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30 Days of Batis 2/40 CF
A Batis adventure and a personal photography scratch book with a creative touch.
Sharing a new post every day for the next 30 days.




Day #12 – small photography

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF – f/4.0, 1/80sec, ISO400, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF – f/4.0, 1/80sec, ISO400, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

After my project 'Days of Zeiss' in the end of 2016 I felt I had reached the point where I started to question my approach to photography. During that year I had enjoyed the privilege of using high-end ZEISS lenses. I had enjoyed learning more about the company and its history. I had enjoyed the high contrast ZEISS look. But after my project something was flat. In a sense I slide into a void where I was unsure if my photography was making a difference. I was unsure about my direction: should I continue to follow this path which was heavily determined by the tools I was using or should I try to find something else. Within this dark void there was a small almost invisible string which I started to wind and it brought me to some fundamental questions: 'why I shoot the things that I shoot' and 'what is really the source of my photographic inspiration and enthusiasm'? I contemplated these questions in my everyday life at rainy streets, in parks and while doing housework without picking up my camera as often as I did earlier. And slowly I began to solve it and I was quite sure about the right answer. As small and basic as it sounds, it's our two children and the life we all live as a family. It is the very same reason why I initially bought my first Sony camera and a kit lens in the first place at 2012. Aura had just born (our first child then) and it changed my life; I felt I was living a golden moment in my life and I wanted to retain as much of it as possible. That's the original reason why got interested in photography again after some false starts in my youth and why I succeeded this time – because I had a real reason to take photographs, nothing else inspires as much as authentic life.

Looking at pictures I've taken of our daughters led me to personal realization that while these kind of everyday pictures don't represent any emerging new trends in world photography, the visual imagery related to one's childhood forms an important building block to anyone's identity. To be more precise, children create their identities by themselves but we as an adults need to provide them positive building blocks for this task, and taking photographs can be one way to do this in parallel to other means as well. This is the real mission I want to accomplish with my photography: to create visual imagery for our children and their childhood. As a photographer I cannot imagine myself creating a more influential body of work, since when I am not here anymore the pictures I've taken will continue to live and be meaningful to our daughters (and maybe to their children as well, and so on). And I wanted to do this as well as I could and be as good photographer as I could, so of course I was interested about better tools. But the tools are just tools. To be successful I need to connect with their childhood experiences at a deeper level: to find the decisive moments, small gestures of happiness, vanishing seconds, doubts and in general, to tell stories with pictures. With my enthusiasm for the ZEISS lenses I got sidetracked I believed that excellent tools would bring excellent results more easily. They do, but only at the very technical level and concentrating too much into it means that I would miss the real reason for my photography because it's not in my field of view.

I like to think that underneath the large cultural structures of today's photography there is a world of 'small personal photography' where the surface and methods might not be as ambitious but it is as rich and meaningful as the dominant visual discourses. In fact, in its small scale it is often more authentic and meaningful – something you are naturally bound to connect with. It's different from the world of 'big photography' which fills our screens with commercial fashion pictures, outdoor pictures and all other 'spectacular pictures' which are more beautiful, more creative, more amazing – but to which we often fail to connect with. The small photography is more interesting because it's less pretentious and has retain the invisible string of authenticity in itself. It's pictures about real life where every life deserves to be photographed and a to be told with pictures as well as words and stories, because the fact that we all have an unique story to tell, makes us individuals and humans.

I don't want to tell you that one needs ZEISS lenses because of 'the ZEISS look', 'micro contrast' or other popular attributes. I simply don't want to write myself into that narrative, because I don't believe these are the most important aspects in photography. I don't even want to claim that one needs ZEISS lenses to create beautiful photography. One can create touching and authentic pictures with any lens, this should be self evident. But the ZEISS is of course intellectually interesting because they have a long history in lens manufacturing and they are in many ways at the leading position for a reason. Because of their technological research, rigorous attention to detail and ambition to be the best they make lenses that are among the very best. Their lenses are about as excellent as it can get and are therefore inspiring and perfect tools for photography – but they are just tools and the rest is up to you. This is about as honest as I am able to put it.

Ps. In today's picture there is Meri, our second daughter and now three years old. She and Aura were playing school together while I figured that I could be a school photographer coming to school to photograph them. So we built a small studio with mattress and blankets with a light coming from the window. I figured we could do a group picture with all the plushies in picture too, but unfortunately our little studio couldn't take it all in. So instead I got this portrait of Meri with her elephant and I was happy about it. It's small photography.