iN-PUBLIC – Turpin is Out…Now What?

News flash, founding member of iN-PUBLIC Nick Turpin and fellow member Nils Jorgensen have both abruptly left the street photography collective (You can read it here on phoblographer.com) over a photograph taken by another member (Blake Andrews), which was voted for photo of the month within the collective. First off, I applaud Turpin and anyone that takes a stand in something they believe in as this must have been a very difficult decision on Turpin’s part being one of the original founding members of the group. However I do feel he is overreacting. The perception I have of Turpin is that he’s a good photographer; very passionate, but at times acts like the chief of police for the genre street photography. For example, this can be seen from discussions I’ve read on social media regarding the World Street Photography Book 4 where he and Chris Suspect go back and forth on the book’s cover and whether or not it’s candid or even street.

Now I’m not saying Blake Andrews’s photo is going to transcend the street photography genre, but it did catch my eye when I saw it and had me curious. I asked myself, did he use flash? Did he slowed down the shutter? How did make this shitty photo?!!! I have never been more interested in how a shitty photo has come about! And that to me deserves a standing ovation (clap clap)! Look, I understand the argument here, digital tool(s) should not manipulate or enhance the narrative within the image.

According to the phoblographer

post, he left because he is“Unhappy with the inclusion of the image, Turpin felt it was not following the code of authenticity that is commonly associated with street photography.” This is where Turpin’s argument hits a dead end. His argument on the processing of the panoramic view on the iPhone and how it is not street photography…it’s an argument not worth having.

This should not have been the reason why Turpin went and packed his bags to go home. Turpin’s reason should have been because that piece of crap of a photo was selected for “photo of the month”.

You have 20 plus badass street photographers in the longest reigning and respected street photography collective and the photo of the month is this?….Really? Really? Eighteen years of hard work, energy, and effort to put together a respected and talented street photography collective and we have this for a photo. Blake Andrews should permanently delete the photo and swallow his pride. Such a shame! When you have a crap of a photo like that as the photo of the month for your collective, it represents everyone within the collective and not just the photographer who took it.

Which then brings up a bigger question….is street photography, or better yet photography in general…considered art? Anyone can go out and get lucky and take the best picture of a lifetime. When compared to other art forms like music, painting, or dance…it takes years and many hours of practice to perfect the art. Should street photography have rules. Should street photography have “Ethical and aesthetic” rules.

I believe the average person does not give a crap whether or not it’s a candid photo or how it was done. Now that does not mean I pose my own street pictures because I don’t. However, the average person only cares about what’s in the frame, aside from the street photography enthusiast. The regular person is only able to digest what was taken, not how it was taken. I’m also suspicious of many of the photographs I see floating online if they were manipulated in anyway. Did they remove a pole? Did they add this? Did they add that? With the digital tools we have today anything can be manipulated…but does the average viewer care?

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Are You Feeling Uninspired With Your Photography

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Video Gear – Tim Huynh

Are you feeling uninspired with your photography? There are ways to work around that simply by trying new techniques in your photography (you can read here Photographer’s Block). I think every photographer would agree that there are times you get stuck and feel like you’re doing the same shit over and over again. But if it’s more than just a photographer’s block; you feel in a rut, unmotivated, the fun and excitement is no longer there, then you might want to consider shooting video. It’ll rattle you, in a good way of course, and change how you see things.

If you haven’t shot video before, it might feel similar to when you first started shooting street. You will be injected with excitement, curiosity and have no expectations other than having fun and learning something new. My experience is just the opposite. By trade I’m a videographer, I stumbled upon street photography when I was interning at a video production company in Chicago.  Street photography is great for me because I can just go out and shoot with no agenda and basically just get my creative juices flowing. I was in a rut with video because my interest was not in commercial or mainstream projects like advertisements or weddings. There is rarely any demand with producing documentary or photojournalism pieces. Also, I felt stressed trying to find an interesting subject and had a lot of pre-planning involved.

Looking back, I wish I wasn’t as narrow minded then. I could have filmed nice scenic lifestyle type of videos of everyday life. You don’t need to find a specific person as your subject to video. Just go out and film what catches your eye and have fun in the editing room. That’s where the magic really happens!

Here are my basic filmmaking and video maker tips:

  1. Hold your shot for 10 seconds either handheld or better yet on a tripod or monopod. Make sure you tuck your elbows in!
  2. It’s better to slightly overexpose than to under expose
  3. Shoot wide then move in to a medium shot. From there go closeup, then extreme closeup if you wish. By doing this you have cutaway options. For example, if you are shooting a pizza, shoot the pizza in its entirety. Then move in excluding the crust. Then move in closer for a tight shot where we only see the toppings. You’ll have more flexibility in post-production.
  4. When you’re starting off and without much knowledge always overshoot from all angles. High angles, low angles, panning shots, tilt, and tracking shots where you follow the subject.
  5. Video is not only a visual medium, but sound and music play a big role too! Look for potential sound or ambient noise in the area you are shooting in and see if you can incorporate that into your video. Music choice is icing on the cake! I personally can’t start working on my sequence until I find the right music because I tend to edit based off of the beat and rhythm.

