21/11/2019 by Alister Albert 0 Comments
In The Service of Entertainment (An Interview with Photographer, Dražen Priganica - 2019)
Many things compete for our short attention spans in 2019. Going down the YouTube rabbit-hole almost guarantees amusing videos for some; uploading, scrolling and swiping through pictures and videos on our favourite social media applications, waiting for the “likes” to flood in is another. Music videos, binge watching popular box sets or reality tv-series, wildfire circulation of social media memes that take a life of their own and video games are some of the old and new favourites we engage with for entertainment. Maybe this example is generational but even BBC Parliament’s coverage of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit vote, which “hit an all-time [television] ratings high” for its cacophony of grumbles and posh disses that were flung across the floor in Westminster with a Brexit deadline looming, was highly entertaining…if not a bit disturbing. The British public and global political aficionados may also miss the bellowing of former Speaker of the House John Bercow’s “Ooorrrdddaaaahhhh!” as he retires. The forever-content-giving Donald Trump in a re-election bid and the impending airing of Boris’ dirty laundry are also bound to be high stakes, news-worthy drama too!
All of these, though plentiful, are the examples of the expanse of things we choose from daily to provide time-filling enjoyment in our lives. Entertainment therefore serves and presents itself to us in many ways via the plethora of mediums available in this postmodern age. Heck, hopefully you’re entertained right now reading this feature and others on this site!
However, would anyone categorise photography as a form of entertainment? A simple definition of the word says entertainment is ‘the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.’ With that definition then- yes it is, as the images provided are meant to portray or bring something in focus, amuse and captivate us. It is why Facebook, then Instagram exploded on the scene as they have and grew exponentially into the companies they are today. The adage “a picture tells a thousand words” comes to mind, in a world that wants less to achieve more and is why the media industry is as important today and will continue to flourish in the future.
Dražen Priganica is a professional photographer who agrees with photography being entertainment but he took a more philosophical approach to explaining what he thinks the link between them are, during his sit-down with The Actors’ Post Founder, Alister Albert. “[Photography] is entertainment, or art [but] I think it’s more in the service of art and the service of entertainment.” From this response, we can deduce that the combination of how pictures are taken, edited and present the subject within them are the likely dimensions that create delight and constitute as entertainment for the persons viewing. Pictures are not at all equal in their entertainment and artistic value and therefore depend on the interaction of the aforementioned elements.
Elaborating a bit further, he continued with an example, “If you want to entertain with your photography, the most entertaining…would [always be] some candid photos, in the moment…you’re there with the camera and you caught it; [like they said, a] ‘Kodak moment’ in the old days!” For Dražen, taking pictures is easy but to be entertaining, choosing the right ones to display or exhibit is probably the more important task and what sets people and their work apart.
Dražen’s love for photography initially grew out of necessity. “I got into photography when I was young…before digital and before there were mobile phones. When I realised my father [was] really bad at it [when] taking family photos…heads were missing and stuff, so I took over!” he said with a chuckle. That necessity back then in Croatia became an obsession which lead him to continue taking family photos until he chose to pursue photography full time, as a career. This was a natural progression for him as he previously worked as a light designer and engineer; creating lighting and neon displays for companies and venues, working alongside interior designers and architects on numerous projects for nightclubs, bars and various events. “I was always attracted [to] light…how much you can do and [affect by] using light…I always felt like photography was always there with me as I was trying to capture what I wanted to show with the light and one thing led to another”
Moving from Croatia to Ireland in 2004, where he met his wife, they decided to move to Valencia, Spain in the summer of 2007, where Dražen earned his first paid gig at a beachside nightclub. After a few years of establishing himself as a credible, professional photographer and building a network of clients, in 2010 he established his studio Two Saints, with friend and local photographer, Fran. Due to the economic downturn in Spain in 2014, he moved to the UK, finally settling in Leeds where he has expanded his network and career around his love for photography. The opportunities he garnered throughout his journey permitted him to perfect his style, develop competence in camera-work and photo editing techniques, thus allowing him to sharpen his abilities. This also ensured he found comfort in all aspects of his work and being able to become one with his working environments, capturing candid photos and eventually progressing to collaborating and producing editorial/publication photos for well-known media companies.
Dražen did acknowledge however (as most producers of art and entertainment do) that sometimes, especially at the start, things did not always go according to plan and sacrifices were required to enable starting his career. “Since I knew what I wanted [out of my career] already, I wanted to try and push my work to the people I think who would have been interested [in it],” he noted. Continuing, he described a situation which most content producers are familiar with and may need to be done to get coveted start-up exposure. “You offer your work for free as well, which you have to do sometime…but you [should] offer to work for free for something that you love.” This was Dražen’s way of ensuring his work and efforts were recognised by the right people but purposefully, in areas that he had interest in; not the other way around. Something he still does today but by choice and only to assist young and upcoming artistes he believes possess special talents needing to be shared widely and also charitable causes which would benefit greatly from his skills behind his viewfinder.
