Hi, My name is David Ramalho, and I am a software developer for Homestay.com where I have worked for the past 5 years. I also own and fill the role of CTO at my own company – Blackorange. I grew up and lived almost my entire life in Portugal. Somewhere in the summer of 2012, I got an email from a recruiter in a 4-month-old company in Dublin that was looking to bring people in to build their product. After a few tests done remotely, I ended up flying to Dublin for an interview. Everything went well that day and when I left the office, happy with the way the interview went, I walked down a sunny Grafton Street after experiencing the usual rain the few days prior. It felt good; the buskers, the people, the city … that was pretty much when I knew I was looking at a major life change.
Outside of my work, I love photography. The interest started some 18 years back. My uncle had an old Minolta XE-1 that he gave to me. It simply felt right, and I started experimenting with rolls and different exposures. Of course, back in those days, the experiments ran over weeks. You would finish a roll, take it for processing, wait a few days – yes days – and finally, get disappointed with the results … well, not always. I bought a few used lenses, and I was hooked. Those first days experimenting with the Minolta really felt good to me, and it was cheap enough that I could keep it going. Then in 2000-something, Canon announced the 300D and that is when I made the transition to digital – never to look back again.
I love portraits as frozen human expression can be incredibly powerful and beautiful, and I like street photography because when done well, you take slices of everyday life and make them permanent works of art. I also like landscape or cityscape photography, because there are only so many places you will visit in person during your lifetime and photography can take you back to those places, both figuratively, and, if you are impressed enough, literally.
Above: Cityscape captured by David
I physically feel a need to create things. While I think that developers have to display and use a fairly large amount of creativity in their day-to-day work, we do not always use it for artistic goals that we can personally relate to or feel proud of. I stay away from frontend work as much as I can; I like building up systems and I do my best work with back-ends and architecture. Photography, by contrast, is incredibly visual, so in that sense, it can be hard to draw a parallel between the two creatively. Art is always personal, and any expression of creativity is bound to what you are as a person.
My photography has definitely changed my life in several ways. As with any other area of knowledge, once you start to develop your skills, you will begin to see patterns in other areas of interest. In photography, this tends to be lighting, composition, and subjects, which are very transferable skills, especially into other art forms. However, I am also able to extract things such as composition and take them to the visual aspects of my job.
I have ended up benefiting from the current boom of photography that platforms like Flickr and Instagram have brought. I have met more people in recent years from going to photography meet-ups (mind you, I am definitely in the shy department, and I only attend a fraction of all the meets that happen just in Dublin) than from most other things in my life. Photography is also something I can easily share with people, from strangers who follow my online accounts or site, to family that live far from me and with whom I can share bits of my day-to-day life with ease.
Above: Countryscape captured by David
I suppose everyone’s experience is different, but I do believe artistic creative outlets are a very positive aspect of one’s life. Software development is about taking complex systems and giving them shape. Other aspects of life sometimes inspire a lot of the solutions we end up finding, architecturally and otherwise. Sometimes while working on artistic problems in software – they do exist – you end up finding analogous solutions.
Another aspect is that, if you are sitting down 10 hours in front of a computer writing lines of code, you are forcing your brain into a fairly abstract work mode. Worse, actually, it is one that is very hard to share with other people. Pretty much every software developer has heard a friend saying, “It’s just a button, how hard can it be?” Art can be a very immediate and concrete way to express yourself, and it is something you can easily share with a greater audience. It can simultaneously be very subtle; you can leave little hints here and there to other aspects of your psyche.
Art is also something in which your final output only needs to cater to a handful of scenarios – maybe just one even. You can take shortcuts, you can find solutions for your process that you do not need to have second thoughts about. You do not have to worry about scaling a picture to 1000 servers, or if your picture’s code is going to be readable or maintainable – once art is done, it is ready.
Above: Sphere Within Sphere in Trinity captured by David
Finally, it is fair to say that you will want people to see your art. This means putting your individual work out there for people to see. Not after running 1000 specs on it, not after validating if it filled carefully structured requirements, but just then, when it is done and ready. There is no version 2 you can deploy, there is no tiny fix you will push later; the first time you publish something is probably the last you will publish that same something. This can create anxiety and self-doubt, but in a safer environment than your usual one, you will learn to deal with those feelings. That is an extremely transferable skill that could benefit anyone, in any industry.