Be Not Just a Photographer - Become a Poet

A stream of thoughts on poetry, photography and social media.

Before you read this let me apologize for not being word-perfect in English, since it is not my native language. I tried as hard as I can. I will sprinkle some of my own photography, so that you can test me with my own words if you will. Maybe I am not much different myself. So here we go…

© Tim Gallo

I remember reading somewhere that modern society is in grave need of poets. And that only poetry can save the rotten state that our, obsessed with recognition, society often finds itself in.

I found the confirmation of this thought in Tarkovsky interview that I recently saw in which he emotionally says:

…now….nobody pays for poetry. But cinema can only survive because of the opposition of those poets(directors).

As I see it — what he says about cinema can be applied to any form of art.

Later Tarkovsky adds:

…real poets and artist resist trends and expectations of a viewer, cause once an artist tries to be “liked” he loses his honesty and concentrates on appreciation rather than the content of his work.

I apply it to a state of photography I observe, and a lot of thoughts rushing through my mind. I will try to put them in some kind of order.


Why are people afraid to be poetic and instead run into popular, unoriginal trends and indulge in pixel peeping instead of communicating with one’s soul and expressing it through photography?

Remember when you felt inspired so much — that you rushed to a pen with a piece of paper (or any other instrument of expression) and started to pour your soul and feelings? What happened along the way?

Have the desire to be recognized and fear of not being appreciated for your efforts took over you, and you decided to hide under technicalities and repetition of someones else discoveries?

Not to be mistaken — I find that copying is a great way to learn in the beginning — that is how every child learns — but along the way were you not supposed to find your own voice?

Remember that first inspiring picture — a person looking at some beautiful waterfall, or a lake, or any other scenery, its back towards us as if to invite us on a journey — and than it becomes swiftly uninspiring — cause you saw it million times on Instagram or elsewhere copied by one and another again and again and again — till your mind started to recognize it as mediocre?

There is no “journey” in that picture anymore… just a pathetic desire to get more likes and followers. People fall from cliffs for that recognition.

Almost everything you see becomes “tasteless,” because you already recognize it from somewhere else? You scroll and scroll through and nothing moves you— only the mind stays restless till this restlessness spread into your heart stripping you from an intimate dialogue with the all-pervading Soul.

© Tim Gallo

The silence of being with restless self become unbearable.

Have you ever caught yourself trying to (re)create an image just for recognition that this image produced for someone else? What brought you to this state?

And pieces of advice given by people, who fast achieve “mediocre,” “good enough” imagery in photography, usually sounds like every other advice of any other writer/blogger/vlogger/photographer. And even when they share profound truth it becomes useless - coming from a person who does not “live” it or live it half-heartedly. People who know the struggle between heart and mind for honest expression of yourself does not rush to share advice — till this struggle bares a sweet fruit.

Things photographers don’t do but must do. A secret that everybody should know. Avoid this mistakes. Oh, you doing it all wrong — here is the right way to do it. And this is the fastest way to the goal. What tool is the best?

And all this and other crap that is written in dozens on the internet. People chew on it, half of them swallow it as it is, other half chew on it so often that sooner or later, they find that it is the only taste they recognize.

It all makes me doubt the purpose of photography or any artistic community, social media and internet in general.

I find it very sad that not many talks about how to communicate with your soul, how to express your heart to another heart. Not much is spoken about importance of finding honesty in expression. So little is poetic or springs from artists identity.

© Tim Gallo

Is it because social media makes us lose our identity? Or was it lost even before that? Has infinite scroll down -swipe up numbed us?

I dont have answers to all my questions. I think I do, but I know I dont.

What I feel is…

Social media sows too many seeds of greed for recognition. What was about sharing your memories — collapses into a black hole of wannabe celebrities and designers of their outward life.

I am not a proficient writer by any means — maybe that is also the reason I chose photography my primary tool, but no matter what, I am an artist, and I feel responsible for educating our society in such a way that it moves towards a discovery of something beyond the superficial world. So I raise my voice… and try to put it in a form, that hopefully makes sense for someone. And even if not — I will continue to try. I will continue to encourage community of artists to resist common trends and persistent mediocrity.

It seems to me that the abundance of photography — this endless stream of images — lessens the value of artistic expression itself and the mysterious role it used to play in our lives.

And maybe it is ok for casual folk or business-minded, but for those who consider themselves an artist — I encourage to think again — what is the purpose of art?

© Tim Gallo

Tolstoy says that between society and its happiness lies a wall of ignorance, and that art is one of those tools that helps to destroy this wall. He highlights that its artists duty to educate through his art in such a way — that person discovers moral values and steps on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and improvement.

In the preface of his diary Tarkovsky puts (as translated to english by Kitty Hunter Blair):
Image is a symbol of actual life, as opposed to life itself. Life contains death. An image of life, by contrast, excludes it, or else sees in it a unique potential for the affirmation of life. Whatever it expresses — even destruction and ruin — the artistic image is by definition an embodiment of hope, it is inspired by faith. Artistic creation is by definition a denial of death. Therefore it is optimistic, even if in an ultimate sense the artist is tragic. Thus there is no such thing as artist-optimist/pessimist. There are only talent and lack of it.

This last sentence is cut out from the preface of Tarkovsky famous polaroid book. It is a scary sentence. It makes me doubt a lot of things, myself included. Also it illumines my understanding of what I am supposed to do as an artist.

In another place he says (as translated in english by Kitty Hunter Blair):
I am drawn to the man who is ready to serve a higher cause, unwilling — or even unable — to subscribe to the generally accepted tenets and trends of a worldly… the man who recognizes that the meaning of existence lies, above all, in the fight against the evil within ourselves, so that in the course of lifetime he may take at least one step towards spiritual perfection.

I believe we as a community should try to raise poets instead of pixel-peepers. We should become not just photographers, but poets — channeling the whispers and screams of our souls.

At least we should try…

Based in Tokyo Japan, I work as celebrity portrait photographer. Sometimes Movie Director. Occasionally poet. I apologise for not perfect english.