New Vlog! Shooting with Flash to overcome my current and ongoing photographer’s block!
Ten street photography memes by yours truly.
1. When your street photography friend asks you for your opinion on one of their photos and you don’t know how to react
2. When you’re starting off in street photography and think you need to go out in disguised…
3. The street photography community when you mention Eric Kim and Bruce Gilden in the same sentence.
4. When you’re in the photography zone
5. When you think you got a good photo but no one on social media is liking or commenting on it
6. When you’re producing a street portrait and you kindly ask the subject for one last photo without saying one word
7. When you go on a street photography liking spree on facebook/instagram
8. The smile your face can’t help to make when you think you got a decisive moment type of photo
9. How you feel and eventually end up looking like when you don’t get anything for months
10. When you’re lusting over gearporn and having Gear acquisition Syndrome but you’re broke as fuck
Does photography help you in your everyday life? Yes? No? Maybe so?
Let’s say it does…but how? Gives you something to keep your mind off of. Keeps you busy. Gives yourself a challenge and allows you to think outside the box. Let’s your creative instincts take over when you are surrounded by creative constraints (work, school, life in general).
Let’s say photography doesn’t help you in daily life. Perhaps, you are adding too much pressure on yourself with your photography. You get frustrated and impatient when you go out and shoot and come back with nothing for days sometimes weeks or even months! You feel discouraged. You compare to other photographers, those that win awards, have a big social media following, travel the world, and make money through photography and wonder why you can’t do the same or have half the same fortune.
Maybe so? You are bi-polar. Some days you feel inspired. And some days not. You really don’t know what to make about your photography and overall goal. Maybe there isn’t a goal to attain. You have no direction other than you think you’re pretty good at taking photos and some what enjoy.
I believe the best practice with your photography is to not add any pressure and just go out and shoot. It is really up to the person. For me allocating a time and schedule to shoot is just too stressful because for one if I don’t follow my routine I end up feeling like shit. It’s like working out at the gym, you have a routine to work out before work at 6am and if you don’t you feel like your entire day went to waste. Some people like to work off of a schedule and be structured…for me it doesn’t work. I work off of feeling and sometimes that feeling is not feeling inspired to go out and shoot.
You can’t force something. It’ll either happen or it won’t. Of course you need to put yourself out there and work hard don’t get me wrong. But if it’s something that doesn’t feel right then follow your gut. My other advice is to have the right perspective. Your attitude is a big contingency on all future events. Your outlook on life and how you carry yourself. Having goals has both the positives and negatives sides to them but with photography I think it is best to not apply any goals because photography should be something you do out of passion and fun. Once you add goals especially more than one it becomes a job and sooner or later you’ll end up hating it. Imagine you got sponsored by a camera company and then they started to dictate on how you should be photographing and what you should be photographing. Although the money and attention is nice, you lose your creative freedom and opportunity to be an individual.
All in all, have fun with your photography and keep learning.
Jill! How are you? 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’ve always liked taking pictures but wasn’t serious about it until well into adulthood. In 2009, I bought a DSLR to take pictures of my dog. From there it was a lot of experimentation until I finally landed on street photography in 2014. When I made the switch, I never looked back.
What is it about Street photography that keeps interested?
I am happiest in urban areas and at events, so even if I don’t shoot well, I try to enjoy wherever I am and eat well in the process. I’m all about the experience. I like to try new places, and those I like, I revisit.
How would you describe your street style or photographs?
I would call it a work in progress. I like color and light, but there’s often a shortage of both in Seattle. I’m still looking for a good project to do in the dead of winter that gets me out of the house consistently.
How has your style or approach changed or evolved since you started shooting?
If anything, my bar is higher, and some days I feel like deleting everything I come home with. Maybe that’s ultimately a good thing, but it does make for a pretty slow Instagram feed. On the other hand, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack, knowing just how hard street photography is.
I know you’re an avid (Dog or animal) lover. Do you try to include animals in your photographs? something that easily catches your eye?
