9 Things Every Street Photographer Must Do

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Travel

Seeing a new place with fresh set of eyes is a plus. Every time I travel I tend to trigger the shutter more. Perhaps its because I’m out all day compared to shooting at home where I only have an allocated timeframe to shoot. Don’t think that because you travel to some foreign exotic land that you’ll come back home with awesome photos.

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Take Workshops

Workshops do help in my opinion. Learn from the best, pick their mind, and meet other enthusiastic street photographers. Get your creative juices boiling! If you’re a beginner, a workshop is a MUST! Gain confidence with a camera out in public, learn the basics. If you’re an intermediate level street photographer then perhaps you can learn how to edit down your photos, understand what separates a good photo from a great photo. All in all, it’s great to get feedback and see the pros work their magic.

Consume as Much Photo-books as Possible

If there are no workshops in your area or if workshops may be too pricey then consuming as much photo books is a great substitute. You can buy them online or at your local Barnes & Nobel…or borrow from friends. Research what type of photos you enjoy or aspire producing. Look into the great street photographers and focus on their body of works. You can watch countless Youtube video interviews or short documentaries on how they go about shooting the streets. You can self teach yourself anything these days with the power of the internet…it all depends on your own determination. Below are some great youtube videos to check out.

Youtube Videos

  1. Eric Kim with Jack Simon
  2. Mark Cohen Shooting the Streets
  3. Garry Winogrand Shooting the Streets
  4. Joel Meyerowitz Shooting the Streets

Color Books

Michael Ernest Sweet Coney Island

Jesse Marlow Don’t Just Tell Them Show Them

William Eggleston Books

Alex Webb Suffering of Light

Harry Gruyeart

Challenge Yourself

Shoot out of your comfort zone. Photograph in a location out of your comfort zone. You should not be thinking but be more relaxed when you’re out shooting. Let your imagination flow and take over.

Build a Website…and other social media outlets

Create a website, I use wordpress, it is rather simple if you spend a good day learning about it. The power and resource of the internet and youtube should make the process less painful. Build your own platform, the more outlets you have (facebook, instagram, youtube, website, flickr) the more opportunity people will find you. Since creating my own website about two years ago, I’ve been reached out to exhibit my work in Paris and present my work at a local high school. You just never know who’s looking at your work. Social media is just another way to share information but I wouldn’t use them (except youtube, since youtube is owned by google, and videos are ranked higher than anything else, blogs, photos, etc) as my main source of driving traffic. Plus, Facebook’s algorithm is fucked up. Not everyone will see your post and if your post/photo doesn’t receive 10 likes within the first half hour, then your post gets buried.

Share Your Knowledge

This goes back to creating your own platform. I think it’s best to share what you know on a topic, give your (bias) opinion, and interview other inspiring photographers to have them share their knowledge and stories.

Bring a Camera Everyone….iphone/android cameras are more than welcomed.

It’s not hard to carry your camera everywhere with you. I’ve missed some potential cool shots because I was lazy in wrapping my camera around my wrist. There were times when I would just walk across the street to the local convenient store and missed a potential shot. Don’t be lazy, you’ll regret it .

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Appreciate the Process

Most people have goals with their hobby, their passion…some don’t. If you do have goals with your street photography be realistic about it. If your goal is to make one dynamic photo every time you go out and shoot, that’s very unrealistic ( I do appreciate the optimism though). Just appreciate the process and remember to not add any pressure on yourself. You are photographing the world around you as a way to get in touch with reality, disengage with the stresses, burn some calories, absorb the sun, be away from the computer, and just enjoy life. Making a great photo is the plus, really.

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Shoot in the rain, sun, and on an overcast day

Don’t just shoot when it’s sunny, overcast, or during sunset. Try them all. Shoot them all! Don’t limit yourself and narrow your point of view. Of course, if you’re working on a series then you may only want consistent lighting or time of day. Perhaps, you only have time during lunch hours, so harsh afternoon light is all that you can get. If possible try everything.

Interview with Thai Street Photographer Poupay Jutharat

I met Poupay very briefly at this past year’s StreetFoto San Francisco.

She had a pretty large crowd around one of her finalist image (she had two in the international singles category) and I decided to join in. Poupay is a very humble person and amazing street photographer to say the least. I didn’t know until the festival was over that she was also a finalist in the series category as well! Obviously, she is a very talented photographer, many of her work have been accepted as a finalist in competition (Eyeem 2016 & 2017, Brussels 2016, Life Framer, Streefoto) , all happening in the short amount of time that she’s been shooting “street photography”. Everyone keep an eye on her, Poupay is going places!

Poupay thank you for your time! You have so many wonderful images, could you tell us what it’s like when you are out shooting. Your creative process…and/or how you go about shooting the streets. What made you pursue street photography?

I started shooting street photography in 2015 when I was still living in Thailand. At that time, there was a street photography workshop from SPT (Street Photo Thailand). I joined the workshop and started shooting from then.

