< SWITCH ME >

Tom Bradley is 26 years old. He is British and currently lives in London, organising his next "mission”. Daniela Ferretti is 23 years old. She comes from Finland, but we can now find her in Yamaguchi, Japan getting inspiration from new landscapes, people and cultures. Albert Pinya comes from Spain. He is 26 years old and he spends his time between Milan, Italy and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Ilenia Tsagkatou is 28 years old, and is from Greece. The wind from the Aegean island that she comes from brought her to the European capital of Brussels as part of her studies. Felix Baygozin is only 21 years old and he has recently left his home country, Russia, for Brussels.

What do they all have in common? They are young. They are curious. They create. They have something to say. They are artists and they are brave enough to follow their passion for their art even in these hard times.

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Photo: copyright Tom Bradley
Tom Bradley in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Ugandan People's Defence Force

As a documentary photographer, Tom Bradley's work is mostly focused on stills, while he is now doing more video and sound. Tom didn't study photography. He studied zoology at Durham University, in the UK. It was a trip to Africa that made him realise that photography was what he wanted to do in his life. "It came very naturally," as he says, adding that even though today there are more pressures to get the shot - since it's now his job - he still very much enjoys photography. "My photographs tend to be about people and their stories, and I'm always conscious that what I produce should represent them accurately. Photographing them often allows in many ways for me to get access to who they are, sometimes even just sharing for a brief while in a slice of their lives. So the feelings that come with that are often dependent on them. I've been moved a great many times by those I'm photographing, whether it's the conditions they're living in, the resilience they show, or the compassion they have showed to others," says Tom. He aims for the photographs themselves to have those same effects on the viewer.

"My photographs tend to be about people and their stories. I've been moved a great many times by those I'm photographing, whether it's the conditions they're living in, the resilience they show, or the compassion they have shown to others."

Having entered the world of photography, for Tom there is no way out, nor any kind of desire to look for an exit. His parents would prefer him to have a more financially secure profession. His friends encouraged him to do whatever he wanted and admired him for it. But perhaps none of them could have predicted that Tom would some day be able to finance himself just through his photography, even if that has not always been the case. "I certainly had my fair share of living at home (in Gloucestershire) after University, I've had a couple of other jobs to tide things over and fund various projects and plane tickets, and I've done bits of fund raising," he says.

Currently, Tom is researching for a project on leprosy that will take up the next year of his life, while he has just returned from a 9-month visit to Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has just moved into a flat in London with a friend who is willing to put him up rent free until he moves off again in the New Year.

Paintings, illustrations and at times posters are what the Finnish Daniela Ferretti does. Although she is still at university studying Art Education, her involvement with art goes back many years: "since I could hold the pencil in my hand," she says. Her passion for art was revealed as soon as she was able to look and notice the world around her. "I have always loved colours very much and I have always taken much pleasure in seeing different colours in different places," she recalls.

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Painting: copyright Daniela Ferretti
"Free" by Daniela Ferretti. "Usually when I paint or draw I concentrate so hard that the rest of the world disappears around me."

The moment she enjoys most is when she uses her imagination to get new ideas and put them in a sketch book: "when I start doing the artwork with my hands, then it is mainly about handicraft and I produce the work like an artisan. Usually when I paint or draw I concentrate so hard that the rest of the world disappears around me and I have no idea about the time. The beginning is always quite difficult but stopping painting is the hardest part, especially because you always find something to correct and you don't want to leave the painting. Of course you always get new ideas while painting and usually the completed artwork looks somehow different from the original plan."

Albert Pinya tried to study art at the University of Fine Arts in Valencia, when he was 19 years old. However, he left his studies after a few months. He had fights with his teachers and he realised that he didn't believe art could be taught. "I only believe in the history of art and in the savage nature of the artist. So I decided to build my career on my own," he says. As a visual artist, Albert is keen on playing with paintings, videos, performances and sculpture. As materials, he prefers to use simple things that he finds in the environment. "For example, I prefer a piece of my niece's toys to a bit of gold or a diamond," he says.

"I don't like artists who create artworks for decoration. I hate them. Art has to say something. Always."

His artistic explorations started when he was 17 years old and he was living alone at a boarding school in Valencia. In his eyes, the place seemed like a prison. Nonetheless, at the same time, it gave him the time and space to think about what he wanted to do with his life: "I felt like I was a person with lots of things to say. So I needed to communicate what was happening around me and decided to become an artist because I like to tell stories. I don't like artists who create artworks for decoration. I hate them. Art has to say something. Always."

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Photo: copyright Albert Pinya
Albert Pinya working on a mural in Caimari, Mallorca. "The moment when I am realising an artwork is a moment of mystery and white magic."

The most interesting moment for Albert is the process of creating an artwork. When he finishes, it seems boring to him to think about it. "This is the work of the public. And it's necessary. But I usually prefer the tension and the fight. And this happens only in the moment when I am realising the artwork. It's a moment of mystery and white magic."

"Art is like travelling in a magic world."

It's exactly the enjoyment of these moments that are worth the financial insecurity accompanying the work of artists. For four years, Albert worked in a restaurant in order to earn his living. However, for 3 years, he has been working on his creations only, although he always has trouble getting paid after he exhibits or sells one of his artworks.

"Art is like travelling in a magic world," says Ilenia Tsagkatou from Greece, who finds many different ways to work with art: sometimes she makes paintings and jewelleries, at others she sews and makes constructions from recycled materials, or creates collage models.

Her passion for art was born during her childhood and developed further during her Architecture studies at university, when she had enough spare time to experiment with art.

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Photo: copyright Ilenia Tsagkatou
"Art is like travelling in a magic world": Ilenia Tsagkatou with some of her jewellery.

Although romantic in the way she sees art and the world, Ilenia appears to be more realistic when it comes to the possibility of being able to finance herself exclusively through her art: "Sometimes I happen to earn much money and other times nothing! You always have to take a risk." That's why having a different source of funding offers her the freedom she needs to create without any limits, pressure or stress to get money from her art. "I am always happy when people recognise my art. But sometimes when something you love so much begins to be your work, it loses its value," says Ilenia.

He might be young, but he has already 14 years of experience. The Russian Felix Baygozin started playing classical guitar at the age of seven and since then he has always studied music. For him, art is the ability to express our feelings, emotions, our inner world. "The best inspiration comes when something happens - happy or sad. Usually sad things work much better for creating something. When you are happy, you want to do nothing else but "grab" the moment! When you are sad, though, you have the chance to think and change. In these terms, love is the best inspiration, especially when it's gone," Felix explains.

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