The Slovenian photographer Jan Pirnat made it into the top 55 of the Image Quest 2016 with his cleverly-framed image of biker Gaspar Dolinar super-manning off a ramp. Young, eager and willing to break the rules of conventional photography, we got the behind-the-scenes on his budding photography career - and one challenge that few other humans face; dealing with the lung disease cystic fibrosis. Read on to find out what he carries in his camera bag, and why he finds the story more important than shutter speed.
What was your first camera?
It was actually my brother’s! An Olympus C-4040 Zoom helped me take my first steps into photography. Then we went on a vacation to the sea, and on the way to the destination I lost it. I don’t know how or precisely when. He wasn’t very happy about it, but it was too late... so I started looking for some cheap alternatives to buy him a replacement. I found another Olympus compact camera, but soon I realized that my passion for photography had just grown so much that at the end of elementary school, I took all my savings and with a little help from my parents, I got a Nikon D40X.
Got a favorite shot?
I don’t have one. I think that there is always something that I could do differently and better. Over time, my style and approach changes; and hopefully becomes more representative of who I am. There are some photographs that have special value for me, but more because of the story behind them, how it was done and what I needed to do to get it.
What are you shooting?
I’m trying to follow my interests at the moment, but with some long-term plans. Over time, I am getting to know what story I would like to tell with my photography. It’s a long process which will develop throughout my life, with a lot of failures and mistakes. But I’m learning from every photo that I take, and from every concept that comes into my mind. Currently, I’m working on a new website with fresh and unpublished projects.
Your entire life is affected by cystic fibrosis. Does it affect you more these days, or less? Have you learned how to manage it better?
Honestly, I just try to let it affect me as little as possible. It definitely gave me the motivation for photography when I was growing up; to set my focus on that and not on my disease. I don’t feel that it hinders me. I see it more as an opportunity to do and explore what I like, and to not waste my time too much. I’ve become better at listening to my body. I try to do things that have benefits for my health, especially for my lungs. But all this evolved so subconsciously that I didn’t even realize it. It became part of my way of life, even though it sounds very much cliché.
What gear do you carry?
35mm and 50mm lenses, plus a full-frame camera. Digital or analog. I like both. Analog is great because it slows you down, and analog photographs carry great emotions.
How do you bring variety to your photography?
Just by following my interests. I’m mostly inspired by forms of art and music - and by everyday life. But I found that photography is the medium where I can best express myself. I also feel the same about cinematography and filmmaking.
Are you an artist, or a technician?
I have a technician’s knowledge and experience. In school, we were doing a lot of technique-related projects, but I’m trying to be more expressive and creative. The feeling a photograph gives you is much more important to me than being technically “perfect” - but most important is that the concept and story works well together with the technical side of photography. This doesn’t mean that everything always needs to be in perfect focus or ‘properly’ composed etc. You have different technical needs for different projects.
You have a history of bringing some extra elements to your photos - like fire. Any dream projects in mind?
Over the years I’ve tried a few different things, and a lot of them were quite a challenge – especially from the technical side. It’s good to have those experiences because you learn how to react and improvise when everything goes wrong and the shoot falls apart. I have plans for new projects and I will start to work on them in the future.
What’s more important: subject, lighting, or composition?
I think that the most important thing to me is that all those components work well together with the story and concept. This is the most challenging part of photography.
What life lessons have you learned from photography?
That there is always something about the unknown that is interesting to us.
Check out more from Jan on his website.