The one who inspired me to take street photography is Tavepong Pratoomwong. He’s one of the members in Street Photo Thailand who won the Miami Street Photography Festival 2014. One of his photos that won the award is the photo of the dog in his village. That photo changed my mind on photography. I realized that I don’t need a lot of equipment or go to another country to make a good photograph. It’s about the way you see things.

There’s been a major renaissance within the last decade in street photography and Thai street photographers have added a lot of influence on that. How did that come about?

Lately street photography in Thailand is very popular. I guess because it’s not difficult to become a photographer (but super difficult to be differentiated yourself). For me Thai street photographers are very talented but I think we don’t really present ourselves or show our work to the rest of the world.

What’s so unique about Thailand for street photography compared to NY or anywhere else in the world?

Thailand is a very absurd place, unintentionally. We have a lot of nonsense stuff that happens in public, like fake police officers stopping drunk drivers. I found this to be humorous and unique but also depressing at the same time.

In New York City, you can find weird people doing weird things everywhere. For me when you stay at one place long enough, you become immune to the weirdness around you. You don’t find them surprising anymore.

I felt this when I was in Thailand. Nothing was interesting back then. I’ve always wanted to come New York and shoot the streets. NYC is still a very exciting place for me. But I also want to go back to shoot in my country.

You’re currently living in NY, correct?

Yes. But I will move back to Thailand next year. I came here for studying in ICP’s (International Center of PhotographyOne Year Certificate Program.

If you could choose between making one iconic photo that lives forever but never produce anymore photos thereafter that you’ll be satisfied with or similar to Vivian Maier’s situation, being discovered and rewriting the history books but only after your passing. Which one would it be?

I’ll make one iconic photo then produce something else. Maybe go into film or other types of artwork. I have various interests. These days there are lots of way to make art, not just only photography.

When you’re out shooting, Have you experienced any benefits or setbacks being a female photographer?

I think I look more friendly than male photographers and people will feel less harmful when I point my camera at them. But because I’m female, sometimes guys will smile to me when I’m trying to take a photograph of them. And that ruins everything.

Who are some of your favorite street photographers?

My most inspirational one is Tavepong as I mentioned. The other one who inspires me a lot is Pau Buscato. His photography has a great combination of everything I like; color, graphic, gimmick, story.

I’ll list a few street photographers and describe them or their work with one word.

1. Alex Webb: Perfect

2. Martin Parr: Witty

3. Bruce Gilden: Courage

4. Tavepong: เทพ (He will know lol)

5. Tatsuo suzuki: Strong

6. Vineet Vohrah: Complex

7. Jesse Marlow: Lively

8. David Gibson: Fun

9. HCB: Classic

10. Vivian Maier: Mystic

Choose how you would make a comfortable living from street photography (sell prints, publish books, teach workshops, editorial work, selling your own brand of products).

I think teaching workshop is what I would like to do for a living. Because I like to talk to people with the same interest. I’m a very quiet person but when it comes to street photography, I can’t stop speaking. But I can’t teach if I don’t have work to show my students. For me it’s important to have a good body of work before teaching someone else. And it has to be consistent. I’ll stop teaching if I can’t produce more work. I don’t think you can live with your past success forever.

Your work has been in a lot of major exhibits, festivals, online competitions. What’s another festival or goal you have been waiting to check off?

My biggest goal now is Miami Street Photography Festival. I’ve submitted my photos to the festival last year but couldn’t get in. Another thing is that I’m working towards a body of work or photo series rather than single image(s). So I want to submit a photo series to many festival as well.

I ask this to everyone, which street photographer would you hire to shoot your wedding and why?

I probably choose Siegfried Hansen because he’s one of my inspiration and I wanna see how he can turn a wedding event into a graphic.

Whats your favorite food?

Thai food is the best!!!

You’re walking through a rough neighborhood which sp would you bring with you?

I will bring Pau Buscato because I love his work and I want to see how he works the scene as well. Actually I want to bring European street photographer to Thailand to see how will they shoot in the country that is super messy.

How are you able to see or find humor on the streets?

I’m considered a very serious and not-funny-at-all. But Thai people love comedy and I believe it is inside me without knowing it. I’ve been surrounded by Thai funny advertisement and tv shows since I was young. I guess humor is one of the things we are good at. Then it became kind of my style of seeing thing on the streets. But trust me, I’m a very serious person.

If you can take a five day workshop from any photographer past or present who would it be?

I would love to take a workshop with Elliot Erwitt and Martin Parr. Both of them are so good at creating photo series and I want to know more about sequencing photos and the way they edit them. I still have to learn so much more about editing photos.

Be a member of Magnum or be known for an innovative street photography style?

Be a Magnum member!

Any advice or tips on street photography?

Have fun when you go out shooting first, good photo is a plus!

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See more of Poupay’s amazing photographs!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/136837396@N08/

https://www.instagram.com/poupayphoto/

https://www.eyeem.com/u/jutharatpoupay

5 Street Photography Cliche’s to Avoid Shooting

Over the past several years the popularity for “street photography” has sky rocketed. However, with camera’s more accessible as well as affordable, sharing photos on numerous platforms have never been easier. And with that there has been an influx of the same repeated type of photos. Here are 5 street photography cliche’s to avoid shooting.