I love animals–both real and unreal–in street photography. I have an ongoing zoo project, but it’s on hiatus for the summer. I’ll go back in the fall when the clouds return.
The animal theme is intentional or unintentional?
Intentional, for sure. Far from mastered, though. Lots of other photographers are better at it. My Flickr (whatjillsaw) favorites are filled with animals in street photography.
I notice you shoot a lot at the seattle state fairs or the local Zoo. How does that compare to when you’re shooting out in the street?
At the zoo, I’m looking for similarity between people, animals, and the landscape, so in a way, I know exactly what to look for. My Washington State Fair work evolves each year. I’ve tossed several years of fair shots because as I’ve gotten more experienced, I don’t like my older work. I consider all “out on the street” shooting to be practice for the fair. Occasionally I’ll get a shot that fits into some of the other loose themes that I’ve created semi-formal projects for (like my shots from California), but the OK/random shots don’t tend to do it for me.
This is all complicated by the fact that I am loyal and sentimental about these locations. I’m not interested in traveling to other fairs or zoos. I tried that and it didn’t work for me.
What makes Seattle unique for street photography?
I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle. I’ve finally started to embrace some locations here, but I hate the rain, and traffic is terrible. On the plus side, the summer days are long and chock full of events. In addition, everyone is extremely polite. I’ve never had any problems shooting here.
Whose work do you admire?
If you can have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be?
Martin Parr, no question. We got married in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and Parr would’ve been the perfect Vegas photographer.
If you could shoot a particular style of a street photographer who would it be?
My photographic fantasy is to take a summer road trip, Stephen Shore style. I want to stay in cheesy hotels and eat at greasy spoons. I can’t explain why this appeals to me, but it does, much more than traveling somewhere foreign or exotic.
My favorite photo of your is the lucha libre kid with the silver mask. I remember seeing it in our flicker group from our workshop with Jack Simon and was like “WOW”. Could you tell us the story behind that photo?
Why, thanks, Tim! This was shot last year during one of my favorite workshops–a Magnum workshop hosted by Constantine Manos in Los Angeles. I made two wonderful friends that week, and we spent an evening on Olvera street. I saw this boy running around in the mask and couldn’t resist following him. He finally sat still in a sunbeam, but only long enough for one shot. I think being a woman helped me here, since his dad was there and didn’t object.
In your opinion, what makes a photograph work or interesting?
Light, color, and something unexpected. Sometimes 2 out of 3 works.
What goals do you have with your street photography?
My ultimate goal is to have enough shots in a project to make a high-quality book. In the meantime, I have this dream of eventually finding a type of street photography that I’m really good at and that comes easily. I’m convinced this will happen any day now. I just have to keep shooting, and the projects will find me.
Whose workshop do you want to take next?
There are so many great workshops outside the US right now, but logistically the West coast is easiest for me. Coney Island is on my workshop bucket list. I also plan to host a one-person workshop (me) in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire next summer. This is another locale that appeals to me deeply, but my husband thinks I’m crazy.
What have you learned about yourself and/or society from shooting street photography?
Before street photography, I never realized how drawn I was to the hustle and bustle of crowds and urban areas. I’ve also learned how fun and exhilarating it can be to travel alone to workshops. Street photography gives me a way to indulge in both of these.
Currently, is there something you’re having difficulty with in your street photography?
I’m starting to feel like the keepers are like prime numbers–the more you shoot, the less keepers you find over time. This interview caught me at a crossroads. I’m thinking of trying something different (still in the street photography realm). I need to get off my butt and go do it.
I’ll list a few street photographers and describe them or their work in one sentence.
1. Alex Webb
Supernaturally good. Take his and his wife’s workshop if you can. You’ll learn a lot of about sequencing and bookmaking (bring your book collection and they’ll sign them). You’ll be on your own for shooting, though.
2. Martin Parr
My first exposure to flash. I like his sense of humor.