There are so many great videographers online that you can watch and learn from. My favorite is Philip Bloom. Or you can simply go to Vimeo and scroll through their short documentary categories. There are many awesome videos available to view and get inspiration from!

Gear, however, is expensive but more accessible than before. You can really create good work with very minimal gear!

Video Gear on a Budget:

  1. Camera: I personally like the Sony A7 series, specifically the Sony A7Sii because it can shoot in low light and has SLOG for dynamic color correction. It can also record internal 4K. I’ve read the Sony A7iii is just as good as the A7Sii and much cheaper so you can look into that as well.
  2. Monitor: A small HD monitor has been the best purchases I’ve made. It’s very hard to see on the tiny LCD monitor for these DSLR cameras and there have been many occasions where I thought I was in focus but wasn’t. A 5-inch screen that’ll mount on top of your camera is essential.
  3. Audio: If you want to record audio for interviews buy a H4N audio device. It has two channels so you can plug in a wireless mic on one and a shotgun boom mic on another. I prefer a Sennheiser as a wireless option. I’ll also mount a rode mic as well. It’s better quality than capturing sound straight from the camera.
  4. Tripod: Here’s where you should spend the money! Do not go cheap on a tripod. Your tripod will be your best friend on shoots. A sturdy, good quality tripod can last forever. I recommend the Manfrotto carbon fiber or if you can spend a little more try this one here. Although a little pricier, make sure you choose a carbon fiber tripod. Unlike aluminum, carbon fiber won’t rust if you shoot on the beach or near water and it’s lighter, so you can be nimble when shooting.
  5. Don’t Get Caught Up: Don’t get caught up in the drones and gimbal stabilizers, for now at least. Keep it simple, hone your skills and then maybe look into those accessories. Don’t feel like you can’t tell a story with an aerial shot or a smooth tracking shot. That’s just foolish. Watch Philip Bloom videos, yes he uses drones for some work but overall his shots are on a tripod, static, some are long takes but regardless evokes an emotion from the viewer. Not everything has to look like MTV with lots of movement and fast cuts.
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice: Not happy with your footage. Keep practicing! Every time I shoot something for a client or a personal project I always learn something new. Like with your street photography the more you practice and the more you’re out on the streets the better you become and photographing people, the more fluid you get walking through crowds and anticipating a moment to happen.

The above videography tips are based on my personal experience as a shooter, editor, and producer. I hope these videography tips were helpful!

Interview with Street Photographer Mike McCawley

Hi Mike thanks for doing this. Where do you live and how does this influence your photography?

No problem, thank you for reaching out. I currently live in Evanston, Illinois just outside of Chicago. I’d say it mostly influences my photography in that I’m located in an area that has a lot going on all the time. I would much rather shoot something interesting happening than random people on the street, so its nice living someplace with a lot of options for me.

When and how did you get into “street” photography?

I picked up my first real camera in 2013 with the idea of jumping into street photography. The genre had always interested me since I was younger, even if I didn’t know any of the big name photographers until much later. I imagine the Vivian Maier story had an impact around the time I got my camera as well.

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Tell us your creative process when you’re out on the street.

I don’t think about the creative process much but since I tend to enjoy shooting various events, the more oddball or “Americana” the better, I’ll think a lot about the kinds of shots I might want to take. Rarely do I end up with the photos I have in mind but it helps me get my head into what I want out of the work and that helps me see other scenes as I go. Tomorrow morning I’m heading to the Wisconsin State Fair so I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Which leads to your question on triggers.
When Alec Soth would drive on his trips to take photos – he kept a handwritten list on his steering wheel of various things he was looking for (attached). Some vague and some very specific. After hearing him discuss this at a talk of his I attended, I wrote up my own list that I keep in my wallet. It says things like “dinosaurs” and “covered things”. I don’t read the list very often but creating it is a great process to figure out what interests you.
Overall I do tend to draw more to quirky and humorous scenes. I would much rather make a viewer smile than feel anything too deep or moody.
I’ve also recently been working on a zine and that creative process has been very rewarding. Editing a body of work into a coherent project like this is a hard thing to learn but I’m inching forward with it. We’ll see how it turns out.

How much influence does social media have on your street photography?