People on their cell/mobile phones

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Making a photo of someone or a group of people on their cell phones is not interesting. It is over done and I’ve only seen a few that have worked really well and have been able to hold my attention. If it’s something you like then please don’t hesitate and take the shot. I envision all these photographs of people looking at their phones, taking selfies, are not appreciated today because it is the norm. It is what we’re used to seeing, we’ve become immune to it. But perhaps two maybe three decades from now it’ll be a pot of gold. Similar to photos taken in the 80s, people on subways reading the paper, it probably wasn’t appreciated then because it was the norm and boring. Now when you look at old photos of people on the subway or in a restaurant reading the paper, it’s almost looking at a piece of significant American history. A past time. So by all means, take the photo and document for future purposes, keep it stored for a few decades and bring them out. For now though, don’t post any of these anywhere online.

People walking in front of a billboard or graffiti wall

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Taking a photo of someone walking by a wall art or billboard does not make an interesting photo. Unless however, the juxtaposition is there but even then, the photo has to be pretty damn good! I would say shooting in front of a graffiti wall is a good start for beginners but for more intermediate or seasoned shooters, you should know that there are many photos of this kind produced. Unless you visualize something specific to walk by the billboard or graffiti wall, and you have superior patience, I would advise you to move along.

Homeless People

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People that start off shooting street, will most likely photograph homelessness. I will admit I fell victim to it. People that have no idea what street photography is think it’s about shooting homeless people, turning the photo into black and white, and cranking up the contrast along with the sharpness. For one, NO street photography is not about documenting homeless. If you find this subject matter interesting, then I highly suggest you make the subject matter…MATTER. There are current and past street photographers that were able to capture unique moments of homelessness. Their photos were quite intimate…the two photographers that come to mind are Suzanne Stein and Vivian Maier. Most vulnerable homeless photos I see circulating social media are boring…at best. Keep in mind, photography like any other art (music, film, painting, acting) is about story telling through the visual medium. What is it about the homeless person that you want to say? What’s the story in the frame? Every major city in the world has an influx of homeless….so yeah there’s nothing special here.

Puddle Reflections

No you can not reproduce or trump Henri Cartier Bresson’s iconic reflection photo. So just forget it and move along with the reflections, it’s way over done. Looking at the world through a puddle is not interesting anymore. If reflection puddle is your thing, add another element, look at the bigger scene and not only the puddle. VISUALIZE!

Traffic Signs

Having a photo of a “one way sign” pointing in one direction and a person walking the opposite direction is overly done. It’s not funny, there is no emotion behind it, and it’s just simply boring. I could go on but I won’t.

Conclusion

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We are all guilty of shooting these type of photos from time to time or at the very least photographed them when we first started out. I believe it is important to mature and grow out of these subjects, it’s almost a narrow way of looking at street photography. It’s okay to shoot what inspires you but eventually you would want to add something new to the street photography community and not repeat more boring photos. Photograph the world on how you see it, everyone sees differently, and everyone has their own view of this crazy world we all live in. Be original, experiment, but ultimately be authentic and shoot you!

How to Find Your Style in Photography

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Many street photographer’s are trying to find their our own style…their our own unique voice. Personally, I am not sure if I would want my “own style” even though it’ll be nice to claim one. Please keep in mind that everything has been done before…it’s not a matter of copying but rather finding a style you like or admire and adding your own twist to it to make it your own. It’s like in wrestling, every move has been done before but a slight jerk to the hip or doing your move at a higher elevation will separate you from your predecessors.

If your personal friends or social media following often comment that your work reminds them of Alex Webb or Martin Parr, that’s a great compliment and you are obviously on the right track to something great. Eventually you’ll want to break away from that and claim your own style even if that takes for you to defend your own work and how your style or set of photos may look similar to other street photographers on the surface…but if you look closely and dig deeper beneath the surface it speaks more of you and your unique eye and voice.

What is a photography style?

I think a style emphasizes on consistency of look and feel. Same with photos, a good start in working towards a style is to keep things simple and consistent. Keep your photos either in black and white or color. Get close up to the face, the hands. Shooting in the same location also helps with aesthetics. Shooting during the same time of day for consistent lighting. Edit your photos all the same, don’t use a kodak filter on one photo and then use another type of filter on another. Ultimately, you can shoot and post process your photos however you want, there are no rules, this is just to give you ideas on how to create a style. And from my experience, if your photos don’t have much consistency most people especially in photo competitions will bypass your entries.

Working on a particular project helps with establishing consistency. Let’s say you want to do a project on “Lunch Break”…Basically a series of photos that you have shot during your lunch break, five days a week from 12pm to 1pm in and around your work area with your one and only camera. As you can see, there are so many consistencies already. Time of day, location, and type of camera being used. Now it’s just a matter of what you are able to photograph and what you happen to find on your lunch break. Now when you are out shooting, having a project you are working towards can help you focus or narrow in on what to look for…but for me personally, I just like to go out with an open mind and have the project that I’m working on in the back of my mind. Sort of like a fall back.

Is a photographic style for me?

