Only had a few hours at Coney Island. Better than nothing. Check out my “ok” photos.
Only had a few hours at Coney Island. Better than nothing. Check out my “ok” photos.
Welcome back Michael. You took a hiatus? How long?
Well, I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to these questions. The “welcome back” may be somewhat premature, however. I did step away from photography for a while, if not taking photographs is what you mean, yes. I remained firmly in the photography world as a writer (I write for magazines like Photo Life), and I remained a judge at the World Street Photography Organization. I just didn’t feel the urge or the need to actually pick up a camera. I sold most of my equipment and for a whole year only took a handful of photos using an iPhone. It felt good. So, although the dates are blurry, I was away from the game of making photographs for a solid year.
What did you do during that time?
Well, as I’ve said, I wrote for magazines about photography and I also did some judging. I am a teacher by profession and I began in a new position, which required me to focus on getting settled into a new environment. I am also teaching a new course and needed to write some curricula etc. I traveled some during that time. I teach classical world, so I traveled back (after many years) to both Rome and Athens and didn’t make a single photograph in either place. It felt wonderful! I worked on a writing project with Martin Sheen. I also got into collecting expensive mechanical watches and learned all about that world.
Why were you away and what made you come back?
I’m not really sure why I felt I needed to step away. In a piece of writing, which you reference below, I talked about how street photography is overrun with bad photography and I think that was part of my decision. I was just seeing too much of the same. Everyone copying each other and producing so much of the same. It became very boring for me. You know, underexposed photographs of people lurking in shadows amidst splashes of color in the backdrop. How many of those photographs does the world really need? Or photographs of people passing in front of billboards and aligning with something in some way that apparently is ironic or interesting. Oh look, a woman with a pink shirt walked in front of a pink billboard. Snap.
Then you have the photographs of kids jumping in and out of water, young woman on cell phones, or people holding umbrellas. So much of the same. Do I sound bitter? I’m not really, truly, but I am tired of it all in some way. The unimaginative repetition is visually exhausting for me. I recently judged a competition with nearly 2000 images and it was truly disappointing how many were repetitive and familiar. Now, I want to be clear, I’m not saying that there is no good street photography out there, or no good street photographers. I’m just saying that they are becoming very hard to find amid all the noise. The fight to find good, creative, original work by sincere, kind, collegial photographers was draining.
I was tired. I was either seeing bad photography or running into ego-driven self-important photographers – often both in one package. I was also put off by the “workshop” explosion in street photography. Because no one can sell street photographs, everyone became involved in selling street photography workshops. It felt icky to me. It felt like a pyramid scheme. I didn’t want to be part of that hustle and so, without doing so, I drifted off the radar. At that point I felt as though it was a natural place to step away and do something else for a while. I’m happy I did.
Don’t you think in today’s world you need to promote yourself to get your work seen. To inch one step closer to your goal whether that’s publishing a book, or have a solo exhibit…isn’t self promotion inevitable even at times it may seem like “ME ME ME”. What do you recommend?
Absolutely. But I think it can be done with taste and moderation. I think it can be done with a respect and kindness toward others. In fact, I think you might gain more ground by supporting others than by merely promoting yourself. That’s been true for me at least. I think the community would benefit from more, well, community.
With the workshops, people see an Eric Kim whose making six figures and think this is an opportunistic time. You’re basically saying many shooters have the wrong motive. Am I correct?
Well, are you an artist or merely a business person? Yes, I do think you can be both, but it is a dance. I think some of the people selling workshops are primarily just business people, some very successful, but their art is suspect to me.
In fact, with some of these people I cannot even really find much of a body of work. Doesn’t that raise any flags for the people forking over their money? I think if I were just about business I’d chose something like real estate, not photography (laughing). Make those very average six figures into seven or eight figures! Art is about something greater and deeper than making money, at least it used to be.
Why does all of this bother you in that you see the same and people copying each other, etc?
I’ve never been a fan of copied art. I mean, paint by numbers, okay, if you need to relax. But painting by number and trying to get gallery representation? That’s a new phenomenon. And, to be clear, it doesn’t “bother me”, I just find it to be counterproductive to the evolution of the genre.