3. Bruce Gilden
Not my style. Too harsh.
4. Eric Kim
Nicest person you’ll ever meet. I know he’s polarizing but I’ve learned a lot from him and consider him a good friend. His workshops are as much about connecting with people as they are about photography.
5. Jack Simon
Tied with Eric Kim for nicest person you’ll ever meet. Love his quirky eye, and he’s a great instructor. Highly recommend his workshop in San Francisco. Jack is proof that the best workshops are hosted by locals.
6. Constantine Manos
I’m a huge fan of his color photography and keep a copy of American Color II at work. His workshop in Hollywood last year is one of my favorites. He’ll teach you a lot of rules that you may or may not agree with. I still refer back to my notes from him so he definitely made an impression on me. He’s VERY opinionated about what makes a good photograph. Only take his workshops if you have a similar style.
I grouped Jesse and Aaron together because I took a workshop with them both this year and learned a lot from their vastly different shooting styles. They put a lot of effort into giving everyone equal time when shooting. Very approachable, supportive, down-to-earth guys.
Required reading, but not a daily inspiration for me. Untouchable.
10. Vivian Maier
Fascinating story. Didn’t we all go through a B&W phase after seeing her work?? She was extremely talented, but I’m also drawn to that era. No wonder it’s impossible to duplicate her style now.
Any personal tips or advice on street photography?
Travel to workshops and make new friends. This has been the best part about street photography for me, more so than any pictures I’ve come home with. Nothing beats going to a new workshop and running into familiar faces (like Tim!)
Follow and Keep Up with Jill Maguire’s work!
Do you believe that the more times you snap your shutter, the more opportunity you will have a good photo? I used to think so but as of late my opinion has differ. The more you go out and photograph, it raises your odds of getting a photo, true to some extend I guess.
Clear Your Mind
I believe in going out, photographing the streets without any pressure, with a clear state of mind. You can go out 7 days a week for two to three hours each day but if you’re mind is cluttered and worried about “stuff” then you cannot focus and therefore your imagination is clouded. For me at least, my best approach is to go out with a clear and empty mind with no expectations and to let my instincts take over. Once I start thinking, looking at my phone, thinking of what chores I need to do, what the kids are going to eat for dinner, then I’m really just wasting my time roaming the streets. I’m not in-tuned with being in the moment and therefore I end up being less observant of my surroundings and in the end may miss a photographic moment.
By fully soaking in the moment of being on my photo-walk, I am present of the current time and location, and can fully give my all in photographing the streets. Therefore, make every shutter click matter and count. Instead of shooting rapid fire and hoping one stands out. I also feel by clicking the shutter less will in the end make you a better photographer because you are using your primary tool…your eyes first, to see, and then react and snap away. Instead of snapping away and then chimping at your LCD screen or viewfinder and seeing what you got. I feel this does come with time and experience. But my advice, clear your mind and let your imagination run wild.
Don’t be a lazy photographer
Don’t be a lazy photographer by taking a thousand plus photos within an hour of your lunch break and relying on your blessings to the photo God’s to give you at least one good one…make every shutter you click count…I will add though, sometimes you don’t know if you have a good photo or not until you upload onto your computer and begin the editing process. For me, more often than not, I will know or better yet feel, that I got something special at the time I took the photo. How do you know if you got a good photo or not? Simple, it’s based on feeling, something that immediately strikes you in the gut….kind of like you meet a girl, you talk to her, and something inside you knows she’s the one. You guys make a connection. That’s a bad analogy but you get my point. Sometimes you feel it without knowing why and that’s okay.
I used to bring my camera everywhere with me but lately I’ve kept it at home. Because if my mind or mood is not in the photographic mindset then I’m wasting energy. If I do happen to come across a “A-HA_ moment, I have my Samsung S8 which takes great photos by the way…if I miss it, then so be it, I won’t lose sleep, in fact I’ll be appreciative of seeing the moment.
Can you start off by telling us a brief story on your background and how you first picked up a camera?