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It really is up to you. Do you like to just make photos of anything that catches your eye or do you like to make photos of something specific (street portraits,  headless subject, vibrant colors, close-up of hands, etc).

I am not working on anything in particular but there are a few things that I would say is my fallback when I’m out in the streets. An interesting face for my portraits series, interesting scenes or bodies at the beach for my Beach Please series, and vibrant colors tend to hold my attention more than anything else.

I also shoot with the same camera an Olympus M5-ii with my 17mm 1.8 lens. I shoot when I have time, during lunch breaks, after work, on weekends. My time is never consistent because I have a full load…but I do try to bring my camera with me wherever I go.

Conclusion

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My advice is to always experiment and see what work for you. For me just going out with a camera, an open mind, leaves me with little to no constraints. This is the best approach for me. I don’t like to clutter my mind or make things anymore complicated than it already is. I’ve also noticed when I add pressure on myself by setting goals of getting a decent to good photo a week that it only leaves me more disappointed and ultimately discouraged with my photography. Only recently, I’ve learned that capturing a “good enough photo” or a photo I’m satisfied with is the bonus when out and about shooting the streets. That actually what I truly enjoy is just getting out of the office or house, clearing my mind, and enjoying my walks.

As long as your photos are authentic and are not posed (I’m okay with posing your subject for street portraits). Photograph what inspires you and what your natural instinct reacts off of. Always remember to have fun with your street photography. That you are doing this to challenge yourself and you are using this art form as a creative outlet but to also burn calories and enjoy the being out and about.

What I learned from the Jesse Marlow & Aaron Berger Leica Workshop

This past week I was fortunate to spend 3 days in LA for the Jesse Marlow & Aaron Berger Leica workshop.

Two very different styles and approaches to street photography, Jesse’s work in color, shapes, visualization, and leading lines, while Aaron’s work with “people happening”, character driven, action in the streets approach was great to watch and learn as well. They also reiterated that there are no rules in street photography, which I thought was great to echoe because a lot of the students were new to this and it’s also great for me to hear because often times I put these barriers up that a photo should be this or look like that or have such and such…

Aaron Berger

Aaron is the slickest photographer I’ve ever seen work…he slitters like a snake, through and in-between people and no one ever does notice that he’s making a picture of them. He has it down like clockwork, it’s quite awesome to witness in person. We were out in the LA area for close to 10 hours of shooting. Aaron has a lot of energy and is relentless, his approach to shooting the streets is hitting it up everyday for hours and be on full offensive attack. I admire that of Aaron.

He also anticipates the shot coming from 30 feet away. While walking through a crowd down Hollywood Blvd, he’s not scanning through the crowd that’s five or ten feet from him, he’s looking at twenty five, thirty feet away and visualizing if there’s an opportunity to pair up couples or notice if there’s potentially anything interesting may come about. Learning about dead space and how heads sticking out of other people’s heads in a photo can make or break your images.

I think we all can learn from Aaron by pushing ourselves daily. Go out and make those opportunities happen. Don’t just sit around and expect things to come at you, go out and grab life by the throat. Find what works for you, what visually intrigues you, and get it.

Jesse Marlow

Jesse Marlow is great at recognizing a scene and shooting the scene until it dissolves or until he no longer cannot. I shot with Jesse for most of the day and learned a lot from him, about challenging yourself, finding your unique style and sticking with it, and not giving a shit what others think…if you like the photo, defend it, fight for it.

Jesse has more of a calculated approach I would say. Recognize a scene that’s simple and shoot many times of it, go low, go high, get close, take a step back…be patient, as some of the best photos just unfold itself right in front of you. Drop the f-stop to darken a particular area in the frame to isolate your subject. Look for vibrant color, shadows, leading lines and geometry and be creative with it. Avoid the cliche’s and instead think outside the box. Ultimately don’t worry about awards and prizes, remind yourself to shoot for yourself and because you enjoy doing it. Things will fall into place.

Even if your photo does have a story or drama within the frame, something within the image that doesn’t support the photo can turn it into a bad photo. If a shadow or a giant tree is in the frame and doesn’t add to the narrative then it really loses it soul. It’ll draws people attention away from the main focus.

Bring your camera everywhere. Jesse is the opposite of Aaron, he doesn’t allocate time each day and go out and shoot. Rather Jesse just brings his camera wherever with him. This allows more free time with his family and also doesn’t add any pressure or disappointments to photography. If he see’s something while he’s driving or on his way to the grocery, he’ll have his camera ready and loaded. But if he didn’t capture anything while on the road or on errands then no big deal. There’s no expectations and I think we all can learn from Jesse’s approach.

Conclusion

I highly recommend beginners or advance street photographers to learn from both Jesse and Aaron. Even if your style or what you’d like to be your style is opposite from either one of them, it’s great to learn and absorb new techniques and knowledge. Watch and hear what makes a photograph work out on the field and in the classroom.

I want to thank the class, Aaron, Jesse, Tom Smith of Leica Akadmie North America, my family for allowing me to go on this adventure, and the staff at Leica LA for an awesome experience.