Clear the air for everybody. I saw the online backlash when you wrote that article about how street photography is running itself into the ground, therefore you decided to take a step back?
I’m not aware of any backlash to that article, particularly. Although I don’t read online forums, so maybe I missed something. I think most people took it to mean that I was, personally, burnt out and needed a break. Fair enough. My claims about the genre as a whole were, I think, largely dismissed. I don’t think there is a lot of appetite for genuine aesthetics-related conversation in street photography. I don’t see too many people writing about street photography from an informed place. I mean there are a lot of people writing (and YouTub-ing) about it, but few of these people have a background in art or art history etc. The conversations are not even skin deep most of the time. I just watched a video where a guy claimed that Edwin Land (founder of Polaroid) whom he mistakenly called Travis Land, invented the reflex camera. Wait, what? I mean come on. Then, when anyone does write genuine criticism (I mean that word in its true sense) there is backlash. No one wants to be told that their art sucks. I get it. As I always say, the lack of commercial gallery interest in what we call street photography today speaks volumes. Indeed, nothing more need be said, really.
So, yes, was I frustrated by a lack of reception by trying to initiate a deeper conversation about the genre, and the crisis I think it is in aesthetically, yes. Did I run away because no one appreciated what I was trying to do, no. I’ve been writing opinion and criticism for twenty years, my skin is much thicker than that. However, I really do wish that more people in the street photography world would try to understand what we are seeing in the genre and how (or how not) it fits in with the greater conversation of photography and the history of photography.
For example, my work in my book, The Human Fragment, is directly descendant of Mark Cohen’s early work. It not a copy, and anyone who knows our work would agree on that, but it is related. My work and his work share some DNA. Yet, no one, not one person, ever, has initiated a conversation with me about this obvious lineage – about how my work in “in conversation” with Mark’s work. I find that tremendously disappointing as an artist. I guess I long for a bygone era. I long for those days when artists bothered to know about those who came before them, in a genuine way, and worked to find an “opening” whereby they could join a larger conversation. Maybe in the days of the Chelsea Hotel when artists sat around (mostly stoned or worse) and worked to understand things intellectually, not just from an ego point of view. Today is seems to just be me, me, me. Look at my work, isn’t it great? My work is my own. It’s new. It’s original. It’s all mine.
So what exactly reignited the passion or was it just simply being away taking a breather.
I’m not sure the passion is reignited, Tim. I mean, yes, I am making photographs these days, at times. But, I am not really passionate about street photography any more. I think this comes from two places. One, everything I’ve said so far in this interview. Two, that I have made my contribution to that genre. I think my work in The Human Fragment is unique. Now, let’s be clear. I am not saying that it is good or iconic. No. Yet, I am saying that I made a body of work that is consistent, recognizable, and unique. It is in conversation with others, like Cohen, but it stands on its own. I will defend that claim indefinitely. I can be accused of many things, but no one who knows art history can claim that I just copied someone else or made photographs that were already recognizable. That said, that work came to an end. I just cannot make “that” work any more. It’s done. It is what it is. Good or bad, it is its own thing and it is finished and will now have to live out its own life. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a photographer or make photographs, however. I am, by nature, a photographer. I will always have that urge to capture time and make it my slave. That doesn’t go away. At least I don’t think it does, does it?
Talk about your new work. Were these created during your hiatus? Reminds me a bit of William Klein. What inspired this?
The camera I am using inspired this work. I am using a Harinezumi, which I have used for years. Most notably, I made my book, Michael Sweet’s Coney Island, using the Harinezumi. Although those images were in color. In fact, those images are all about color and its vibrancy etc. Ever since that project I have been curious about what the Harinezumi can do in monochrome. So much of the work we see from this camera is in color. I also like how the camera is so unpredictable. There are no settings. You cannot really subjugate the camera. The camera, in some way, make you its slave. I point and I shoot. I then wait and pray that the camera is on my side. I like that it adds distortion and blur and, sometimes, things that I cannot even explain. More than once I have looked at a photograph after arriving home and have not been able to even identify what is going on or where I made the image. These photographs take on a life of their own. As for William Klein, yes, I can see where you are coming from – about the blur etc. Yet, as a great admirer of Klein (and a fanatic about understanding photographic lineage) I would be cautious to make any comparisons myself. I think, perhaps, where we converge is in that no one appreciated his images when they were first made, especially in America. I think a lot of people also don’t get my work here. They don’t get the “blur” and the abstraction. This work is proving successful for me overseas, but here in North America it is seen as very sub-par in comparison to my work with a “serious camera”. And that’s fine. I am not looking for anything with this work. I am merely satisfying my own curiosity about the Harinezumi and black and white photography.