Once he proved to potential clients that his work was of a high standard, trust was built, allowing for more opportunities to surface and eventually leading to paid work. “I was working for theatres and ballet [groups]…I always loved that, so I [gave] my work for free sometimes; offered to the ballet schools or…groups and after they liked my work and I was comfortable enough, they started to pay me for it.”
Dražen however, was quick to highlight the challenges with providing free work and is something he hopes younger photographers (or artistes/entertainers in general) take heed of. “I tried to push my work but only in the direction that I like. Sometimes I see some young photographers will take anything for free, for the exposure but you don’t [always] want to take jobs for free, [especially]in some [area or industry] that you don’t want to work in, in the future.” Explaining his rationale, he offered, “in photography [clients and the public] can niche you very fast and then, you’re stuck with it!” The advice here being that young artistes should always be mindful about the work they choose and controlling their destinies; push into areas of interest and expertise, because if they don’t, it’s easy to be ensnared in a cycle of unfulfilling work or worse; to be negatively stereotyped, which limits personal opportunities.
Having this knowledge, Dražen was able to explore his next opportunities with a level of confidence that many people struggle to obtain early in their career. Possessing a growing portfolio of photos showcasing his talent, he humbly conceded that luck and being in the right place at the right time can bring about some of the most rewarding opportunities. Whether through luck or off the sheer brilliance of his shoots, he was entrusted by global fashion publication Vanity Fair and also Spanish lifestyle magazine El Hype to produce portraits for their magazines. Modestly, Dražen proclaimed “I would love to say it was just my work!” He chuckled and continued, “…I’m being terribly cynical here!...[but] people have to be aware it’s luck that your work was noticed at the right time by the right people…You work for somebody, some agency or some publicist and that work got noticed by some of their other clients…it’s connections. You can’t get in your head that, ‘Oh I’m so brilliant, this is why I got these jobs.' No, it is a lot of who you know [and] at what time.”
With his experience, he also warned of the potential for loss of control when working with major publications. This can occur because of the differing agendas, objectives and perspectives of dealing with a team of diverse groups of executives and creatives who may have varying ideas of how to use your work. “You have to understand that you’re [part of a big machine]…You always have a Creative Director, [Marketing executives and others], so it’s teamwork. It’s well-oiled, well- organised but [the direction may come] from different voices.”
He also explained that when working in those environments, “[…sometimes] there are so many photos, you don’t have any word of which…may be [chosen]. I might think this other photo is much better [for a campaign] but it’s not up to you. You have to get your mind around that you’re just part of the team…it’s well-organised, it’s well-paid but you’re not the sole [person] who decides on the fate and usage of your creative work.”
It is important therefore for photographers and artistes who wish to collaborate will have to be mindful and adjust to understanding that they may not have full autonomy of which piece of their work may be chosen. This may be a perfect example of how photography, on its own, is not entertainment but in the service of entertainment…and business. Photos/media, in this environment are a conduit towards serving bigger commercial goals and the one(s) chosen usually fit the values, objectives and ethos of the “well-oiled” machines, that seek to make gains on providing entertainment for us to consume.
From advice on choosing the correct photos to display on social media, to his favourite photograph ever taken, on-location bloopers, to naming his favourite actors and movies, Dražen gave a fun and very insightful interview for anyone interested specifically in photography but also broadly interested in the creative industries. His calm, cool demeanour is not only evident in his spoken word and mannerisms, it oozes from his portfolio of work that showcases his penchant for candid photography, as well as portrait, stage and even boudoir shoots. Dražen was also keen to highlight an upcoming charity project aimed at featuring portraits of people living with all kinds of disabilities which he promises will be advertised on his website and hopefully his social media pages too!
To cap off all the advice that was shared, Dražen offered this final and maybe most important piece. “Do what you love. In the long term, it’s going to pay off to you. If you can’t [financially] live off it…live off something else, do [another] job, part-time…something that’s going to pay your bills but keep your passion going.” Sensing an opportunity to widen the advice to anyone in the creative world and not just specifically photographers, he continued “…Not just photographers, I think actors or dancers, artistes of all kinds, they struggle to get there- to make their work and their passion into something they can live off…I know so many kinds of people around the world and they can’t live off their art but it’s important that you keep doing it, you just have to!...[Because] otherwise, we’re just like robots!”
Robots who continually live the mind-numbing cycle of doing jobs that are unfulfilling and soul-wrenching that don’t advance our passions…None of us want that!
Photography may be in the service of entertainment, art and business as explained by Dražen above but moreover, ensure that even if you don’t aspire to be a professional photographer, make sure it’s in service of you and no one else!