Ziga Koritnik and The Eye

John Kelman By

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Who wouldn't want the images Koritnik captures in Cloud Arrangers? From the unfettered joy and abandon of Pat Metheny and B.B. King—brought together on a single page as if they always belonged together—and an enigmatic picture of a triumphant Miles Davis in the 1980s to a shot of Charles Lloyd, playing maracas with unshackled spirituality, Koritnik's eye sees the exact moment when the creative process is at its peak.

Few photographers would place incendiary free improviser Mats Gustafsson on the same page as bass groove-meister Marcus Miller, but it's exactly that combination which demonstrates Koritnik's rare and special eye: they shouldn't work in the same book, let alone on the same page, but in Koritnik's world, they do.

Guitarist Stian Westerhus and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær were, by the time of Cloud Arrangers, long-time and well-known band mates, but who'd have thought they'd be so readily identifiable in stark silhouette? Or that a picture of nothing but the waistline of an unidentified musician next to a spare wooden table of retro electronics and reeds could somehow come together to become more than each image's individual moment? Or how an exit sign—one of the book's few color images—signals the end of Cloud Arrangers, almost acting as the return to a normal world view after over 300 pages of images that don't just report, they transport?

Which all comes back to The Eye. Like improvising musicians who somehow manage to pull form from the ether, there are some who believe that, technical skills aside, you're either born with it or not. Like a musician finding his/her voice, for a photographer, finding his/her eye is the ultimate goal. That said, in a 2011 All About Jazz interview, guitarist John Scofield spoke about that very thing: "I heard [bassist] Charlie Haden say—and this is really an oversimplification—that everybody has their own voice in music; it's just there. It's like having a voice when you talk; when you hear someone on the phone, you know it's them from just one word. It's like that playing your instrument; I think we just have to accept it. We're all music fans and we want to sound like our idols, and sometimes we get confused when we're trying to copy them. But at the end of the day, after you do all this copying, you go to play, you go to improvise, and it's not gonna come out like your idol, it's gonna come out like you."

Koritnik's view is not dissimilar: "Everybody wants to make a special picture, a photo that has never been seen before. We are all different: we all come from different cultures; we all live in different circumstances; we all have different parents. I always ask myself: 'Is this it? Is that a good one? Did I find something very unique?'

"The best way to stay unique," Koritnik continues, "is to concentrate 100% on your work, to make sure that your internal thoughts and feelings always work in a positive and loving direction for the subject with whom you are working. I always try to get myself into a position where I am completely open to what I am doing. I take care that my camera works properly, that it is always set close to the proper exposure and ready to be used. I like to find places and festivals where I am welcome and that have good working conditions. I like places where there's a good vibration in the air. What I like very much is exploring and learning about new cultures and new environments."

Cloud Arrangers is all about new cultures and new environments; but what Koritnik has accomplished here is nothing less than a tale told in imagery; a story told through The Eye, and Koritnik's inestimable gift for capturing magical moments in time. Pulling form from the ether in the best spontaneous spirit of the subjects whom he has lovingly photographed, with Cloud Arrangers, Žiga Koritnik has created a transportive visual narrative that transcends the merely visual, and finds its way into the heart, mind and soul of the music that so inspires him. Hopefully a publisher will be prepared to pick Cloud Arrangers up and give the world s chance to experience Koritnik's eye...and his unique ability to capture the music that's all around us and present it in ways most of us would never have to envisaged.

Click here to view more photos from Žiga Koritnik's gallery at All About Jazz.

Photo Credit: Žiga Koritnik


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