Interview with Street Photographer Askar Khamdamov

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?

For sure.

 

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.

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Links:

Instagram: @jpgjournal

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/kaskar/

Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo

Interview with Ken Walton on the 3rd Annual Streetfoto San Francisco Street Photography Festival

Streetfoto San Francisco is onto it’s third year! I’ve attended the festival for each of the first two years and really enjoy everything Ken Walton and his team put together. Last year Ken definitely amplified the festival compared to the first year by bringing in some high profiled groups and individuals such as members of Inpublic and Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden. Having the cage match was a lot of fun as well. I am curious as well as excited to see what Ken has in store for this year’s Streetfoto! Mark your calendars! Save the date! The festival is happening on June 4-10, call for entries are soon!!! Read below as Ken gives us a little sneak peek.

Ken thank you for your time! You set the bar pretty high last year so tell us what’s going to be different at Streetfoto from the previous years? Who’s coming into town?

We’re going to be doing a bunch of new stuff this year. While we’re still lining up guests, you can expect:
1. More visitors from abroad. We’ve heard from quite a few people who are coming in from around the world, not to speak or teach, but just to participate in the festival.
2. A flash workshop by members of Full Frontal Flash. It will probably be Johan Jelbo and Michelle Groskopf, but we my include another teacher as well.
3. A photo series editing workshop by three members of Burn My Eye: Andy Kochinowski, Joe Aguirre, and special guest Don Hudson.
4. Two other workshops that are TBD and in discussion.
5. WAY more exhibitions. Like, seriously, we will have full-fledged exhibitions by different groups and individuals in no fewer than five different galleries around town. This means more photos and more parties.
6. More photo walks in more places.

Any changes to the contest categories or it’s pretty similar from years prior?

They will be the same.

Now for those out there with an opinion that photo festivals or photo competitions are just a waste of money. Tell those folks how their money for the contest entries are used?

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Photo by Paul Kessel

All the events at StreetFoto are free to the public. We have lectures, slideshows, exhibitions in galleries around town, photo walks, and all sorts of events that allow street photographers from around the world to meet, mingle, and learn.

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Paul Kessel accepting his Streetfoto Cage Match award from Bruce Gilden.

We give away prizes, alcohol, and swag throughout the week. We fly in speakers from around the globe and put them up in average-to-nice hotels in one of the most expensive cities in the world. All of this helps raise the profile of street photography as an art form and contributes to building bonds within the global street photography community, and it costs money. Most of that money comes from contest entry fees, and we’re very thankful to all of the participants who make it possible.

You’ve been a finalist for numerous competitions and photo festivals….To all the street photographers out there that want to submit to Streetfoto or any competition for that matter…what advice do you have for them in deciding which photos to submit and which photos to omit.

To anyone entering a contest, I would suggest getting honest feedback about your entries from photographers you respect – preferably photographers you think are better than you. If you’re shy about showing your work to others, just remember that most street photographers are really nice people and are happy to help others. Don’t automatically assume that a photo that got the most likes on social media is your best, because the crowd is not always right.

I saw you and your team running around…under pressure, as you got a schedule to follow… What do you need help with most this year?

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Photo by Paul Kessel

This year we’re hoping to have more feet on the ground at each event. By that I mean people who can help with anything – moving chairs, setting up slide shows, selling t-shirts. We were all stretched too thin last year. We also want to have dedicated photographers and videographers volunteering all week long, rather than taking an ad-hoc approach.

Switching gears here, tell us about your creative process in photographing the back of people’s heads. How do you go about that….where does that come from?

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Do I do that?

=]

Going about it is easy – you just walk up behind someone and take the picture. Get as close as you want.
As for where it comes from, I’m not sure. I know it’s a frowned-upon approach within street photography and considered cowardly by many, but I am not a fearful photographer. I shoot people from all angles, and I often shoot up close. When I photograph people from behind, it’s for a reason. Perhaps a person has ferocious hair on his back, or silver locks shimmering in a sliver of light against a deeply shadowed background. Perhaps a subject’s dreadlocks juxtapose nicely with the jungle exhibit he’s viewing.

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Sometimes, not being able to see a person’s face lends mystery and ambiguity to a scene. Really, I doubt if I photograph people’s backs more often than anyone else, but I do seem to share these photos more than a lot of people, and that’s because I like the way they’ve turned out. That may have something to do with my own emotional aloofness and difficulty connecting with or appreciating human emotion, but you’d have to ask my therapist about that, and no, you can’t have her number.