Sneak peek into any projects you are working on? New book?
I don’t think I have the energy for a new book just now. Publishers these days are very demanding about how much of the work you take on yourself. No one wants to invest in your book if you are not committed to going out and peddling that book everywhere! I just cannot do that right now. I have two book still under active contract with a publisher and I need to promote those books and that work, for now. As for new work in general, well, I am making a few photographs here and there. I am not taking anything too seriously at all. I’m just a guy with a toy camera. Someday, more down the road, I want to return to photography more seriously but not street photography. As I’ve said, I have made my contribution there. I think I want to tackle portraits next. I know nothing about making portraits and that seems exciting to me. I love to learn new things.
Keep up with Michael Ernest Sweet’s work on Instagram – Follow @mesweetphotos
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Currently you are a staff photographer at the Star-Ledger in New Jersey tell us your photographic journey.
I took a high school photography class my sophomore year and I became hooked. I attended the Rochester Institute of Technology on scholarship and while in school I interned at 4 different newspapers throughout the US. After graduation I returned home to the Washington DC area where I freelanced for the Washington Post for almost 2 years. I took my first staff job at the Dubois County Herald in Jasper, IN and was there for 2 years and then another 2 years at The State Journal Register in Springfield, IL. Since 2000 I have been on staff at The Star-Ledger and NJ Advance Media in New Jersey.
Is it more difficult making a living as a photographer than before? Yes! I’m fortunate to still have a staff position but a number of publications have cut their staffs. Friends of mine who won a Pulitzer Prize were even let go by their papers. There is more competition with the popularity of digital photography and less work to go around with budgets being cut. You just can’t be a talented photographer now, having good business skills are essential for a successful career. Sadly as I finish writing this, the whole photo staff at the NY Daily was just fired.
Is photojournalism a degree and career still worth pursing? Yes because stories will still need to be told. We live in a more visual society than ever before. Yes, there is a lot of competition but the cream will still rise. Also, with the rise of web publications there is a bigger demand for quality photo editors. More and more students coming out of school are not becoming photographers but are going into editing and multimedia. Students need to be realistic with their skills but also be willing to put in a lot of work because someone else will.
Has social media changed things for better or for worse? There can be arguments for both! With the internet and social media we have become more visually aware than ever before. One could even argue that social media has also devalued what a photographer does. Everyone is a photographer and we judge pictures by likes but not if they communicate anything while giving content away for free.
What’s the difference between documentary and street photography? There doesn’t have to be a difference but I would say that there is more of a trend in street photography for photos that rely on graphics or quirky compositions. These types of photos might be visually fun but they can start to look a lot like each other. I feel that documentary photography relies more on photos with intimacy and emotion although they can be graphic also. The strongest photos rely on strong visuals, a decisive moment and either emotion or intimacy that makes you feel something.
Are you more of one than the other? Both! Earlier in my career my photos were more based on just graphic elements. I’m striving for more intimacy and emotion in my photos these days. There are too many street photography photos where you are just the observer and you don’t feel anything. I guess working for a newspaper has made me want more than just something that is pretty. I was lucky early in my career to be surrounded by some really talented photojournalists and great photo editors that pushed me for something more.
Here is some great insight from one of my mentors who was responsible for 4 Pulitzer Prizes where he use to work
The Language of Photography in the Newsroom
By JOE ELBERT
The Washington Post
TWP pictures fall into categories: informational, graphically appealing, emotionally appealing and intimate. The right combination of these categories in a single image becomes an award winner.