Back in 2001 when I was working as a graphic designer and communications guy for a local graduate school, part of my job was making a newsletter. And that meant doing everything from writing, to layout, and photography. That’s probably the first time I actually took it seriously. I guess because I had to. The graphic designer in me knew what images were crap so it was a matter of training myself take photos that met my own standards and seeing what it takes to actually make a good shot. It’s that inner art director that made me get better. After that, I moved on to another job where I met a local photographer named Philippe Gross who — I have to admit — really inspired me to push my photography even further. The guy is incredibly prolific and has a great eye. He always has his artwork being displayed somewhere. We’ve become good friends and I give him a lot of credit for where I am as an artist.
What is it about street photography that keeps you interested?
It’s about finding magic in the mundane. It sounds corny but you know, it really is about finding the novel amongst the mundane moments every day. And because it’s street, it’s genuine and real. I have nothing against other types of photography, there are a lot of incredible captures by artists shooting other things. It’s just that street to me is all the more magical because it depends on that chance encounter and framing it in the most perfect way. It could be that, you know, that moment you capture on your camera is a moment that anyone else could’ve seen themselves. It’s out there if anyone just looks. It’s beauty, it’s emotion, it’s splendor, and it’s shock. It’s the full range of humanity and the moments in between that can be lost if you’re not looking. So yes, to me that’s the magic of it.
How do you go about your photography? Do you shoot on your lunch break, weekends, bring your camera everywhere with you?
Yup, I have my camera with me all the time. It’s another limb and I’m lost without it. It almost guarantees something unreal will happen right in front of me if I don’t have my camera. So I don’t tempt fate and I always have it.
I shoot on my lunch breaks at work, after I get home, on weekends. Family is always first though. So I make sure things are done — any chores or errands. And I only head out if everyone’s got their own thing going on. I’m fortunate now because my kids are old enough to be doing their own things. So if I have time, I’ll head out.
In your opinion what makes Honolulu unique for street photography?
It’s unique in that it’s not unique. You can shoot the same type of shots other street photographers are shooting in almost any other part of the world. Here though, we have that veneer of Hawaii as conjuring up images of paradise in people’s mind. As a street photographer here we can show the flip side of paradise. Here we have real people with the same problems and triumphs as everyone else. I try to capture the range of the human experience, but admittedly there are more shots of urban life in paradise because that’s kind of the nature of it. Yes, it’s pretty here … but not everything is. That’s what a street photographer should be capturing — the full range of humanity.
Where in Honolulu do you enjoy shooting?
I’ve just realized recently that I always find myself at Waikiki Walls — or the Kapahulu Groin. I’m not sure if that makes it my “favorite,” but there’s always potential there for certain types of shots. And there’s definitely a lot of characters there. You see both sides of Hawaii there. You have the local kids coming to surf and dive and then you have the tourists who just want beautiful shots of the sunset. There’s water and sun, which makes for reflections and shadows, and there’s this great structure jutting out into the ocean. That’s a lot of potential at any given time there. But then again, I get bored of it on occasion and from there, there are a lot of other great locations within walking distance.
What do you think needs to happen for Hawaii to be seen as a street photography destination?
I haven’t thought about that. And actually, I’m not sure that’s something I’d want. It’d be a challenge. You would have to go up against those who are already making a name for themselves as surf photographers, “adventure” photographers, landscape, and whatever else you have out there. Do we want to make Hawaii known as street photography destination? I’m not sure. The visual noise is already pretty high. Pretty shots of giant waves and girls in bikinis will always get more attention than a shot on the street. Really, if it were to happen, it’d have to come from massive exposure from a mainstream media outlet highlighting a particular street photographer or something like that. But selling Hawaii as a destination or boosting it’s reputation for street is not a goal of mine.
If you could have dinner with one street photographer past or present who would it be?
Sorry, nothing original here. Henri Cartier-Bresson. Mostly because he seemed so passionate and was a true artist. I can’t help but think it would be incredibly inspiring to even meet him. I’d just sit and listen.
