Happy about nothing

Genoa, Italy
Genoa, Italy

If you were to live by Austin Kleon’s idea that “100% of humans should practice an art; probably 0% should try to make money off it”, then, in photography, as well as in the rest of the arts, the only thing that should matter is that whatever you create satisfies the desire that drove you to create it, and that it stays true to your sense of beauty. Don’t do it for financial reasons — unless it’s your actual job (why did you do that to yourself?).

By doing that, it becomes irrelevant how many people view your work, or how many likes you get on Facebook — as you’ve already achieved your goal, which was to create something. Whatever success or compensation comes afterwards, whether it be based on the merits of your work or simply for your effort, is an added bonus and should always be seen as such.

But then, of course, what do I know and why does my opinion matter at all. I’m just a guy doing ars gratia artis and having a completely different job to pay the bills. And you… maybe your ambition is to become the next Andy Warhol, so why should you listen to me, a nobody. You probably shouldn’t, but even Warhol is quoted as saying “you have to be willing to be happy about nothing.”

Be happy about simply creating something. Ideally, try to be happy before that as well.

Everything else will follow in good time.

No rules

Life’s a game and it’s a personal one. Some people thrive when they are given clear paths to follow while others do better if they’re allowed to meander fluidly and be in charge of their own lives.

There are no rules to anything in life except the ones you accept to follow. And if being a follower doesn’t feel right for you, then the solution is simple: be the leader of your own life instead of the follower of someone else’s.

Develop your common sense, forget everything you’ve been taught about how to do things and instead focus on the why, and do whatever you want – while being ethical.

It won’t be either quick or easy, but this will one day make you happy. Not content, happy.

My nomad life – Austria to Italy

My time in Salzburg was marked by a distinctly cold spring. Having  mountains nearby meant that I’d be greeted with a nice view every morning, but that I’d have to pay for it in shivers.

The second day there I was beginning to feel the effects of the previous sun overdose. Due to the chilly weather I had to wear my only long sleeve item, but because my arms were badly sunburnt this was quite painful.

A few hours later, I began feeling weak, feverish, and scared. I contemplated contacting the person that offered to drive me back home to ask if he could pick me up, but decided to try and talk to some friends first and seek some encouragement before giving up.

Continue reading My nomad life – Austria to Italy

My nomad life – Hungary to Austria

I crossed the Romania-Hungary border on foot. Bogdan, the young-ish guy who drove me there curiously  asked where I am going and why. I told him I’m going to hitchhike around Europe for a while, or forever if I really like it, and he said that I’m either very crazy or very brave, maybe both.

Once we reached the border, I was getting ready to leave the car when Bogdan asks if I can do him a favor. Curious about what he’d want from me, I say, “sure.” He says, “do me a favor and stay out [of this country], don’t come back.” I look at him with a puzzled look on my face. He continues, “it’s bad here, it’s terrible, you’re better off trying to make it outside. I’d leave as well, but I tied myself here when I was younger and now I can’t leave.” I wasn’t leaving the country to “make it,” but it would have been a pointless argument to tell him that.

I went to an exchange office on the border, exchanged all my money into Euros, and walked towards the checkpoint. The customs officer asked me for my ID, followed by “pedestrian?“, I nodded yes and went on my way. I was planning to hitchhike right after the border post, but unfortunately I was at a border checkpoint where 90% of the traffic were trucks. Trucks don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, unless of course they are blonde, nicely curved, and about as undressed as they are dressed. On top of that, there was no place for them to stop safely.

But it was a sunny day, good for walking, so I took off my shoes and put on my flip flops. Two kilometers later, my feet were black from the dust, beginning to be sunburnt, and blistered from rubbing. I was also running out of water. Luckily, I reached a truck parking, refilled my water and had a little break. After 40 minutes of trying to hitchhike went by unsuccessfully, I started walking again.

By this time I was in the sun for over 5 hours, with no cap on my head, and no sunscreen. My skin was beginning to burn. Continue reading My nomad life – Hungary to Austria

Cheap cameras are not killing photography

Many people, ranging from amateurs to professionals, are worried that the increasing availability and quality of cheap cameras are leading to a situation in which it will be impossible to earn a living through photography. The barrier of entry to this industry is lower than it has ever been before, and the number of people trying to turn their appreciation for beautiful visuals into a paying gig is larger than ever.

The number of images uploaded to social media services seems to support that theory. The fact that some news organizations are cutting their photography staff and training their reporters to take good enough photos with their iPhones is even more damning.

But that’s just noise. Ignore it.

We can complain and be worried all day, but ultimately it serves little purpose. The market is not something that is under any individual’s control and there is no way of removing all the smartphone cameras and raising the entry barrier back to where it was in the past. So rather than waste time on worrying, invest time in getting better and improving your skills – both in image-making and marketing. While the mainstream is flooded with “good enough” general images that anyone with a smartphone can take, focus on creating extraordinary images that only you can. There’s still a huge market for those out there.

It may require extra blood, sweat and tears, but you’re driven by passion, right?

Right?

The cost of travel, or why the world is exactly the way you think it is

I don’t believe in the supernatural, I don’t believe that our minds can “attract” energies or anything along those lines. I do believe, however, that it is our experiences, beliefs and expectations that make us “exist” in a certain world. I don’t mean a different universe or an alternate reality, but simply a niche of the actual world we all live in. What does any of this have to do with the cost of travel? Let me elaborate.