INFORMATIONAL — This is the lowest standard of photography. I often refer to these images as real estate pictures. Shortly after I joined TWP and edited with a photographer, I knew that something just wasn’t clicking. The photographer explained that he had been taught to see each assignment as shooting an overall of the battlefield, and getting a mug shot of the winning general. We still shoot informational pictures, but we know when they’re needed and do not see them as a standard. Pushing informational pictures is lowering the bar.
GRAPHICALLY APPEALING — Most newspaper photographers discovered this trick in the early ’70s. Hell, they even won awards. But these are not a case of fitting an art form. They resulted simply because wide-angle lenses were developed. A photographer with a limited sense of composition could create an image that suddenly had dimension and depth. These images are intellectually appealing but don’t have much emotional impact. Many newspaper photographers consider these stunning, and too often rely on composition alone to carry a situation.
EMOTIONALLY APPEALING — Photographers talk about capturing moments. Cartier Bresson, one of the five founding fathers of Magnum Photo Agency, titled his 1952 book “The Decisive Moment.” The challenge was to push the concept of decisive moments from the magazine world into newspapers. Patience, sensing the environment, and intuitively sensing when the moment will occur are the building blocks for capturing emotionally appealing images. The skill is very much like that of a wildlife photographer’s, but the subject is humanity. This involves a lot of sitting in a blind and waiting, unnoticed, for the picture.
INTIMATE — Working with truly gifted photographers helped me to realize that we could push the decisive moment and emotionally appealing images a bit further, and I chose to call this category “Intimate.” The description scared off the wannabes, and I came to know whom to work with. I can’t give you a description of an intimate picture; it’s something that can be felt.
Walk us through your creative process when you’re out photographing? First, my question to myself is what do I want to say? I use to go a hundred miles an hour and right into looking for a photo but realized that some of the best photos are right behind me. I now like to walk around the periphery of a scene. Looking at the light and shadows and how they playoff each other. Then I look at the people, their relationships and their body gestures asking myself what really is the story here. With this knowledge I try to predict where moments will happen. I like to by the fly on the wall when I’m photographing but not the fly you want to swat. There are two ways to take a photo. The first is where the photo is completely candid and the subject has no idea that it was taken. The other is when a photographer gains the trust of a subject and then they start to ignore the photographer. One way is not better than the other. A talented photographer can be very inconspicuous even if the subject knows they are there and especially when there is a lot of drama going on around them.
Do you capture your street photos simultaneous when you are working on assignments or do you shoot on your days off? Both! You have to have a balance with work and personal photography. Otherwise you spend all of your life documenting other people’s life and not living yourself. I incorporate street photography into my daily assignments and especially on photo essay projects for work. I also have a couple of personal long term street photography projects I’m working on too. The light mirrorless cameras have made it easier to carry a high quality camera more frequently. I currently have a couple of the Fuji models I use in addition to my Canon work gear.
What’s your favorite subject to photograph? Generally speaking people. I like the diversity of subjects I cover being a newspaper photographer. That being said I specialize in documentary essays.
In regards to your photography, what are you most proud of? Producing high quality work on a consistent basis. Anyone can get lucky with one photo but working hard and producing quality work daily for my publication shows my value to being on their staff.
Is there something you’d like to improve on in your photography? Any challenges you take upon yourself? Getting closer not just physically to my subjects but emotionally. I know I and others sometimes get in a formula on how we like to shoot it be either a certain lens, a distance to a subject, a time of day or style of light. It’s good to break away from this and change things up. Years ago a friend of mine was a photo editor a small paper and a rodeo was coming to town. The staff of 5 photographers went to shoot it as a team project. They were allowed only a limited number of rolls of film with one camera and their favorite lens. Then they were told to give their favorite lens to the photographer to the right of them. The photographer who liked to shoot all long lens sports with clean backgrounds now had a 24mm lens!!!! As a staff they were challenged to work differently but as a whole they produced some great work. Things like this are great to do and occasionally push yourself to see and not get to comfortable.
Was there a photo or photographer that had a lasting impact on you? A couple – from a pure traditional street photography aspect Magnum’s David Allan Harvey and Alex Webb have been influential. I was fortunate to work with former Washington Post Photographer Carol Guzy who has won 4 Pulitzer Prizes. Her photos are visually amazing with a lot to say on important issues. Lastly, legendary LIFE Magazine photographer Bill Eppridge was a friend and mentor.