Why I don’t title my photos

To title or not to title…that is the question. I believe titling a photo works in more of a documentary approach in your photography. Usually when photographing an event or a protest, that culminates a series or body of work.

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Titling fits best when you want your viewers to understand your weird sense of humor. Or when you want to get your point across. For example, the photo above I titled “Hair Extension” because that’s what I wanted my viewers to see and feel.

But think of it this way, once you give your photo a title, then that is how you are inviting your viewers to interpret it as well. Leaving little to no room for the viewer in creating their own narrative. By leaving a photo untitled, you are allowing your viewer to be a part of your photo, as personal your photos may be to you, your audience are just as important. Engage your viewers, allow them to interpret your photo on how they see it and ultimately creating their own narrative. For instance, when I see a photo and it has title or lengthy description, I cannot help but to see the photo as how it was titled or described. I cannot reverse my mind into thinking that this particular photo is something else.

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When you look at a photo that may have multiple stories within the frame or multiple emotions, it will seem a lot more dramatic than they probably are with your own two eyes looking at the situation in reality. Therefore, allow the viewer to create their own story and make use of one’s imagination and ultimately for their own enjoyment.

Let’s make an example out of the photo above. Well before I do, let me mention I am not a copywriter and am horrible with titles that’s why I’m a photographer. Okay, so let’s say I titled the photo, “Aftermath of Trump” or “Angst” or “Make America Great Again”….these titles are focused on the main attention grabber…Zombie Trump on the man’s shirt and/or the man with anxiety wearing the zombie Trump shirt. Okay, so I’m only focusing one part of the entire frame, what about Mini Mouse in the back, I think she adds a nice touch to the photo although she may not be the primary focus.
Again, what I’m trying to say is that there is only so much a title or headline can cover within an image. Having the photo untitled leaves it open and allows viewers to see and analyze the photo from all four corners.

You would be surprise by the response or how your viewers may interpret your photos…better yet you may learn something new.

Conclusion

Again, there is no right or wrong… but in my bias opinion a good photo left untitled is much more better than a photo with titles and descriptions. Let your photo do the talking, it does not need any words to help elevate the photo. Remember the saying, a photo is worth a thousand words.

Hawaii Street Photography – The Future of Street Photography in Hawaii

“There’s only one way to go and that’s up” – Unknown

That’s how I feel about street photography in Hawaii. Because there aren’t many street shooters here or to the general consensus much knowledge of the topic, I believe sky’s the limit for street photography in Hawaii (Hawaii in general seems to be a few steps behind in everything compared to the rest of the world anyways).

Every major city in the world or at least mainland USA has a Leica store imprint (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami)..why not Honolulu? Honolulu is one of the major tourist destinations in the United States (yes Hawaii is part of the United States).

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Let’s dig deeper, where did a lot of the well known street photographers originally come from or make a name for themselves? A lot of them were based out of New York (of course, because if it doesn’t come out of New York it isn’t legit..I’m kidding). With the growing popularity of street/candid photography and more accessible, cheaper cameras…any city, country, in the world can be a destination for street photography…but how? Usually, there needs to be a representative of the area…someone that can put the city, state, country, on the map as a serious location to visit to shoot street. Maybe that’ll be me for Hawaii, maybe it’s someone else….it doesn’t matter, we need someone to step up and represent Hawaii.

What I’m trying to say is…there’s opportunity here for street photography, to bring it onto a grand stage and showcase to the world!!! Hawaii is much more than awesome weather, surfing, snorkeling, poke bowls and loco mocos!

Interview with New York Street Photographer Paul Kessel

Hi Paul thanks for doing this. Can you start off by telling us a (brief) story on your background and how you first picked up a camera?

I grew up in New York City and have lived here most of my life.  My father took pictures of me as a baby and up to my teenage years so I was always aware of photography. I was given a camera while my age was barely in double digits and perhaps even earlier. I have saved a few photos I took while I was age nine. I can recall at that age using flash bulbs. They got extremely hot and couldn’t be touched after igniting. However, I definitely was no  Jacques Henri Lartigue (The French photographer prodigy beginning at age seven.)

All of my life thereafter, I owned a camera and I would use it in spurts, often not taking a picture for many years. I never learned anything technical except to set the camera to F 8 if shady and F11 if sunny.  Somehow I managed to take indoor photos with a flash. In the 1960’s I dabbled in street photography for a few months. I did not think of it as street photography but as I look at old photos, I realize that is what I was doing. The intermittent photography continued until I pursued it seriously starting in 2007, one month shy of my 70th birthday.

I had a career in clinical psychology, and university teaching and in addition I was a serious competitive amateur golfer from age 17-71. I mention golf because I treat street photography as a sport and often compare it to golf.

How has being a clinical psychologist helped in any way with your photography?

I am not sure if being a clinical psychologist has had a significant impact on my photography. I believe that I am more suited for photography then psychology and regret not beginning photography earlier and instead of psychology. (I find myself often confusing the two words, which have phonetic similarities). Almost all of my photography teachers have assumed that my psychology background informs my photography. I am interested in photographing people. That may be as far as it goes.

