Nowhere without the Camera: An Interview with Photographer Milan Tomažin of IPA Slovenia

14 Jan 2020


diversAmong the Slovenian police, we are ‘hiding’ quite a few excellent photographers. One of them is also this year's winner of the international IPA photo competition, in the category of ‘Police at Work’. Milan Tomažin has been an IPA member ever since the establishment of the regional club in Ljubljana and has been working in the police for more than 30 years.

Milan, you have managed to successfully connect your two passions – police work and photography.

This is true, I have been employed in the police since 1987. After finishing cadet school, I got a job in the militia protection unit, which was later renamed the Special unit. In fact, I was working as a diver my whole career, and at the same time, I was always intrigued by underwater photography.

Do you still remember your first time holding a camera?

I've been interested in photography since the fifth grade of elementary school when I first attended a photography course.

Did the first contests come with experience in photography?

I don't send many photos to contests; however, I have still received several awards, including international ones, particularly for underwater photography.

Anyone checking your Facebook profile can find numerous photos from your trips there.

I like travelling, especially with the motorbike and usually distances of around 1000 kilometres practically anywhere, as long as there is some wind in the hair. I have travelled across the former Yugoslavia, to the Grossglockner, and I also carry beautiful memories of Italy.

And your favourite motorbike route?

The Adriatic Highway.

Which of your trips has been the most remarkable and exotic one?

Definitely the one across Tanzania, which was followed by 24 hours of driving with a catamaran to Pemba island. Just at the time when we were visiting, they had problems with pirates, their attacks sometimes even ended with deaths. I have also visited Indonesia, and Brazil, where I photographed kite surfers. I also have great memories of Cuba and its people.

Are any of the destinations particularly attractive for photographers? Which other places would you still like to visit?

Motives can be found wherever you go. There is always something to find. I would like to visit geysers in Iceland. I only need to convince my wife, who prefers warm destinations. Scotland and Ireland are options as well.

Which equipment are you always carrying with you?

Besides the camera or two perhaps, there must be a stand of course, different objective lenses and a colour chart. When I travelled to Tanzania, I had about 80 kilogrammes of luggage with me, because I also went underwater there. Anyway, I would normally carry a whistle, compass, and a waterproof backpack with me.

What are the special features of underwater photography?083-Edit

Underwater photography is very interesting, yet demanding. You need to be careful with the light. If you take photos on the land, with no snow, and in clean air, the photo will reflect that. However, if you took a photo outdoors with a flash during the snowfall, there would be snowflakes seen on a photo. There are always some particles present under the water, and it is necessary to use the flash when photographing. Without the light, photos would look grey / blue. However, this is quite an expensive hobby, which demands a lot of dedication. You are always searching for places that are something special and a lot of travelling is needed for that. There is a great deal of energy invested in each good photo. The other side of this medal is also that those photos often go unappreciated. Among all, I'm most proud of the underwater photos – these I have already exhibited at international level, the same way as they were created – under the water.

How was the winning photo made?

This photo was created during the training of the Special unit at the Slovenian coast. I was photographing the guys when they were practicing accessing the boat, during climbing. I used 400 mm lenses, in order to show the ratio between the chain, divers and the altitude between the sea and the foreship.

What about the processing of the photos?

Photos need to be processed – as in the past, when you would develop photography film, digital photography needs to be developed likewise. Personally, I try to be as ‘natural’ with it as possible; I fix the sharpness, whiteness, touch up the histogram, fill the black spots, extend it, crop, and add my own stamp. Some, however, go way further, e.g. they fix faces or clean the photo.

Are your children also interested in photography?

They are not enthusiastic about using a classical camera. but are more used to taking photos with a phone, yet for me, that is not real photography.

Anita Kovačič, Public Relations IPA Slovenia