“A journalist does not necessarily imply ‘artist’ but you are not going to make your point if you cannot make a picture that people will stop and explore…the ‘artist’ in one instant must establish a sense of time, a sense of place, a moment of importance, a moment of aesthetic beauty all in the same frame, one moment in history. In terms of importance, the fewer of these present, the less significant the photograph. Anybody can take pictures, but not anybody can become a photographer.” – Bill Eppridge
A favorite photo of from your own collection – I call it “Endless Summer.” I was working at my first staff job in Jasper, IN, and it was the 4th of July on Beaver Lake. The kids felt comfortable around me and just ignored me as I took their photos. To me this photo is timeless.
Any advice to you’d give to photographers? Work hard because if you don’t someone else will. There are less job opportunities than the past and more photographers looking for work. Be flexible and diverse in your skills but be able to specialize or show an editor why you are unique and should be the right photographer for the job. Use all the tools and tricks of the trade but make your own photos and don’t feel you have to copy a style. Your pictures should rely on a moment and emotion and not on how you light the scene. Otherwise you’re bringing yourself down to just technique. Also extremely important is to understand the business of photography. Making a living through street photography is not an option for most photographers.
To keep up with Aristide Economopoulos’s work:
Instagram – Follow @aeconomopoulos
Website – www.aristidephoto.com
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
In today’s digital world with a flux of photographs swimming online it’s hard to appreciate any of them. We spend a good portion of our day scrolling through our Instagram feeds going on liking sprees, but it’s rare to find a photo that really resonates with us. Only when we do, do we actually take time to analyze the photo.
WHO CARES WHO MADE THE PHOTO
We should focus less on who took the photograph and more on the composition of the photo to really appreciate it for what it is. I think once we associate the photographer with the photo then we subconsciously create a bias opinion.
For example, Alex Webb, one of the gold standards in street photography, in my opinion isn’t producing as great of photographs as in the past.. I think however, if I were to view his current work without knowing he took the picture I probably would appreciate it more. By knowing upfront that a certain photograph was taken by him, I look at it with higher standards. And if it doesn’t compare to his past work, I already dismiss the picture as not being good.
PRINTS ARE BETTER THAN THE SCREEN
Looking at photos in printed form also helps us to appreciate the photography as an art. There’s something tangible there. There is something real when you have a physical print or a book in your hands. It feels real, the photos come to life, and in the end a better appreciation of the photos or the artist. Finding photographs that you like and resonate with you, and not basing your judgement off of what’s been getting a lot of recognition from competition or online. It’s hard to absorb all a photo has to offer by viewing it on your computer or iphone, the print has a special way of taking you on the photographic journey almost leaving you mesmerized. Just the other month, I walked into a local camera store and saw film prints on their wall. I loved it and when I took a closer look to who the photographer was I thought to myself these photos don’t look as good when I’m scrolling through my instagram feed. The prints were 8 by 10’s much larger than a phone screen but also the sequence of the photos had a fluidity to them that maybe the photographers instagram page wasn’t in. Perhaps it was just the air in the store. I don’t know.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALL B.S
There are so many good photographers with no following and average photographers with huge followings. Try not to focus on the number of followers! I recently read an article that most people will look at the amount of Instagram followers someone has before even scrolling through their work. I think the number of followers does influence the viewer in determining if the photographer is good or not. That’s what our society has become, everything is so superficial and most people can’t even digest a good photo. The average viewer likes one and done type photos or humor street photographs, which is the reason that theme of street photography has risen in popularity.
BE IN THE MOMENT
I also feel that we need to be in the moment. With social media and having our hands and eyes glued to our phones each day we become less in touch with the present. That’s why I feel looking at old photos from the 50s and 60s even 70s makes us appreciate that current era because there’s that nostalgia feel…or some of us having not lived in those era’s are curious on what it was like. Whereas in the present we know what it is like.
So there you have it. Ways to better appreciate either your own photos or photos made by others. If you have any other ways you appreciate photos please leave a comment!