Social media is fun and I enjoy looking at people’s work on various platforms like Flickr and Instagram, and I use them to try and promote my own work of course, but I wouldn’t say it influences me. One lesson I learned at some point along the way is to not pay too close attention to what shows up online. I found photo books a much better tool for learning and finding influence. Bodies of work where people spent a lot of time thinking about and editing their work before presenting it – rather than social media where people (myself included) pretty much just post never-ending streams of every passable photo they take.

If you had to explain your work to a child how would you describe it?

Interesting things are happening in everyday life all around us all of the time, if you just pay attention to the world. I try to use the camera to capture those happenings in an interesting way.

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What frustrates you about photography?

I don’t know if it’s a frustration but the idea that you’re never really satisfied and always trying to improve is something I didn’t really understand early on. That as I improved and reached various goals as I grew, my tastes would adjust upward as well. It’s what Ira Glass talks about in that piece about “The Gap.” The Gap is very real and if you don’t constantly feel and see a gap between your work and the work you aspire to, then you’ve stopped growing as a photographer. Like sharks and relationships, your photography should always be moving forward or else it will die.

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What are your thoughts on today’s street photography landscape?

I’m not sure I have any…. I feel like there was a big boom a few years ago when the Vivian doc came out, and I myself was probably a part of that. The surge of new photographers on social media seems to have waned in the last 2 to 3 years. Seems the thing nowadays is to get a certain level of recognition (re: social media following) and parlay that into selling workshops and whatnot. The growing festival scene is interesting also with new festivals popping up every year and the established fests continuing to grow in a robust way.

As far as the photos themselves, I don’t think much has changed. Street is a very big tent and there are so many various styles and philosophies on display. At the big contests, it seems that visual one-liners and trick-shots are still the style du jour but I think that’s waning a bit still. A lot of photos that are taken technically very well and look real “whiz bang” as far as how it all fits in a frame – but they lack any emotion. I take a lot of photos like that and I’m trying to do better and focus more on capturing feeling of some sort.

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What do you think of Vivian Maier? Was it her story or photographs that inspired you?

I think Maier is fascinating for all of the usual reasons people are fascinated by her story. I do think her story is inspiring but I would say that her work inspired me more than her story. I live in the same area where she lived and nannied and have met people that knew her. She just always had a camera with her, always taking photos. That seems to be what people remember about her. I wouldn’t say I think she took the most amazing photos – but I think I was maybe struck more by the way those photos aged. The way they act as a time machine to record what Vivian saw and what about that scene made her click that button.

What are you most proud of in terms of your work?

Any time a photographer I admire gives me positive feedback. Also getting to a point in my own photography where others seek out and value my opinion on what they’re doing. Those are both things that bring me a lot of pride but otherwise I just am trying to plug away at it and not get too self-satisfied with what I’m making.

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Which street photographer inspires you and why?

These days I have to say Alec Soth. Not sure he’d be labeled a “street” photographer though his photos certainly have that aesthetic. I saw him speak in Milwaukee a few months ago and everything he had to say really made sense to me.

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Name three contemporary photographers you really admire?

Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Don Hudson. For various reasons.

If you can have dinner with one street photographer past or present who would it be?

Garry Winogrand. Does anybody not answer Winogrand here?

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When you aren’t making pictures you are doing what?

Binge-watching something probably.

As street photographers, we all get that “got it” feeling when we get the shot we are after. What needs to be present in an image for you to get that feeling or know you nailed it?

I don’t know what needs to be present but it’s like that old saying “I’ll know it when I see it.” I did watch some YouTube video about street photography when I was first starting out that gave the advice to always try and get three interesting elements into each photo. If you can get three interesting elements, it’ll probably be a good photo. I’m not sure how true that is or how good I am at making photos like that but I think it’s good advice to think about.

Do you want to make money with your photography (commercial, weddings, or street, do workshops, sell prints)

I think if I had to make a living with photography I would very quickly start to hate photography. I sell prints here and there; have sold to a few magazines. I don’t’ think I’d ever be at a level where people will pay me for workshops but that’s something that could be fun in the future maybe.

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If you didn’t have to worry about earning a living, what type of work would you do?

I think I’d be a really good private detective.

Do you have other things that inspire you outside of photography (Philosophy, painting, film, etc)?

All sorts of stuff but mostly films and going to live music. I really love going to concerts and have started doing a bit of concert photography on the side just for fun. I’m also really into comedy and politics and searching for mid-century treasures at estate sales and thrift shops. I think all of those things have an influence on what type of photos I make.

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What is your dream assignment/project?

I’d love to spend an entire presidential election cycle covering it from all angles but with my street aesthetic. From the small state rallies and diner meet & greets all the way up to the conventions and inauguration.

To keep up with Mike McCawley’s work

  1. Website – http://www.mccawleyphotos.com/
  2. FlickR – www.flickr.com/people/mccawleystreet/
  3. Instagram – Follow @mikemccawley

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