographed, and that don't respect my work as much as I respect theirs. Of course there is a lot of music that I like more, but I'd rather not say who, as this is changing all the time. If I have commissioned work to do, I do it professionally and not thinking personally with my taste – just do the job as good as possible. Of course, I sometimes decline a job offer if I feel the atmosphere cannot be developed in both ways. I like to work with musicians, promoters, or whomever is involved in the story, who know how to use my work in a proper way.

What is your preferred/recommended camera/lenses?

I have, all my life, worked with Nikon cameras like the D3s, D5, D850, at the moment I am looking at changing my camera, hoping that some new affordable model will come on the market that would fulfill my expectations – as my camera is old, too loud, and technically behind its time. I must think about that the audience and musicians are not to be disturbed. I’m waiting for a completely silent camera that will work fast and perfectly.

I like to use many different lenses, zooms and fixed ones. Like zoom 80-200mm/2,8; 300mm/2,8; perfect one’s are 50mmm/1,4; 35mm/1,4; 85mm/1,4; 14-24mm/2,8; 24mm/1,4. I still like working portraits on film and medium format Mamiya RB67. I have a movable studio with flash lights and whenever possible I do portraits.

My backpack, filled with all this stuff, is of course too heavy. All the equipment is very expensive. We need to have good computers with good software and a lot of free space to save and archive all pictures we take. So, I can say for all of us: we would be very happy to be paid for our work and that it would not be mostly expected that we are giving our work for free. Like musicians, we need to pay our bills and survive in this rough world too.

Anthony Braxton
Any advice for the novice photographer?

Please don't use lights on your cameras for autofocus and sounds / beeps to know when your camera is ready. There are other indicators telling you that you are ready to press the button. Don't use flash, these days cameras are so sensitive you most of the time don't need it. Do not take pictures in silent moments. Relax while taking pictures, being too excited and running around distracts the attention of the audience .We need to be focused on our subject, music. Take care about other photographers, don't jump into their view area. Have your camera and yourself ready. Think about everything around you, musicians, audience, organizers – and of course take care about yourself. Keep your inner creativity burning all the time. Be persistent and follow your dreams. If you think there is something is not possible to make, accept that as a challenge and try to make it at your best. Enjoy what you are doing. Don't just look around, see what is happening.

Tom Waits
Short Bio:
Born in 1964, Koritnik is a self-taught cameraman and photographer, regularly exhibiting at home and international exhibitions. He worked as a cameraman at Radio Television Slovenia for 18 years, and has been a freelancer since 2007. He has published several books: Jazzy-ga 1995; Jezero / The Lake 2009, Un Punto Di Luce 2009; Cloud arrangers 2019.

He has worked for, or is still working for:
  • Skopje Jazz festival, Northern Macedonia;
  • Jazz festival Ljubljana, Slovenia;
  • Festival Druga Godba, Slovenia;
  • Musica Sulle Bocche / Sardinia – Italy
  • Ai Confini Tra Sardegna E Jazz, Sardinia – Italy
  • Isola Delle Storie Sardinia, Italy
  • And has visited many different venues and festivals around the world including: Saalfelden Jazz Festival, Konfrontation in Nickelsdorf, Vienna Jazz Festival, Musique Metisses of Angouleme, France, Womad, Reading/ England, Talos Festival / Italy, New York's Vision Festival/ USA; Penang Jazz Festival, Malaysia; Zhuhai Jazz festival / China; 
Koritnik's photographs are regularly published in international newspapers and magazines such as Time Out, Jazz Times, Jazziz, Signal to Noise, Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, Ballett Internationale, Village Voice, Downbeat, Jazznyt, Jazzthetik, etc.

In 1997 the Italian photographic magazine Zoom dedicated a report to him and in 2005 his work was presented in 16 pages in the Japanese magazine Jazznin.

In 2001 he documented the realization of the Map to Paradise exhibition by Peter Greenaway. His photographs have been included with CDs released by labels such as Tzadik, Intuition Music, Nika Records, Trost Records, The Thing Records and Leo Records.

He has held over 60 personal and 40 group exhibitions at home and abroad (Slovenia, Italy, United States, Austria, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Monte Negro, Ireland, Japan ...).

Received the Special Recognition Award at the Olympus photo contest in Japan.

More about Koritnik's work at:


Han Bennink


Colin Green said...

Excellent idea and an absorbing interview with some great images. More please.

Nick Ostrum said...

Great post. I am unfamiliar with Koritnik's work, but, damn, that is an incredible photo of Tom Waits. Looking forward to seeing how this feature develops.