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
The lack of visibility and recognition of females in many professions still hold true today in 2018!!! I mean it hasn’t been 100 years yet that women in our country had the right to vote. Even in the world of street photography, women photographers tend to be underrepresented.
For example I’ve been looking at Melissa Breyer’s photographs and for a while I hadn’t known if the photographer was male or female. When I scroll through Instagram or websites of photo competitions, I just appreciate the photos and never bother looking at the names of the photographer. Before, I used to stereotype and think that women would only photograph children, make the photograph on a wider scale including more in the frame, and a photograph by a man would be up close and personal but that can’t be so accurate today with the amount of photographs online. But now there’s really nothing specific that can pinpoint whether a picture was taken by a man vs a woman.
Back to my main question, how can female street photographers get more recognition in the industry? Two things come to mind: the two affiliates with the most reach in the genre of street photography (Eric Kim and iN-Public). Both have significant reach and a strong influence in the genre. So much so that if they say a photograph or a photographer is good, most people will listen or at least check out their work.
To my knowledge, Eric Kim has never interviewed a female street photographer. What’s incredible about Eric Kim is that he has a solid following from the average street photographer nerd to anyone new or curious about the genre. He reaches more of the general consumer. I mean his stuff is all over google.
The same goes with iN-Public. They have the reach and influence to bring more attention to female street photographers. Besides Magnum, they are the longest reigning collective. For crying out loud, of their twenty five active members only two are females and one of them is Trent Parke’s wife. I don’t know what iN-Public’s criteria is in selecting and accepting new members, but seeing an unbalanced number of men to women under this list of photographers on their site has me scratching my head. Even Burn My Eye, out of 19 members only two are female.
I also think the legacy of street photography plays a role in keeping the women photographers in the dark. When we think of the gold standards in street photography or photographers that helped propel the genre forward, a few names that come to mind are Henri Cartier Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and Alex Webb. All of them men. I do think men take things a little too seriously, partly because men have more of an ego than women do, not saying there aren’t females that don’t have egos but generally speaking us men have bigger egos. Ken Walton of StreetFoto did a great thing by having a majority of female judges for his competitions, but that’s seasonal and clearly not enough.
The difficult part in seeking recognition, regardless of being male or female, is that “you’re only as good as your last photo”. And with many good and bad photographs floating online today it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle. It can be very hard to stand out for longer than 24 hours. People who say they photograph for themselves, well yeah with street you do have to photograph for yourself, but they also want people to see their work. Street photography is a visual medium, it’s self expression and you should want people to see how YOU see the world.
I feel there are many women street photographers who produce great work and we need to do a better job at recognizing them. I’m glad to find that female street photographers have taken initiative to create online groups that are dedicated exclusively to female street photographers. To see more visit Women in Street and Double X Street.
Another good read here “Street Photography”s a Man Problem”
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
What’s with all these street photography collectives!? I’m losing count. There’s iN-PUBLIC, the longest street photography group, there’s Burn My Eye, Observe, APF Collective, Full Frontal Flash, The Street Collective, Berlin 1020, EyeGosBananas, Superluna (just learned about this one), New York City Street Photography Collective Italian Street Eyes…Okay I’m getting exhausted. I’m curious to know what their purpose is, besides being all passionate photographers that formed a group and shares a similar vision on street photography? Other than the members admiring your photographs, are there any other qualifications you must pass? Are you required to take an “initiation beating”? I’m joking.
I attended StreetFoto in 2017 and there was a panel discussion from members of in-PUBLIC. There were 4 to 5 of them, I don’t remember exactly, but someone in the audience asked a question something along the lines of “what benefits are there being in a collective?” The answer went something like “well we have a group chat from time to time and we send over our contact sheets and photos to one another for feedback and that basically helps our editing process…” Really that’s it? I do want to mention as well that many collectives are born with the idea to sell a workshop(s), which is sad.