Since you’re retired, how often do you hit up the streets of NY? Or do you just bring your camera everywhere with you?

After I retired and stopped playing golf as well; I have been immersed in photography. I have had classes every semester at The International Center of Photography for ten years. Most of the classes were of ten-week duration.  Altogether, I have had over fifty classes plus numerous workshops and consultations with a number of photographers.  I began focusing on street photography about seven years ago and I rarely go out without a camera. Most days I have the intention to spend a good part of the day shooting. Other times, I carry the camera with me so as to be sure not to miss anything that may turn up. It has reached the point where if I don’t have a camera with me, I have a distinct feeling that something important is missing.

How do you have so much energy? Where can we get the fountain of youth potion?

Tim, you asked how I have so much energy.  I don’t. I have to overcome lethargy every day and I am afraid that I am slowing down as age eighty is around the corner.  However, I feel distinct unease if I go through a day without taking pictures.

Do you have a ritual before you head out?

I have no ritual or routine that I do before heading out. I use only a prime 35mm full frame lens so I have no equipment decisions to make. Maybe I do have a ritual each time. It occurs to me that I almost always consider bring a 28mm lens with me but then decide against it. It is strictly a weight issue. I try to travel as light as possible.

You’ve been shooting for 10 years and counting, what is it about street photography that keeps you wanting more?

As I said, I consider street photography a sport and not so much art. I am constantly longing for the big catch, the home run, the great round of golf. I know it is out there. Every day I want to get it. I almost never do but that desire keeps me going.

Looking back, what’s one subject or event would you document from the 60s-90s that really resonated with you and why?

I was there when the Woman’s movement began.  I have a picture of Gloria Steinem in the first major Woman’s march on Fifth Avenue.  I only shot on one day and have two photos. This was a major movement. I was at the right place at the right time and I only pressed the shutter twice (before I photographed the woman’s marches in response to Donald Trump’s election and policies.) That movement resonates with me and I missed my chance to be part of it and photograph it. However, photography was not really part of my life at that time. 

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Your photos that have exhibited and won in numerous festivals, were they captured off of instinct? Or did you just happen to point and shoot, and then realize afterwards you potentially have something when you were post processing them? 

When I am shooting; it feels good to be working on a project. The project could be as simple as a place (e.g.: Coney Island or Williamsburg Brooklyn) or an event such as Fashion Week. I have had several such projects and they all culminate in a self-published book (I have about fifteen such books). When I have a project it feels like I have a job and a mission. My motivation and desire goes up. However, in recent years, more often then not, I am striving for random decent photographs. That is adequate for me but it doesn’t pump me up nearly as much as a more cohesive project.

When I achieve what for me is a good photograph, it comes about in various ways. Sometimes I see something out of the corner of my eye and without composing at all, or even clearly seeing what I am shooting, I luckily end up with something I like. In such instances, the picture finds me and I am alert enough to see it. In other instances, I may find a good spot with light that is favorable and a background that is pleasing. I hang around and look at the stage in front of me and wait until enough interesting elements enter the set. I am very aware of composition and the edges of the frame. These pictures are more made then taken.  I know immediately if I have something decent and I can visualize the print. (I print all photos that have the potential to be good.). Perhaps my very best photos more often then not, are derived from a third approach. I may see an interesting person or an interesting scene. Then I may follow or wait until I am at a good vantage point. I then work the scene as much as possible by taking numerous shots from slightly different angles or distances. I keep shooting as long as possible and later in post processing and editing, I look for the best version of it.

Usually none of these three approaches or variations of them work. I have come to realize that really good pictures are rare and that it is within the nature of street photography to usually fail. I believe that a good street photographer may achieve five to ten exceptional photos a year if he or she is lucky. Unlike most other photography, factors beyond one’s control are operating that makes street photography particularly difficult. With experience and technical skill it becomes easy to go out and get loads of OK pictures. However, the really exceptional worthwhile photos are far and few between.

How would you describe your style within your photographs?

I have come to realize that my style may be a bit different then that of most street photographers. I see that the majority of street photographers working today are after a decisive moment that looks quirky or humorous. Further, most work is shown online.  I am after a good-looking photograph that can be printed and hung. I too, admire an odd moment but I am equally or perhaps more interested in light and composition. This is both strength and a flaw as far as I can tell. Too often, my photos have good lighting, decent composition, but lack compelling content. A photographer friend has described some of my photos as all context and no content. I am as interested in context as much as content: perhaps too much so.

I looked at Alex Webb’s work for the first time about six years ago. I admire its complexity. I keep striving for pictures like his with multiple layers, disparate and compelling activities going on in the foreground, middle ground, and background. This is Ernest Hemingway’s Great White Marlin that I am after. I have never achieved it but I keep trying. If I fall short but still have a layered photograph, I am pleased. All to often, I have to settle for a candid portrait within good context and light. I am beginning to think that Alex Webb himself can rarely make “Alex Webb-like” photographs. The pictures with multiple activities and different activities within multiple layers probably are relatively rare for him too.

Almost all of my work is in color. I don’t view color as a distraction. The world is in color so why not show it?  Yes, most of the history of photography and its great photographs are in black and white. However, technology has changed and color is now a more viable option.