You know Ken I’ve been there two straight years and I’ve never got a chance to really shoot with you…if I’m back at Streetfoto this year…we gonna go shoot or what?

photowalk

Probably not. I never have time to shoot during the festival. You’ll have better luck catching me for a drink at night.

Having said that, if you’re around on Sunday, I’ve done the Golden Gate Park – Haight/Ashbury photowalk both years. Join that one if you can.

Conclusion

There you have it folks. You heard it from the man himself, submit your best images, try to make it out to the festival in the great city of San Francisco. Let me reiterate, there’s no better energy than being around other street photographers who share the same passion as you do. Make new friends. Make new photos. And make more memories.

Follow Ken’s work below along with Streetfoto

Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo

Tim Huynh Contact Sheet Volume II: Red

Aloha Everyone,

One of my favorite photo’s from my own collection is RED. This series of photographs were taken in Tenderloin last year (2016) during  Jack Simon‘s workshop in San Francisco. Tenderloin is not a particular area you would typically roam around for street photos but surprisingly there was a block party so we went ahead and joined in.

As I was roaming around the area waiting for those interesting moments to happen, I for one did not notice the red wall. Probably at the time I was not as aware or experienced at seeing vibrant colors on the street as I am now. It wasn’t until I noticed how Jack and the other students were photographing the man in the red sweater that I went ahead and joined in. (You can watch here how I photographed RED at 5:45)

First, I love the vibrant red and how his sweater blended in with the red wall. The man’s hat, white sunglasses and the white graffiti on the wall pointing to the right makes it more interesting. I probably should have worked the scene until a lot more but at the time I didn’t know any better.

I feel photo eight is the best photo on the entire contact sheet. I like the simplicity of it with just him against the wall. The special moment in my opinion is when he opened his pizza box and bit into his pepperoni pizza…MORE RED COLORS!

Do you think I selected the right image? What would you have liked to see happen in the frame? How would you have shot it differently?

 

 

What I learned from Bruce Gilden

               

Met Bruce Gilden at this past year’s Streetfoto. Had the opportunity to hear him critique photos and give a lecture on his projects and experience of nearly 5 decades in photography. I also enjoyed hearing him chew out my photo from the Streetfoto Cagematch. Bruce has that presence about him, when he speaks, you listen. Here’s what I learned from Bruce Gilden.

Photograph Your Soul

A lot of Gilden’s photos are gritty and some would say unpleasant close-ups of people in today’s society. Specifically his most recent works like FACE, where he photographs prostitutes and drug addicts around the globe. These photos resonates with him because his mother was of similar situation and feels it’s his personal obligation to keep the people he photograph’s legacy to carry on through his images.

If you’re photographing homeless people for instance…but you personally have no connection with the subject, it’ll easily show in your photos. If something resonates with you, you’ll be willing to push yourself because of the connection to the subject, time or place.

For me, I love photographing in Waikiki. It’s a sentimental place for me, I grew up in the area, have lots of memories. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 21 years old but that didn’t stop me from going out into the ocean as a kid. I enjoy seeing the blend of tourist with locals. I love the Aloha spirit, it reminds me of my childhood, just care free.

Framing

During the Cagematch, Gilden was big on framing. He didn’t like partially cropped out body parts. For a good photo to happen, framing is number 1 for him. A clean photo all around the edges with no dead space. Dead space can make or break a photo. Gilden’s critique was consistently grilling the photos on their framing and cropping. First, I belive there are no rules in street photography…and once you put those rules, it’s like putting up barriers or an analogy locking yourself behind bars. The best approach to street photography is to have an open mind and to shoot first ask questions later…Gilden had great points about many photos on framing and spacing but i would argue against a few…but who am I…

Keep it Simple

Sometimes we add too much in a photo and there’s no strong focal point. Keep it simple…less is more.

What’s Happening Here

Many shooters think if their photos have people in them it’s a street photograph…but really if nothing interesting or dramatic is happening or is about to happen then you just have a photo of people…which anyone can do and is overly done these days. Find the details in your particular subject, maybe they have a crooked tie, or broken now, or a subtle band-aid near their eye. Something that throws off the photo and makes it interesting.

Shoot What Inspires You

You gotta shoot what you like. Shoot who you are. Or else nothing will come out of it. Shoot what has you curious in wanting to know more.

Conclusion

It was obvious Bruce had his belief and approach to photography…however, street photography has evolve so much since, especially in recent years. Bruce’s approach is just one of many…there is no right or wrong…or rules in street photography. If we all approached it the same way then it becomes a science and not an art form. We shoot street for the challenge and as our creative outlet…just keep shooting and keep pushing yourself.