Ede photo books set new standards in search of Malta’s photographic identity

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Ede photo books Series Two. Photo by Jacob Sammut

On Friday, 19th February Ede Books launched the 2nd series of the photography books by both, local and international photography enthusiasts (I avoid using term ‘professionals’ intentionally, more about the reasons for it below). Apart from introducing a few great images from a variety of categories – from travel photography to urban and abstract – and attracting a broad spectrum of audience, Ede photo books’ events signified a cultural shift in Malta’s photographic scene. The outcome of these series certainly is a milestone, a breakthrough in a collective effort in search of a new photographic identity. A fair number of the photographs displayed at the launch signify the end of the era dominated by overly edited images of a rather poor aesthetic quality, locally marketed as ‘professional photography’.

Some of the photographs were greatly influenced by the Workshop f/1.4, a monochrome film photography course opened two years earlier. By demonstrating the fundamental concepts and the magic of analogue photography, the workshop led by David Pisani and Zvezdan Reljic enriched photographic vision of many enthusiasts in Malta. The tutors’ passion for photography as an integral process was inspiring to many and bore great results.

The book launch event was symbolic in many ways – it brought out the emerging eager for true photography as well as a few aspects which clearly undermined the persisting public misunderstanding of the very idea of photography. A number of times I was approached with the same question which, to my surprise, was addressed by seemingly culturally aware people. The question (or, to be precise, a remark) was ‘I didn’t know you were a photographer’. What makes one a photographer? Is it having a website with a collection of images, a self-description, a Facebook page or perhaps a tacky practice of watermarking pictures? Or perhaps just owning a camera does the trick? Sadly, flashing an expensive camera and a few lenses seems to be enough for many to call themselves ‘photographers’.

Whereas there are various definitions of ‘photographer’, a description of someone fascinated with imagery who also thoroughly enjoys depicting it, is the one I side most with. The aesthetic value of a truly good picture is always greater than the object/event it portrays. While paying respect to the nature of the object/event, a photographer contributes his/her vision to the image and that is why the visual interpretation of the captured moment cannot be translated into words. An image that can easily be described with no loss of unique imagery is not a good photograph.

The event also pointed at a few other particularities of Malta’s local photography scene. Surprisingly, a number of the authors took the publication as a chance to praise their personal achievements of all sorts. It was abhorrent to discover the extensive lack of humility and self-irony that some of the authors revealed by literally dedicating chapters to themselves on the back page of their book. Manipulating public opinion by explaining why your own photographs need to be appreciated or, even worse, praising yourself for being a great photographer, is a foul approach that needs no further comment.

As Milan Kundera wrote, “if a novel is successful, it must necessarily be wiser than its author”. The same is true about a great photograph. It speaks for itself better than an extensive description of its qualities. Ede photo books present a variety of such images. The greatest outcome of the whole initiative was in encouraging individuals, passionate about photography, whose work until recent had been overshadowed by individuals passionate about digital editing.

Should you be interested in purchasing a copy of a specific photography book or a whole set of books please contact edebooks.eu.

P.S. I sincerely hope the article does not offend anyone since it was never meant to be an offense. I believe certain aspects need to be articulated even if they reveal an unpleasant side. As part of a group effort, I perhaps should have abstained from commenting on those aspects publicly but, alas, I did not manage. 

Kenneth
Untitled photograph from ‘Grif’, a book by Kenneth Borg
Charles Balzan
“Stephansdom” by Charles Balzan. His book ‘Not Alone’ promises to be of the most influential photography books launched so far
Nigel
“Elsa” by Nigel Baldacchino (book “Still life/Guest”)
Martin
Valletta City Gate by Martin Galea de Giovanni
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Off-season Comino: a treat of silence

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In Malta silence is scarce. It is unwelcome and is almost feared. As if united in some secret anti-silence conspiracy, blasts of fireworks, church bell chime, gas delivery horns, loud conversations and passers-by’s vocal chords or/and car horns acting as door bells perform together to tear silence to pieces. Mediterranean passion for life and bustle does not have high respect for the noise-free environment. Every day, passion for life is celebrated here with fanfares and splashes of colour, leaving silence no other place but afterlife.

Comino, the smallest of the inhabited islands, attracts hordes of tourists and locals alike. In summer the famous Blue Lagoon fills up with boats, parties and laughter – everything that stands for summer fun by the sea. For too many, the Blue Lagoon is where Comino starts and ends, perhaps, that is why, by the end of autumn, the tiny rock of impeccable charm turns into a retreat of silence.

Off-season Comino is a meditation, a temple of silence worship. Every day spent here is refreshing for the body and the mind. The hidden caves, the sunset views from the tower, the flocks of birds flapping over your head effortlessly transform you into a silent observer of the beauty that surrounds. Small details, unnoticed during the summer, now rush to speak to you. A flower petal, a bee hive or a cliff of a particular shape stand out and call for admiration. While treating yourself with prolonged indolent moments you feel how the rustle of tree leaves and the bee’s buzz hypnotise and convince not to disturb their flow. The appeal of Comino extends far beyond its pretty turquoise bay: it allows the sense of intimacy with nature to develop – the effect that is difficult to match.

The true love for the natural world begins from the tender, meditative state of unity with it. Silence is an indispensable chord which sets us in tune with nature. Silence is magic.

P.S. Could it be that Maltese present-day obsession for concrete development and lack of appreciation for silence are related?

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