Anyway, all these street collectives really need to stop promoting themselves and figure out a way to “Make Street Photography Great Again”. Many of the collectives have a number of big name photographers in their groups and have a lot of weight and reach, but I don’t think many, if not all, of these collectives really know what the purpose of having a collective is. What is the mission? If you can’t answer that then you should reconsider putting any time and effort into your collectives. I feel like some of these collectives especially the ones that have been around for much longer can do much more by combining all of their talents (not just street photography talents) to do something with impact. Something memorable. Perhaps give value back to the street photography community.
I propose that there should be some kind of organize street photography Olympics. One representative from each group all gather and discuss in trying to put something competitive together. Figure out a way collectively to give back to the street photography community (oh wait did I say that) instead of each group taking turns highlighting the same individual…it would be a win, win for everyone.
I also feel that some of these collectives are bringing in new blood into their group at a very high rate, especially within the last year or so. There’s no doubt that the male and females that have joined are phenomenal photographers, but I do think it makes the group less special. Maybe limit it by only accepting one person per year. I understand it’s a marketing strategy by bringing a high profile photographer into the group and I’m sure reviewing not only their body of work is part of the process, but how many Instagram followers that person has will eventually determine the fate of whether or not that particular person gets included.
From my observation, I look at some of these photographers associated with these groups and I don’t think they need to be a part of the collective. They’re good enough, with a large enough following, to be independent. If a group were to ask me to join, I’d negotiate hard and really try to maximize my opportunities and see where we could both benefit each other. It’s gotten to the point where street photography collectives are so saturated. The one benefit I see in being a part of a collective is to be recognized by my peers, but then what happens after.
All in all, is it worth being a part of a collective? I mean it doesn’t hurt to have a group of photographers that support you and possibly free marketing doesn’t hurt either. But if this is the case, I would be selective and wait for the right group to reach out to you.
Stop shooting from the hip
Shooting from the hip becomes a guessing game that you will fail 9.5 out of 10. You also look like a creep walking around aiming your camera from the hip, looks like you’re trying to shoot up a ladies skirt. I recommend everyone to try everything once just to experiment so you can judge for yourself first hand.
Stop judging the quality of a photo based on “likes”
Social media is very superficial and the quality of a photo is very subjective. However, don’t let the number of likes influence you whether or not the photo is good. You will know when a photo is good to you not by the lighting, framing, post processing of the photo…the photo resonates with you…it evokes an emotion and perhaps plays with multiple emotions within you….the photo has more questions than they do answers…the photo is open ended, keeping the narrative on going unlike many one and done humor photos we see today.
Stop trying to be like Bruce Gilden
Are you ultra aggressive on the streets with your flash gun due to an imbalance of testosterone levels or are trying to shoot like Bruce Gilden….Just stop, there is only one Bruce Gilden. Plus if you shoot the way he does, your photos will only remind people of well Bruce Gilden….Find your own style and voice in street photography and create your own legacy…just shoot to get away from the daily stresses and to be more in touch with your surroundings.
Stop thinking about how you’re going to monetize your street photography
Stop thinking too far out on how you’re going to sell prints and make money off your street photography. Stop lusting over the awards and recognition. Remember why you’re shooting street and let me remind you there is no money in being a street photographer. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, shoot street because it temporarily removes you from the daily grind. Shoot street to appreciate the current moment. Shoot street because you enjoy the challenge in creating something out of nothing. Shoot street because you enjoy walking and love the feeling of having all your senses working together…reminding yourself you’re currently here…alive. Shoot street to leave a legacy not for an easy dollar. The moment you try to monetize your passion, you’ll go back to your old miserable self. Don’t fall into this trap.
I’m happy to share this interview with you all on a talented photographer from New York but currently resides and shoots in San Francisco. By the look of his body of work, it’s almost as if Askar went back in time to the 60s or 70s and made these photographs. The perfect combination of subject matter, environment, and usage of film is well executed. Enjoy the interview below but better yet the photos.
Hi Askar thanks for doing this. Where do you live and how does this influence your photography?
Hi Tim, thanks for the opportunity.
A few years ago I moved to San Francisco Bay Area from New York. The landscapes at both places are very different, and the new environment has been a really great inspiration. When you see beautiful San Francisco streets with Victorian houses, unusual plants, and classic cars, this mix is a great influence.
Also, the move itself was a big push towards exploring this beautiful and diverse area. Even today I still have yet so much to see and photograph.