Whose work do you admire?

I admire so many photographers.  I would put, Alex Webb, Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, and Robert Frank at or near the top of the list. These are some of the established “stars” There are so many good street photographers including a lot of younger people working today.

I ask everyone this question. If you could have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be? 

I have no plans to marry so I cannot personalize the answer to this question. Immediately,  Larry Fink pops to mind.  His event flash photography is candid and he makes little attempt to glamorize anyone. I would prefer real expressions to posed and he would be good at that. I don’t seem to like too many posed pictures or “happy” smiling pictures.

Be a member of Magnum today or go back in time and document the 60s all the way until 2007 when you started shooting street. 

The “right” answer to this question is to document the 60’s all the way until I started shooting street.   However, if Magnum would want me, my need for prestige would overpower me and I would take that.

What’s one goal on your bucket list in relation to street photography?

One goal on my bucket list in relation to street photography would be something that is probably beyond my reach. I would love to have a published book of my best street photos.

Any personal street photography tips or advice you have to those out there?

I don’t have any advice that others more experienced and accomplished then myself have not already offered.

I do have a blog in my website about photography slumps. The gist of it is that it is in the nature of street photography to be in an almost a perpetual slump because truly good pictures are rare. In other words, a slump is not a slump. It is street photography. This applies to experienced street photographers. Too many inexperienced street photographers have little idea of what is a good photograph and they settle for too many mediocre pictures and show too many of them. Editing out all but the best is necessary. Show only your very best work. I need to take heed of that myself.

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Check out Paul Kessel’s work below!

www.paulkessel.com

a. Blurb Books can be found in the “Books” section of my website.

b. To see all Blurb Books one can go to www.blurbbooks.com and search for Paul Kessel

Flickr: Paul Kessel

Instagram @streetskessel

 

5 street photography myths we need to stop believing

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Travelling won’t make you a better photographer

Just because you travel to a new country/city doesn’t mean you’ll walk away with awesome innovative photos! I believe that’s the perception for a lot of people (especially beginners) or giving yourself an excuse…”oh where I live isn’t interesting as New York or India, so I’ll just wait to shoot when I travel”

Some of the master’s of photography created their work right in their own back yard. Mark Cohen patrolled and photographed the streets of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

What I’ve learned from travelling is more about people, their way of life, and culture. Ultimately, we may look different on the outside but on the inside we all want the same things in life (health, wealth, relationships, having a purpose in life, etc). I’ve realized that there are more good people than there are bad in this world…I know hard to believe right.

 

It’s all about the camera…NOT!

There’s no perfect street photography camera. Try them all (rent, borrow from friends) and see what’s best for you. Personally, I don’t care about megapixels, autofocus (because I zone-focus) and all those other specs that most people waste their time on. I just want something that fits perfectly in my hand and a camera that is not bulky. The Olympus M5-ii does just that for me.

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3. It’s all about Luck

Wouldn’t you agree that you create your own luck? You can say that luck is with everything in life. I believe in street photography there’s so much more other factors that contributes to you capturing a decisive moment than luck. Sure a little luck may have happened but first you would have needed to recognize the scene or moment, you would have needed to time the shot perfectly, have the courage to take the shot, possibly you would have had to anticipate and visualize different components or subjects coming together to form the photo.

I would say luck is more in relations with winning or being a finalist in festivals and competitions. Those are like lotteries, so many submissions and so many factors involved to being placed in a exhibit that is out of your control. I think most photographers who say it was lucky to capture the image are really just being humble.

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You’ll get beat up if you take a photo of someone

I have never gotten beat up or been involved in any hostile situation because I was photographing people (knock on wood). There are ways to get around it or prevent yourself from being in that situation. Continue walking and don’t make eye contact with the person. If you happen to make eye contact, smile and compliment the person and walk away. If that doesn’t work, just delete the photo and show it to them.

Or If you know you can run much faster than the person…then sprint..I’m joking.

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Your photograph needs people in them

Street Photography has no rules. Many past photographers have proved that one you don’t need an actual physical human being in a photo for it to be considered a street photograph. Elements of a human form such as shadow of a person, poster with a person on it, human belongings (shoes, accessories) are acceptable by most people in 2017. Personally, a street photography is just photography, look at William Eggleston’s work. I think his photos where there’s no actual person in them are his best. Photos of hotel rooms, outside of a southern mom and pop shop, hotel bathroom, inside of a car, etc.

I like photos that give me more questions than answers and in which allows me to use my own imagination to create a story of my own likings.

Anyways, I hope you had fun reading this. Until next time, keep shooting!

 

 

Interview with London Street Photographer Sam Rodgers

Aloha Everyone,

I am excited to share with you all my first street photography guest blog interviewee, Sam Rodgers! I met Sam at this past year’s StreetFoto San Francisco  through mutual photography friends and got a chance to roam the streets and shoot together. Sam was a finalist at StreetFoto, I am amazed at his body of work despite only been shooting street photography for a little over a year. On top of it all, Sam is a super cool guy. Below is the interview!

