Photographer Bidovec tries to approach trips "without expectations"
Ljubljana, 3 March - Katja Bidovec, a successful young photographer, says that photography is an obsession for her, a source of pleasure and relaxation. She is attracted to remote countries and cultures. She was recently in Namibia, while she is presently taking photos in India.
Her remaining programme for this year includes Cuba and the refugee camps of Western Sahara. She always tries to approach her photo voyages without expectations, arguing this reduces the chances of being disappointed.
Before photography became her passion, she was a serious basketball player. She switched to photography in the early years of university, mostly through study material related to visual topics.
Bidovec is convinced that young photographers need to learn from old masters of photography, who set milestones, created styles, and made iconic photos.
"Each individual picks their role models that they draw from. On the other hand, we also have to find our own style, which is the hardest," she said.
A big lover of street photography, Bidovec puts French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, a pioneer of street photography, at the top among her influences, while the work of Alex Webb has been her source of excitement recently.
Women have been of particular interest to Bidovec as a photographer, especially in the Muslim world, a world that attracts her the most. "I get in touch with myself there, I have my own way of approaching these women, of taking photos of them. Its safe to say we always have fun."
India - a street photography paradise
Also close to Bidovec's heart is India, which she describes as "a street photography paradise".
"The way life flows there, people don't really notice you. This is kind of the essence of a street photographer - to be absent from the photo, to not have your energy influence things - and this is possible in India. There are large crowds of people there who have no time to take notice of you, which is why I really enjoy myself there," she said.
Bidovec has recently spent several few weeks in India, where she went to document one of the biggest Hindu festivals, Shivaratri. The festivities in the city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges attract millions of pilgrims, who partake in all kinds of religious rituals for days and nights on end.
"I've always been attracted to religious topics, even though I myself believe that it is religion that has caused the most damage on this planet and that it is absurd in a way. Still, from the perspective of photography it is beautiful, attractive, photogenic. People are in an altered state, they are thinking about other things and let you take photos."
The Vanishing cultures project
Three years ago, Bidovec and fellow photographer Arne Hodalič started a long-term project named Vanishing Cultures. They first headed for the Omo River valley in Ethiopia and continued their path to India and Namibia, from where they returned from a few months ago.
The purpose of the project is presenting peoples that still live the way they did centuries ago, but are, according to anthropologists, on the verge of extinction. "I wish that the project would help people recognise the diversity of cultures, visual diversity. This is the essence of our message. We should respect these people, respect multiculturalism," she stressed.
The pair brought an entire photo studio along with them to what are extremely remote and dangerous places. They wished to brave the tough conditions and to present the individuals in a way that is usually only possible in a real photo studio.
The thing that touches Bidovec the most during such travels is how different these people are and how connected they are to their culture.
"I find it exciting how they don't allow anyone to change them. The missionaries want to force western habits on them, dress them in regular clothing, make them go to church, but they don't allow it. We, on the other hand, submit quickly to changes, we're losing the ties to our past, to what we truly were, fairly fast," she said.
Bidovec and Hodalič's Vanishing cultures photos were on display at Ljubljana Caste last summer, while it will still be possible to see them at the Jakčev Dom gallery in Novo mesto until 17 March.
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Bidovec wants photography to stay an obsession, not become a profession
The young photographer has so far participated in a number of group exhibitions, while she also had six independent exhibitions, with a focus on street photography.
Becoming the fist Slovenian with such a feat, Bidovec received the second prize in last year's Nikon competition, which marked the 100th anniversary of Nikon and saw the participation of over 21,000 photographers with more than 70,000 photos. She was honoured for a bird's eye view of devotees and a portion of a giant Buddha in the Weherahena Shrine in Sri Lanka.
Her photo and study achievements have also been acknowledged by the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, where she received the Hanno Hardt Award for outstanding achievements by students of media and communications studies.
Bidovec is active in a number of other fields besides photography. She will start teaching Photoshop at the Faculty of Social Sciences, she is looking after the social media of National Geographic Slovenija, and she helps run her family's patisserie.
She does not want photography to become a profession for her, a vital source of income. Instead, she wants to take photos exclusively of what really interests her. "My goal is to preserve photography as my obsession, something I truly enjoy, something that relaxes me. I feel this is the only way to be really good at something and do things that bring you joy."