If you had to explain your work to a senior citizen how would you describe it?
With my film photos, I preserve the moments that surrounded them, when they were young.
What frustrated you about photography?
Not many people appreciate the process and the idea. Even though I try not to invade anyone’s privacy, I was attacked more than once while holding the camera.
Oh, and prices for the gear of course.
What are you most proud of in terms of your work?
It’s very cool when people feel that my photos take them back in time.
What are you trying to say with your photographs?
Time goes on, things change. Appreciate what surrounds us. In a few years from now, we will be emotionally looking back at our “Instagram” shots of today.
What motivated you to do this series (if it is a series what’s the title)?
My “San Francisco treasures” motivated by emotions I have when I spot something extraordinary on the streets. It’s really easy to fall in love with San Francisco. At this point, I guess some New Yorkers may get irritated. Nonetheless, then you also add a classic car, and there you have a beautiful image, which can be easily mistaken for the moment from the 60s or 70s. Isn’t that great?
Did this series/body of work evolved organically or was this project always in the back of your mind. Could you tell us how it happened?
As a kid, I was a Hollywood movie junkie. I was nuts about American cars in the movies; they were rare in Central Asia back then. It happens that when I spot some classic now, it makes me stop, take a look and sometimes makes me wish I had a key.
When I realized that I could take a film photo of the car and that photo can bring back memories of mine and other people’s childhood, I decided to make this series. And people seem to like it.
How do you know you got something worthy of a photo? Walk us through that creative process? Is it a type of car? Neighborhood? Does it need both for you to make a photograph?
Usually, a car catches my attention first, but if the environment isn’t right, I often pass. I find it more natural when a car blends into surroundings. In most cases, it’s also crucial that I exclude other vehicles unless they add value.
Later on, looking at the photos, you start noticing houses, electrical poles, trees, fences, trash, and other details of a city. All of it has to be in some sort of balance so that you want to capture it in a first place.
In some cases, I spot a nice car and wait until the environment changes. Or light, or some other detail that makes a difference. Often the vehicle disappears while I wait, then I lie to myself that it would be a waste of film anyway. But sometimes I get lucky, take a photo and then get a fifty or so of new Instagram followers.
Why film? Talk about that?
No “Instagram” has come up with a nice enough filter 🙂
I have a few digital cameras and use them for family photos. But no matter how much I pay for cameras, glass and soft, they just can’t replicate what I get from some $15 thrift store find with, let’s say Superia 200. All the imperfections, waiting while being processed and unpredictable results create a special kind of excitement. People get nuts when they see film cameras and photos. And personally I just can’t get enough.
It’s probably the same reason why some people drive classic cars, read paper books, or stay in the marriage for years – love.
Does nostalgia have anything to do with it?
Because you shoot film are you more conservative clicking the shutter button?
Oh yes! With virtually every shot I hear my wife counting the cost of it. If I want to keep shooting film and staying married, I got to do it smart.
What’s your dream car and did you happen to come across it on the streets and make a photograph?
I would say Datsun 240Z. I do come across it almost every day, as a lady drives one in my neighborhood. I posted photos of it earlier.
What is your dream assignment/project?
I have this weird need of going to Australian Outback. There I would love to photograph the life in remote areas and aboriginal people. Go figure.
When you aren’t making pictures you are doing what?
Help small businesses with their online presence. I run a boutique web design studio for a few years now.
Away from work, I like exploring California with my family.
Convince us digital shooters why we should shoot film.
That’s a tough one. You should not. I noticed a strong drive in film camera prices on eBay recently. Kendall Jenner mentioned that she uses Contax T2 camera and I guess this drove a lot of digital shooters towards a film.
Seriously speaking, this is just a different kind of experience. Plain better, more exciting, more authentic and rewarding, photos look better, it makes you slow down and think. Some say the film has a soul, or even film is being a real kind of photography.
But, you’ll never know unless you try, right?
When did you feel like you’ve arrived in photography? Like hey I’m pretty good at this.
I haven’t. Usually, when I become good at something I feel a need of doing something else. I guess once this happens with photography, I will probably buy a yacht and go sailing.