This is going to be about one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. It happened one week ago. Ever since, I’ve been longing for something I cannot even name. It feels very much like falling in love, but my love is for a bunch of amazing people and for photography.
Good things and bad things happen all at once in our lives. Everything is so fast that we can hardly have time to celebrate anything or to cry. We just go on, because we forgot how to stop. I don’t know about you, but I really needed something to stop me a bit and make me listen to my thoughts and feelings. And that thing eventually happened.
Tired, worried, with one toe broken and another one infected, I entered the plane. And I hate planes – the small space, the vibrations, the noise, the flying itself, everything. The flight was a torture for me again; almost all I learned in the psychotherapy sessions had vanished. But I didn’t take any pills. I was very determined to accept my fear and endure with some dignity. An one hour flight from Bucharest to Budapest felt though like ten hours.
Robert and I went to Budapest for the Fearless Conference. As incredible as it might sound, we were going to be speakers in a conference that only three years ago we hadn’t been able even to attend, because it had been too expensive for us at that time. We were sometimes looking at each other, wondering if it could be real. Anyway, the first conference day started perfectly with Jenn Nauss and Jeff Cooke, beautiful and talented people who broke the ice in an instant. (I remember myself leaning towards Robert and telling him “it must be something about the clean air in Canada, they’re looking gorgeous”). And the day continued with the wonderful presentation of William Lambelet, a photographer we didn’t personally know but both admired so much. At lunch time, we had serious doubts that our presentation was appropriate for that kind of great conference and started fantasizing about running away.
But then Emma Case came on the stage and all my crazy thoughts stopped. She was a young mother, so feminine and vulnerable, but so fearless. I looked at her thinking: “well, the strongest people are not always in big, muscled, tattooed bodies”. She was incredibly brave and her story made me think a lot. She was on that stage, with tears in her eyes, when we all heard her beautiful little baby crying outside. That was a moment when I felt so connected with her, with her efforts and emotions, with all the people inside that theater. We were not there by chance, but because there were important things that had brought us together. We were not there to prove anything, but to be honest, understand and support each other, share our knowledge and our doubts.
I felt so lucky to be there and listen to the charismatic Jide Alakija, and then to another brave and extremely talented photographer, Kirsten Lewis Bethmann. I was still nervous and felt as if my heart was huge and invading my head, but the conference was definitely not just another conference. It really was the Fearless conference I was hoping for – unconventional, surprising and challenging.
The day ended with a beautiful cruise along Danube. The lights of the city, the spring evening air, the music, the special moments shared with some super-mothers-and-photographers, the joy and proudness of being part of the warm-funny-supportive-talented “team Romania”, everything was almost too good to be true.
The next day started with our presentation. Despite all the fears and problems, I felt as if life was offering me something really precious, so I enjoyed every second of it. Actually, it was not like a presentation at all, because we were surrounded by friends. I remember some faces in the audience. I’ll always will. I really love those people. I remember Robert, the shyest and most charming guy I’ve ever met, fighting really hard and bravely with his feelings. He made me feel so proud. I remember the atmosphere, but I really cannot describe it to you. I kept it though in my soul.
Photo by: Vlad Lodoabă
Isabelle Hattink, Julia Frantova, Víctor Lax and Mónica Muñoz were all personifications of a truly fearless spirit. I loved how different all the presentations were because of the originality, honesty, real talent and strong personality that was behind each of them. Isabelle and her father melted my heart, Julia gave me some great new ideas, I got to love Victor even more and Monica with her story about antiprincesas was like my soul-pair from the other part of the world.
I wrote all these things and now I realize they are nothing without all the hugs, the dances, the laughing, the promises we made to each other, the love. Robert was saying in our presentation that “no matter which of these days is the last one, it should find us bigger than ever, because we’ve kept growing”. Only today I have noticed that FC2017 was announced on the Fearless site like this: “It’s not just about photography anymore. We have grown”. This is exactly what happened in Budapest, I grew and flourished. And someone helped me a lot. This is a kind of magic that not any wizard would be able to do. But I know one that can find us all over the world, bring us in a theatre as if for a conference and then help us grow and flourish together. Thank you for the magic, my dear friend.
Photo by: Vlad Lodoabă
- Before leaving, I stopped on a beautiful bridge in Budapest and thought about all the people I love. One of them was my father (whom I miss every day). Mr. Hattink made me think a lot about him and understand things I was not able to understand before.
- Thank you so much Andra & Marius, Vlad and Tiago, for all the small and big things you did for us. Many thanks also to all our old and new friends for your great support and the magical moments spent together.
- All profits from this Conference will be donated to the Environmental Defense Fund. We are passionate photographers, having a lot of fun together. But we don’t live in a bubble. We are united in common values and try to make a difference in this world.
- Many thanks to Alexandra Gavrilă, the talented illustrator who helped us with the presentation.
- My flight back was the first one I wasn’t afraid of. I fell asleep two times, I looked over the window once, I was exhausted but “naturally high” :). I guess the Fearless spirit really did his job.
Photo by: Robyn Navarro