You can shoot with one street photographer for a day who would it be and why?
Assuming we’re still talking about someone living or dead … Vivian Maier. Because she seemed to love life in such an introverted way. I’d have liked to see how she maneuvered in the streets. Not necessarily to learn techniques to shoot better, but to watch how she carried herself and basically adventure through life while being invisible. I want to be one of the people who saw her on the street. And now that I mention it that way, that’s another reason I love street. It gives me the excuse to adventure through life. The perfect shot is that treasure to hunt for, that White Whale, or whatever you want to call it. It’s the hunt for magic in the mundane. It’s what Vivian Maier did through her photography. And guess what? When her photographs were discovered, they definitely were a treasure — for all of us.
How would you describe your street style or photographs?
Contextual. I usually enjoy the wider angles. I enjoy having the whole diorama in the frame. And what’s in the frame usually includes at least one character for the story to play out. It’s boring to have a beautiful setting with no one in frame to interact with it. That’s why my recent exhibition was called “Model Citizens.” I usually have a person in it to be my first person, second person, or third person character in that story within the frame.
I ask this with everyone. If you can have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be?
That’s hard. I follow several on social media that I couldn’t pick out by name, but I’m really enjoying Pau Buscato’s work. You can tell he has a lot of fun shooting. I’d love to shoot more like him. He has a great eye and perspective on the world. There’s a playfulness and excitement when he shoots. I’d love to be always in that sort of mindset when I shoot.
If you could shoot a particular style of a photographer who would it be?
Definitely, Maier. I find that I’m looking to replicate the same type of shots that she’s done. Again, sorry. I don’t study a lot of street photographers. I know what I like. I order the same thing over and over again at restaurants too.
What are your short term goals (1-3 years) and what are your long term goals (5-10 years) if you have any with photography? And what are you currently doing in trying to achieve those goals? If any, what struggles are you currently facing?
Street photography goals. That’s hard because I don’t think of goals when it comes to shooting street. It’s very much a journey. I’d like to somehow create my own projects for a living. Whether that’s shooting or writing or video, that’d be great. In one to three years, I think I’d like to get more of my shots seen. That means putting my work and myself more out there, building my own reputation. So that means I’m looking at doing more project-oriented photo series. Not necessarily getting paid work out of it, but covering more events through a street photographer’s point of view. Pretty much documentary, which is what we’ve all doing as street photographers anyway. In five to ten years, I imagine I’d have a larger body of work. So maybe publish a book then. I’d be traveling more too. So I’d like to shoot other streets in other parts of the world. It’s about the journey … and I guess building up a treasure trove if we’re sticking with that theme.
I noticed you like to shoot/document events around town (pow wow, protest, parade setup)…what is it about those events that draw you in?
Event shooting is different from street shooting. When I’m at events I find myself switching between those two mindsets. Events like POW! WOW! Hawaii! or protests are unique to the times we live in. They should be documented because it’s part of the culture and history of Hawaii. While I’m doing that, I also shoot street because there will always be interesting people and sights at these types of events — participants and onlookers. To a lesser degree, there are other events that I enjoy attending like parades or what have you just to experience a new situation in a familiar location. It helps to change it up for myself so I don’t feel stagnant or grow bored with the same scenery.
Are you currently working on anything in particular?
I’m working on a YouTube channel. I’m not sure what it’ll look like, but search for “Agena Street Photography” and subscribe. I should have one short video up this month.
Any personal tips or advice on street photography?
I have plenty and that’s partly why I’m starting a YouTube channel despite my introversion. I would say shoot what you enjoy and if that means making yourself grow a little, stretch into your most uncomfortable parts of being, that’s what you should be doing. We’re all on a journey so don’t mind others who are ahead of you. Mind your own path and see where others are making mistakes and where others are going that you’d like to follow. Most of all, the most important thing is to get out there to shoot with purpose.