In 2013 I left my home with little money and a burning desire to be free, travel and challenge myself — creatively and otherwise. Until the moment of this writing, I have traveled for 10 months and have spent less than a thousand euros total. The countries I’ve traveled to are all part of Western Europe, and most tourists would consider them to be very expensive and budget at least 3,000eur/month in preparation.

So how did I spend half that amount while traveling ten times longer?

It’s simple, really. I believed it is possible, and this shaped my behavior, expectations and experiences in such a way that it became possible. I slept in a tent, I walked and hitchhiked for transportation, I accepted offers of hosting when they were offered, and I ate cheap supermarket food and wild fruit.

Generally speaking, travel is a balancing act between deciding how many comforts you want to keep, how much money you have at your disposal and how strong your desire to travel is. Given a strong enough desire to travel, the other two factors are rendered irrelevant enabling the option of travel regardless of finances or comfort.

But for a normal tourist, the belief that to travel Western Europe you need 3,000eur/month becomes an expectation, and that expectation becomes reality. In psychology, this is called a behavioral confirmation effect.

The objective reality, however, is that the world is diverse enough to confirm and accommodate everyone’s expectations and desires. The key to escaping yours is to keep an open mind.

For a wealthy person my way of travel is impossible, but this is only because they live in a different world than I do. In their world, moneyless travel is not possible. In my world, it is.

Who I am

I’m Titus, a filmmaker / photographer living in Europe.

I say Europe and not a specific country because I’m a nomad living all over the place, and even though I stay in some places more than in others, it doesn’t necessarily mean I live there in the strict sense of the word.  It’s difficult to explain, but let’s begin with the beginning.

I’m twenty-six years old, and for about eight years, since I was seventeen, I’ve spent most of my time playing video games, online and offline. Most of my waking hours were spent in front of the computer. This was because since fifth grade I’ve felt that the life everyone around me was hoping to live was utterly devoid of meaning and infinitely more boring than watching paint evaporate off the wall. I wanted something for myself. The purpose of school was boring me, the teachers were bored of their jobs and lives, and most if not all the adults I came in contact in both my tiny town (and later online as well) with seemed unhappy. My logic was that they ended up like that because they did the things everyone else around them did, and so they ended up just like everyone else. I wasn’t going to do that. And even though playing games and browsing the internet all day for that many years may sound counter-intuitive to living a fulfilling life, somehow it all worked out.

In 2013, at twenty-five, I got bored with the computer life and decided to leave it behind for a while and hitchhike around Europe, for both fun and as a creative challenge – at this point I had an interest in film/photography for a couple of years already and had made a couple of short documentaries.

I got the idea for hitchhiking in September 2012 after watching David Choe‘s Vice series “Thumbs up: How to hitchhike across America.” By January 2013 I had purchased all the equipment I needed (backpack, tent, etc) and set my departure date to sometime in June. But the itch to hit the road was so strong that I left on the 29th of April. It was the first time out of my home country and the first time I’ve camped anywhere — but I wasn’t scared. I was excited.

The first day on the road was easy, having managed to impress a taxi driver enough to offer to host me for the night. The day after that I was sleeping behind a gas station on the Hungarian highway just before Budapest, and a day later I was camped in the center of Salzburg, in Austria, thanks to a Romanian businessman who drove me ~600km and saved me from the scorching Hungarian sun. And it all seemed very normal to me. I was happy.

Now, as I said above, part of the reason for this trip was to find inspiration/subjects to make some more short films and to train myself to see more than what is obvious, as well as to widen my perception of the world. I had a solid idea of how the world/people function from making many diverse friends in all the corners of the world, but I lacked in actual, real world, hands-on experience. It was going to be a relatively short trip, with my estimates ranging from 3 weeks to maybe 3-4 months, until the cold weather would come. It made sense, because I only had money for food (~5eur/day for 4 months at most) and packed nothing but t-shirts.

In the beginning I wasn’t taking a lot of photographs because I was searching for video subjects and had to save my batteries in the eventuality that I’d find something or someone interesting — living in a tent electricity becomes a luxury. More than two months later, I had found nothing. But rather than become discouraged or sad about it, I used it as a reason to relax and enjoy the trip for what it was.

It was around this time that I got to Saint Tropez in the South of France and saw some cool sculptures near the entrance to the city. It took me a few days to find out who the artist(s) that created them were, where they lived and whether they’d let me make a short film about them. As it turned out it was a man living on the other side of France, in a small, charming village in the vicinity of Nantes. It was more than twelve hundred kilometers away from where I was, but three days later and many hitched rides later I was there and shooting. This is the result:

Shooting that short film helped me relax even more, to the extent where I was no longer searching for something to shoot and simply lived one day at a time, grateful that I had the courage to make this happen and created this reality for myself (which others call luck), did what I enjoyed most and had a purpose.

A month or so later I was in the Southwest of France and discovered that I am very close to one of the starting points of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) — in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It was soon after starting to walk on the pilgrim route that I made the decision to not return to my old home regardless of how hard it would be to live like this (at this point my daily budget was down to 2eur/day).

Now I had reached a point where I was fully living in the moment, and neither yesterday nor tomorrow mattered. I was walking across a beautiful country, meeting extraordinary people and taking pictures. Money, clothes, comforts, what other people were doing, what they were thinking of me, their worries, my future — absolutely none of that mattered.

Fast forward a few months and I’m in Prague, living with a beautiful, wonderful girl, waiting for the weather to warm up again, and still doing what I love.

What I am trying to express through my film and photography is something that cannot be measured. I don’t always know what that is, but I do my best to capture it.

This is who I am.

thoughts of a nomad photographer