Hey Sam thanks for doing this. Can you start off by telling us a (brief) story on your background and how you first picked up a camera?

Hi Tim and thanks for inviting me. I first got into photography as an 18 year old when I took a year out to travel to India before entering the university. I took along a 35mm fixed lens camera which belonged to my Grandmother. This was in 1991 and we were travelling on a very tight budget so I was careful not to waste film.

Six months in India amounted to twelve rolls in total, although there were a lot more keepers because I would deliberate over each shot. When I got back I saved up and bought myself a secondhand Canon T70, they’d replaced the shutter speed dial with push buttons which made it feel high tech and minimal for all of five minutes, until I realized how much easier it is to twist a physical dial. I spent a couple of years taking pictures of London’s architecture with the occasional person shot, then my camera was swiped in a house burglary.

I was in med school at the time so life was fairly busy and didn’t get around to replacing it. Somehow twenty years went by, between training as a family doctor, meeting my wife and having kids I managed to forget how much I enjoy photography. I was working crazy hours in a difficult job last year when I had two epiphanies,  that my life didn’t have to revolve around work, and that I had forgotten how to have fun. My response to the first was to resign and find a job that didn’t consume every waking hour. I resisted the urge to respond to the second by buying a sports car and behaving like a 20 year old, and bought myself a Fuji XPro2 instead. I read a couple of books on street photography after seeing the work of some London based street photographers and haven’t stopped pounding the pavements since.

What is it about Street photography that keeps you interested?

First up I like the absence of rules, if I want to focus on people I can, but I can also find abstract compositions, still life, whatever I feel like doing. Having had such long break from photography I still feel like a kid in a sweet shop, I enjoy experimenting with different styles and techniques.

Street photography is so portable too, you don’t need to lug around bags of lenses and tripods to get good results, a simple camera and an open mind goes a long way.

How do you go about street photography? Do you shoot on your lunch break, weekends, bring your camera everywhere?

I tend to carry my camera everywhere now as I can’t bear seeing something that would make a good shot only to realise I don’t have my camera. It was living in my bag but has now graduated to being slung over my shoulder after I missed a shot of an adult man entangled with a child’s scooter. That lets me take an ad hoc approach, on lunch breaks, or when I’m going out to pick up the kids. I also spend a half day every week solidly shooting street. I try to do this on the weekend as my hit-rate tends to be higher.

Is there anything you are looking in particular when you are out shooting, or are you more “Read and React”?

Its a mixture of both. I start by wandering and seeing what stands out to me, but if I’m struggling to see things will shift over to set myself specific goals.

What makes London unique to shoot?

There is a reservedness about Londoners which plays out well for street photographers. In the year since I started I have been challenged three times, when I started I thought there would be more confrontation.

The flip side of this is that people are polite about not wanting to spoil your photo, I often take my eye away from my camera to find a line of apologizing Londoners either side of where I was shooting. The light is pretty challenging, it can change quickly, we get a lot of overcast days which means I tend to rely more on composition or humor than on beautiful lighting.

Whose work do you admire?

It was seeing Matt Stuart’s work that piqued my interest in street photography and opened my eyes to the potential of our grey city. I also love Jack Simon’s work, theres a subtle surreal thread that runs through his work, and I like how he uses the whole frame to tell a story. The World Street Photography project has introduced me to some wonderful photographers – Jeff Chayne-Mouye, Gerry Orkin, Susana Freitas, Saman Ali, Jeffrey De Keyser, Antonio Ojeda, Vasco Trancoso and some guy called Tim Huynh all spring to mind but there are many more I could list.

How would you describe your street style or photographs?

Humour plays a part, its a trigger for me. I’m trying to rely on it less as there’s a danger that the whole picture ends up focused on the gag, and composition and story telling end up poor seconds. I love good light (because we get so little of it here). But I’m not sure I have my own style yet, being relatively new to street means I’m still enjoying trying out a range of styles.

If you can have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be?

After living in sin for 17 years we had a low key wedding because our accountant told us to! Our actual photographers were four feet tall – we gave cameras to our kids and told them to snap away. I loved looking back over the shots, seeing the whole thing from a child’s point of view was fascinating, they focused in on details that missed me completely. And because of their yoda like stature most adults weren’t aware they were being photographed so there were some great natural shots.

If we were going to do things properly then I would have to choose Kevin Mullins, he brings the candid style of street to wedding photography and is brilliant at capturing the interactions and emotions of people in a very natural style.

If you could shoot a particular style of a street photographer who would it be?

If I’m allowed to travel back in time to a particular era that the photographer was active in then I would have to say Joel Meyerowitz in 60s/70s NYC. Amazing photographer, city and era!

Any personal tips or advice on street photography?

Relax, enjoy and try stuff out, its advice to myself as well as I still feel inhibited at times and will avoid taking a shot. The one thing I wish someone had told me when I was starting is that its normal to get a very low number of keepers, don’t get frustrated or disappointed.

You can be up to date with Sam Rodger’s work at;

https://www.flickr.com/photos/samrodgers/

https://www.instagram.com/sam_shot_that/